Feds grant Native American tribe permit to kill bald eagles for religious purposes
March 15th, 2012
10:33 PM ET

Feds grant Native American tribe permit to kill bald eagles for religious purposes

By Eric Fiegel, CNN

Washington (CNN) - It's the symbol of America, and for the first time, the U.S. government has granted a Native American tribe a permit to kill two bald eagles for religious purposes.

The permit application was filed in 2008 by the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming and, after years of review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued it on March 9.

"They did make a case for why the take of a bird from the wild was necessary," Matt Hogan, Denver regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, told CNN.

Last year, the tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the federal government for denying the application, saying it "unreasonably burdens the religious rights of tribal members," court documents stated.

The case is pending.

Hogan, who was in charge of granting the permit, says the lawsuit was not the reason the permit got approved when it did. He says it took time to make sure all the criteria were met and that the permit was in accordance with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which allows bald eagles to be used by Native Americans in religious ceremonies.

The eagle "flies higher then any other creature. It sees many things. It's closer to the Creator," said Robert Holden, deputy director of the National Congress of American Indians. Holden said he was bothered by the comments he was hearing: that this permit would lead to a mass killing of bald eagles.

"How stupid can that be?" he said. "It's a religion. It's what we do. We're more concerned about the eagle population than any culture in this Western Hemisphere. Why would we want to kill all the eagles?"

Hogan said the permit's issuance will have little effect on the powerful raptor. Taking two eagles from the wild "will not in any way jeopardize the status of the eagle population, either in the state of Wyoming or nationwide," he said, "and the good news is bald eagles are doing quite well."

That wasn't the case some 70 years ago, when the species was threatened with extinction, leading Congress to pass a law prohibiting the killing, selling or possession of the bird. In 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the threatened and endangered species list.

Hogan said applications for a permit to kill or capture a bald eagle are rare. Native Americans often have to get bald eagle feathers for their ceremonies from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife national feather repository in Denver. Hogan said it can take years for the tribes to get the feathers this way, because demand often exceeds supply.

Holden, who is part Choetaw/Shickasaw, sought to put some perspective on the situation: "If someone ordered a Bible or some religious artifact and they had to wait for a long time, how fair is that?"

The permit is good until February 2013, and Hogan said he knows of no other applications being filed. As part of permit, the tribe has to notify the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within 24 hours once the bald eagles are killed or captured.

Hogan said he is still waiting for that word.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • United States

soundoff (1,883 Responses)
  1. What a Joke

    Religion... ha ha! Every religion around the world believes in basically the same thing – A "God" descended from the heavens in a blast of fire and smoke and brought knowledge and technology to the people.

    "Blast of fire and smoke descending from the sky". Sounds more like a spacecraft entering Earth's atmosphere, appearing as if it is on fire and smoking.

    This same story is told in all religions, dating back thousands and thousands of years. Is it possible that Earth has been visited by celestial beings from other parts of the galaxy and the lack of literacy and understanding has warped these stories into what we now know as Holy Scriptures (Holy Bible, Quran, Vedas, Tanakh, etc)?

    Earth is estimated to be about four billions years old. In universe years, Earth is still a baby. While there's been no hard evidence of life elsewhere in the galaxy, it is very hard to not believe that there is some other form of life out there that could be billions and billions of years older and more advanced than human life on Earth.

    Before you start ripping on this group of Native Americans for their religious beliefs, remember that your religion could also be just a bunch of misinterpreted stories as well. Hard to think about in this way, but hopefully it gets you questioning your own faith and beliefs and start treating people equally and with respect, regardless of their religious beliefs.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • only-in-america

      You Mad?? haha

      March 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • What a Joke

      Nope. Not mad at all, thanks for caring though.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Dman

      On point.. Makes me want to drink a beer and blow some crap up!

      March 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Jack

      Wiow you are quie ignorant about religion, I woldn't rant and rave about how ignorant and "respectful" of other religions if I were you.

      1. not every religion states that God came in smoke and fire – 1st sign of your ignorance.
      2. if you represent an athiest, and this is the "respect and tolerence" that you show toward other humans, I am thankful that I am not an athiest.
      3. Though I don't believe in this particular ceremony with the feathers, I accept and respect these peoples right to practice and believe in what they want to – without critisizing them. and this is what most if not all religions teach.
      Perhaps there is something you can learn from religion – to respect others.

      Practice what you preach.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Mark

      It is not a joke, however I am immpreesed that you make a honest, no way to dispute it, statement. Question your own beliefs. Baptist, Buddist, Catholic........long list.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • What a Joke

      @Jack – I don't think you understand what an athiest truely is. I believe in a higher power, or "God", but I do not believe it is any of the dieties that the numerous holy scriptures want us to believe. I studied world religions in school for six years. After becoming fully educated on religions from around the world, including all major and numerous minor religions, I decided to believe in what science is able to prove (not Scientology, true Science – i.e. Biology, Chemistry, etc.).

      In no way was I trying to say, or imply, that any religion is wrong. I respect every persons belief, treat people with dignity and equality, and will never judge a person on what they've been taught throughout their life.

      Practice what I preach? I do, and you just commented on it.

      "To think for yourself you must question authority" – Timothy Leary

      March 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  2. oakie

    Couldn't the Native Americans utilize Bald Eagles that had been previously killed(vehicle collisions,shot etc.)I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and I'm sure that with some research,a number of these wonderful creatures could be sourced for their religious purposes.I am licensed by the DEC in N.Y. so I'm sure that they or similar organizations could help out.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Andy

      Yes, there was around 20 bald eagles that died in Arkansas a couple of years ago. I am sure that their feathers are around

      March 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Mark

      This is a govrnment operation. Yes there are Eagle feathers in thier possesion to be allocated. If you can fix the holdup with this proccess, you will be a hero!

      March 16, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  3. Scott

    How rediculous!! This is a complete shame.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  4. Native American

    We should not even have to apply for this permit. We are a soverign nation and what we do on our own land is our business. We apply for the permit out of respect yet get none in return.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Flatsguide

      You are an immigrant, just like everyone else in this country, and shouldn't get any special privelages.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  5. Mark

    To all the people taking this out of context. You have never witnessed a Native American religious ceremony and seen the reverance paid to the eagle. I saw a feather dropped. The ceramony was halted to appoligige to the man upstairs ( call it God, the Great Spirit, your choice) for the human error of letting it fall to the ground. I am part native American, proud of it and show the same respect to the flag that protects our right to make our thoughts known.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Sybaris

      No Mark, the proper context is that religion, regardless of flavor and who practices it is harmful.

      It's very exisitance does not inherently justify its methods.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • kldgbb

      I am all for freedom to practice one's religion, it is just hard to understand how killing something shows any reverence. If I revere something, I am certainly not going to kill it,

      March 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  6. GenericMan

    They can get high on mescaline from peyote cactus also I think. If it's their culture, more power to them. Just because we got rules for every aspect of our lives doesn't mean they have to live by them. We don't let them muslims tell us we can't eat pork.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  7. Dave

    Why am I not surprised to see so many blindly patriotic cry-babies whining about the Native Americans. Because you're the same people who are crying about wanting to put up a an oil pipeline without any regards to ecological effects. Why do you hypocritical right wingers give a s hit now?

    March 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  8. Dave the Wave

    Witchi Ti To,
    Hi Ko Wah
    He, he
    He, he
    No Wah!

    Water Spirits dacing
    around my Head,
    Make me feel
    that I'm not Dead....

    March 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  9. David

    This article is so sloppily written from the very first word that I just can't stop myself from commenting. "It's" in the first sentence refers to the U.S. government. Later, the permit "got approved." The permit didn't "get" anything. The eagle doesn't fly "higher then any other creature," it flies higher THAN any other. Mr. Fiegel managed to misspell BOTH tribes from which Mr. Holden is descended: the Choctaw and the Chickasaw. And finally, it's part of THE permit to notify the government.
    Come on, CNN. If I want lousy writing I'll read blogs.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Jinella

      Thought I was the only one to notice all these errors. Mispelling the Tribal names was probably the worst. I also find it amusing that people are up in arms over two eagles. Hope they aren't fans of the the buffalo. There have been worse atrocities suffered by animals at the hands of Men.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  10. Scott

    another in a long long line of dumb outdated religious practices

    March 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  11. drew

    I understand it's part of their religion...but...this is our American symbol. Stregth, grace, beauty, power. Killing even one does not feel right on any level. A bible ain't the same as a majestic, breathing raptor. Sorry guys..just makes me sad.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Mark

      IThis majetic bird was the Native American symbol of freedom long before the USA started using it.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  12. Bob

    They had to wait FOUR years?!?! I hope they didnt need it urgently.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  13. Amber Boyd

    i dont understand why if all they want is there stupid feathers then why cant they trap them take like two feathers then set them free. they have been with out them for years and now they are deciding to complain? i dont see how this benifits anybody you know they will be like well two birds isnt enough we will need about two hundred ect. well good by bald eagle then cus it will surly become exstinct now. simply ridiculouse.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • C H

      Amber, they are taking 2 or 3 eagles, not all of them. Please read the article again carefully.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • neoritter

      They use more than just the feathers. They also use the claws and a few other pieces of the body for other rituals.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • carol jourdain

      Ur an idiot!

      March 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Messenger

      You take their land, decimate their civilization through centuries of murderous acts and now you feel you've the right to talk like this? I'm an American living in Texas and even I'm not that arrogant. I'm also not so presumptuous that I'll pretend like I know about their ceremonies; I'm sure there is much that I don't see or know so I will watch with my eyes and heart before opening the hole on my face in ignorance.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Dumb..

      You need to stop texting in English class.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  14. Dumb..

    People sacrificing animals (and other people) in the name of religion goes back millennia. The fact that nothing has ever happened as a result of sacrificing a living being, and people still do it is what blows my mind. It's not going to rain, your wife won't get pregnant, your son won't be come a man, your crops won't grow better, and uncle Earl won't wont rise from the dead. Nothing, absolutely nothing will happen except two bird carcasses.

    Man will be on Mars in the next 50 years not to mention manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. You just keep killing your birds. Good luck with that.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  15. only-in-america

    Our national symbol is the EAGLE??? I thought it was the COW???? -Fattest Country In The World-

    March 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  16. Riddik

    "If someone ordered a Bible or some religious artifact and they had to wait for a long time, how fair is that?"
    Yeah, but you don't have to kill a Cardinal to get a bible! But I guess if it's for a religious purpose, you could always get a permit...

    March 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • TING

      If a Cardinal is killed that may reduce the number of little boys being molested.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  17. Steve

    Still waiting for action on my application for a permit to kill the son of g*d for religious purposes in order to save everyone else's soul

    March 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  18. Sybaris

    So anyone who is OK with this shouldn't mind Muslims exercising Sharia law in their neighborhoods.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Dave


      March 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  19. E-rock

    Let the Native Americans kill bald eagles 'for the religion', yet force feed Catholics contraceptives? Nice...

    March 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • kldgbb

      Wow, that is a wildly disparate, even non-sensical comparison. And also it is a gross exaggeration to state that catholics are being "force fed" contraceptives. Especially since it is widely known that the vast majority of catholics do use contraception on a regular basis.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  20. Mark

    For every eagle killed, kill an indian

    March 16, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • only-in-america

      For every McDonalds hamburger consumed, kill a redneck

      March 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • C H

      Read your history books, and you will see how many we killed already. I find your comment really, very offensive.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Dman

      lmao@ only-in-america... btw.. I think the McDonalds hamburger has been dishing out its own justice for years..

      March 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Complete and total 'f'ing idiot

      I'm with you Mark. Gitter done!

      March 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • RMY- part Cherokee

      I cant believe some of the comments posted here. Are people that white trash and close minded that they dont understand that Native American Culture was the original way of life before it was FORCED out. Europeans were the enforcers of new ways. Anyways, I think they should be allowed to practice whatever ceremonies they want, however they want. Its just to bad they cant use some of the people in this comment thread. To any A hole that thinks Native Americans dont deserve the right to do what they please than you need to read a real history book or have someone read it to you.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.