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. Ezra

    Are the bald Eagles interferring with their casinos somehow?

    March 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  2. blaqb0x

    It's my religion to kill fat obnoxious people while drunk on moonshine. Don't tread on my religious freedom.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Ezra

      You need a permit for that.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  3. educator

    I have very little respect for any group that requires killing to fullfill a spiritual need. This is the 21st century. Every goup should be rethinking practices that involve our environment and wildlife. We are on a downward slope of environmental destruction and yet we approve the killing of something symbolic just because it is no longer on the endangered list. Yet.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  4. Ezra

    More crazy religious exceptions to laws. America is getting more like Afganistan every day.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  5. mort

    killing any animal for religious purposes is almost as stupid and religion itself.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  6. Khris

    I see the blog editor is removing the common sense comments, I will not read any affliation with CNN because obviously need better copywrites.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  7. Bob Lucido

    Only humans would kill God's Creatures in the name of religion. I'm sure the planet will be better off when we have been made extinct by our own actions. Please God, let me be half the man my dog thinks I am. RIP great raptor.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • hilreal

      Hey, they kill their "saviors" what's a bird or two to get some feathers for their headress??

      March 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  8. Reema

    This is simply inhumane and uncalled for. A religion that tells you to kill animals for no purpose other than some cruel ritual is not to be honored. I cannot believe this. Humane society, please get involved!

    March 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  9. Laurie

    You do not have to kill these beautiful birds to obtain their feathers. Since they fly so high and are a gift from Creator, what gives humans the right to kill one of Creator's gifts given to the world. And, what gives humans the right to kill anything since we are all connected in the great scheme of things. Aho!

    March 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  10. Spectator

    This is insanity from all viewpoints! If it is "closer to the creator", then why kill it?? No wonder the creator is so elusive – I don't blame him given the fate of the hapless eagles! I guess it is too much to ask religious people to actually think, be logical, or make sense. And govt. is perhaps not too far behind on these. It is sad that all this is happening in 2012 – we may actually going backwards instead of forward.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  11. jonborg

    As long as the Bald Eagle population is desecrated like it was a few decades ago, what is the big deal? Especially because these are indigenous religious purposes... I don't anyone is trying to desecrate the Eagle population. Also, I was in the Pacific NW last year and I can tell you that Bald Eagles are as common as Red-Tailed Hawks are in Pennsylvania. I would see about one or two a day. They aren't that endangered anymore, but we should make sure that they won't be in the future either.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • answerman28

      Dont you love it when you take the time to post an intelligent, relative comment only to be sensored by an idiot journalist? Moderatahh.. can you help me place this call?

      March 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  12. Nick

    Everything about this administration makes me sick...Regime change!

    March 16, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Sybaris

      and what is your reference for thinking any other administration wouldn't grant the same thing?

      March 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  13. Gerry

    Not sure why people jump to the phallacy that because they gave the native americans a pass to take two eagle's lives for religion that means you can assume they'll let them sacrifice a human. I also don't understand why the same people that think christianity forbids it either. Didn't Abraham sacrifice his son Isaac for god? Let me guess, you're going to have a christian meeting to discuss taking that out of the new edition?

    March 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • James PDX

      They aren't assuming that sacrificing eagles will lead to human scarifice. They're simply saying that religious practices are not a justifiable reason to allow sacrifices, and are using human sacrifice which, along with cannibalism, was also practiced by some native American tribes.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • JT



      March 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Pete

      No, Abraham did not sacrifice his son, Isaac.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  14. Tom in San Diego

    Now we know how a Chicken feels...

    Of all of the commentators, how many of you eat chicken? Does a hen feel less pain than the Eagle...seems to me there is a bit of hypocracy going on here...whatever your position is on the subject...

    Brk brk brk as the chicken faces the guillotine....

    March 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • please

      Was lunch given as a reason to kill these 2 bald eagles? Did I miss something?

      March 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Ezra

      So let them use Chickens for their little ceremonies instead if they are equivalent. Just need to contact Frank Purdue – no permits required.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Pete

      in reply to 'please'

      And if it was, that would make it alright? That's what your comment seems to imply.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • will

      God provides mankind of all things, including chicken or animals for human survival. Eagles were not meant to be digested as a means of thriving, yet I believe it can be eaten if necessary. There is no hypocrisy for eating animals for the sole purpose of nutrition and strength.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • please

      Eating is a ratinal reason for killing anamals. The next question would be if there were alternatives available so that endangered species could be saved.
      You see, nothing is black and white. You have to have nuance.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  15. I am Lakota...

    Why is it that people are so ignorant, that they will just strike down what they don't understand... So what if the Catholics have changed that just means that they don't trust in there religious beliefs like my fellow Americans still do... We have already been forced by your ignorant ancestors to live on reservations. What makes you think that you are so good and perfect to tell us we are wrong and should not believe in the power of the Bald Eagle and our creator... Hey you know what we eat DOG too which is part of our religious belief and I don't hear you crying around about that. You people need to realize that these are our beliefs and that we don't tell you what to believe... It is our right as Americans to be able to practice our religion.... Don't you know Freedom of Speech, Press, and RELIGION!!!! GOD BLESS AMERICA

    March 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Tom in San Diego

      Good for you...imho, the American Indian should be a protected natural resource. I dont begin to understand your culture but do in fact admire its heritage.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • FullPull

      Good for you (sarcastic). So Native American tribes want their own tribal govt with their own police on their reservations. They ask the U.S. govt to leave them alone and to let them deal with their own problems.......except when its convenient for them. Hypocrites. This isn't about religion, its about ruffling the feather of the U.S. govt (pun intended) and trying to get away with as much as possible.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Ezra

      Are dogs a protected species?

      March 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  16. db

    Religion as a business is what kind of gets me. At least the Indians practiced theirs without someone getting filthy rich, the church forinstance. Religion as a business is based off fear and false promises and anyone that can prove other wise does not exist. Sure you can point at your local religeous books and say it says so right there but then a comic book says superman exists too. The bible is a bunch of stories that were told over and over again and got changed over the two hundred years before they were ever written down. Even when it was written down it was changed to fit the time and need of the church! What is this new and old bible nonsince, should it not just be a bible or what ever book or belief you follow. Now the Indian, they have their beliefs and if the Eagle is their Bible then who are we to stop them from obtainnig it. We let any other wacko belief get their box to preach from, and in fact will even give them the box if necessary. These First Nation or Native Americans were crapped on a couple of hundred years ago by our forefathers and they not only deserve but should have the tools of their beliefs and we should never stand in their way if we indeed believe in Freedom of Religion.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  17. Andie

    Killing a magnificant creature that the Creator created makes absolutely no sense to me. The Creator doesn't want your burnt offerings He wants your love (Hosea 6:6). Quit using religion as an excuse to kill...read the Creator's letter to us (you just might learn something). We're all in this together so let's start acting like it and quit killing the innocents and our innocence!

    March 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • db

      You mean like a cow, steer, buffalo, pig, sheep, chicken, duck, snake, gator, rabbit, wild game birds, deer, fish, elk, turkey, and all the rest of the things we eat or hunt?

      March 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • GodPot

      "On the Sabbaths and New Moons the people of the land are to worship in the presence of the LORD at the entrance of that gateway. 4 The burnt offering the prince brings to the LORD on the Sabbath day is to be six male lambs and a ram, all without defect. 5 The grain offering given with the ram is to be an ephah,[a] and the grain offering with the lambs is to be as much as he pleases, along with a hin[b] of olive oil for each ephah. 6 On the day of the New Moon he is to offer a young bull, six lambs and a ram, all without defect. 7 He is to provide as a grain offering one ephah with the bull, one ephah with the ram, and with the lambs as much as he wants to give, along with a hin of oil for each ephah." Ezekiel 46:3-7

      March 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • JC

      You were OK with the maginificent creature then you had to bring Hosea and Christianity thing into the discussion. Native American religions are just and your myopic bilical perspective is part of the problem.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Jonvader31

      The creator sent us a letter? I must have missed that one, was it usps or fed ex?
      By the way, religion has been used as an excuse to kill millions of people since the first days the supposed letter first arrived.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • db

      Hay Godpot, either all that nonsince or just go to Burger King and get a whopper, fires, and a coke!

      March 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Andie

      free will baby...thar's why we're in the mess we're in. Why don't you stop being so "smart" and read the letter...I'm sure you have one somewhere...just look for the book with all the dust on it. Seriously, you may learning something.. it's a little hard to get into at first but I'm sure if you try hard enough you can get through it.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Agee

      You're thinking of the wrong religion..... wait.. OOOHHhhh. You were insinuating 'they' are practicing the wrong religion... and are ignorant to think that the creator they believe in isn't the one you believe in? Right?


      March 16, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  18. ncredulus

    One would think that Native peoples would be the most sensitive to the balance of nature and the need to protect all species. The Bald Eagle species may be recovering from our poisoning of the environment, but their are still endangered due to loss of habitat. Surely there are sufficient numbers of feathers available from captive or accidentally killed birds to preclude the need to kill one in the wild. The spirit of nature is all around us and in us. If we open our eyes and our minds we see as much as the eagle as it soars.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • hippypoet

      you seem like an understanding fellow.....why then do you speak of the natives as if we, the white devil, should have any say in there affairs!

      March 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • JV

      @hippypoet, because it is illegal to kill these birds for everyone else religious or not. The same rule should apply here even though a sense of guilt I'm sure played a part in considering this in the first place.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Common sense

      Hey hero, they are not endangered anymore, and if you are not a vegitarian, go home...you have NO argument here.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Ezra

      They aren't even eating them. It's just for sport.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Autumn

      Beautifully composed

      March 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  19. hippypoet

    patriotism is a virtue of the vicious...(oscar wilde)...and from samuel coleridge... a piece of timeless art –
    its clearly an excerpt but this is the point of the entire poem...in my opinion!

    Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
    Had I from old and young !
    Instead of the cross, the Albatross
    About my neck was hung.

    i shall end this lovely post with a question...

    imagine you are the birds being hunted for religious reasons – do you think you would understand and allow yourself to be taken or would this be an affront to you and your kind?

    March 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  20. JV

    OK great now if I want to do anything I can just scream it is for religious purposes and my wish will be granted. In my religion I demand a million $ a month and 1000 virgins. Oh and I get to punch anyone I want. After that I will kill and take over other's land in the name of God..Oh wait....

    March 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Hey

      Don't forget, you can deny medical coverage to your employees (so you can save money) that you disagree with, even if your employees are OK with it.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • JV

      @ Hey, yes how can I forget to mention that. Plus maybe I will withhold medical care to my child when they are sick. Just pray all day long for the bad virus to go away...

      March 16, 2012 at 2:55 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.