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. longtooth

    Benjamim Franklin argued against the eagle as the national symbol. He wanted the turkey. The eagle is a predatory bird that eats carrion and steals fish from the grasp of ospreys in mid-flight. We kill millions of animals every day for food, clothing, and decoration. Just another phony issue that some phony politician will jump all over.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  2. Lulu

    How do you justify saying no to other groups who want to sacrifice animals for religious purposes? If a group wants to kill a hundred eagles for "religious purposes" and sell their parts for money, how can the Gov say no when they have allowed it for others? When this door is opened, human greed always steps in.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  3. Flying Low

    This is pretty sad. Killing birds to wave it's feathers around while you hop around the camp fire. Reminds me of riots in Afghanistan when we threw a couple korans in the fire cause some other religious nuts wrote crap in them. Or the Hour of Power "chrisitians" that couldn't get along with the board and quit the "church" probably because it went bankrupt. Or the catholic priests feeling up the little boys. Or the preacher out in Colorado getting jacked up on meth and having a gay affair with a wife and children at home. I am going to go home to my loving girlfriend where we raise our two children in a loving educational environment without the psychotic constraints of religion.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  4. John

    SCREW religion! This is a perfect example of how STUPID it is.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Anonymous

      SCREW john! This is a perfect example of how STUPID he is.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  5. wildman

    of course...these bums can spend their entire lives living off the dole but when they gotta kill an eagle, well, all of a sudden they are full of spit and vinegar...screw 'em. and i don't give a damn about what happened two hundred years ago.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Let me guess your great great grandfather slaughtered them and their wives and children

      March 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  6. Wayward

    If killing a bald eagle is a part of their religious practice, it has been happening for a long time. Long before guns were brought to the native Americans. I feel like there should be a stipulation that, yes they can kill them for religious purposes, but only in the original method. Guns make it too easy. Kill them with the original instruments (nets, arrows, spears, or whatever) or don't kill them at all. That way the bird has a fighting chance.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  7. Wildone

    I'll bet Sarah Palin will ask the courts for permission to kill one too just so she can show that she's attuned to the natural order.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Rational Atheist for president

      Ya.. she'll have it stuffed and mounted on the wall with all the other dead animals.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  8. Ron Mexico

    Not from there so it won't happen but if I am ever hunting and I see someone shoot a Bald Eagle I am shooting that person, Indian or not. Sorry it's the nations symbol don't mess with the Eagle.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Ezra

      I think you need a permit for that.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  9. mommaearth

    Hopefully the eagles develop a religion soon

    March 16, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  10. Tex

    That's one of the tribes in Wyoming. I don't guess they have a Casino yet. Wonder what part of the so called ritual justifies having a casino and B-I-N-G-O.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Hey Tex,
      Who said the casinos had anything to do with religion?

      March 16, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  11. DC5

    So, If I came up with my own "religion" that involved slaughtering Native Americans for my "rituals" could I get a permit for that too?

    March 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  12. Curtis

    How ironic that Native Americans have to ask the government permission to kill an animal they hold sacred, when for nearly 100 years the government did its damndest to wipe out the buffalo population that the Native Americans depended on for their sustenance.

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

      They did their damndest to wipe out the Indian population as well. It was one of the darker parts of our history.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Lulu

      Welcome to the history of the world, humans have always been brutal to each other especially to the "loser" of a war.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Nonimus

      What Europeans did to the Native Americans is a tragic and shameful part of our history, but how does that make allowing this any more or less wrong than it already is?

      Mind you, I don't have an issue with what the Arapaho want to do.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  13. Steve

    Talk about Native's further ostracising themselves from civilized society. They want to KILL the symbol of the strength of the American people?....and expect American's to embrace them? They are SICK!

    March 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Yeah! It is so much more SICK than sacrificing them to convenience like we already do when they get killed by wind mills, or habitat loss from logging, or starve because of over fishing.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  14. Not All Docs Play Golf

    This is an example of going to far in the name of religious freedom. It's 2012. We need to not be supporting animal sacrifice in the U.S. as a "religious freedom" issue.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • brain wash the lost

      no but its cool to celebrate the supposed sacrifice of jesus by drinking his pseudo blood etc.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Ezra

      I agree that it's stupid, brain. But at least wine and bread weren't edangered or a symbol of our country.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  15. Wakta

    Saddens me to think many of you would allow an innocent human being be slaughtered at the hand of an abortion doctor however you will cry in an uproar over our own Native Americans practicing their beliefs.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Take your single-issue obsession and shove it. This is not an article about abortion.

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

      Saddens me when obsessed people drag non related issues into a discussion.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  16. fartinghippo

    Americans are so stupid.100 years ago, due to all the indian's beiing massacred the Americans thought they would be extinct. Americans killed women and children during the Indians religious ceremonies. They were here first, we forcibly to the land from them and terrorized them at any opportunity. So they need 2 eagles. After all we've done to them we should at least try to help them.

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

      I have no problem with what the Arapahos want to do, however, this kind of logic doesn't makes sense. If allowing the killing of eagles is wrong, then doing so because of guilt makes it no less wrong.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • West Michigan Latino Community Coalition


      March 16, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  17. Rocxy

    The tribe should use a chicken instead

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

      Chief Chicken Hawk? That would be Newt Gingrich's Indian ancestor.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  18. Tex

    Whoa! That's absurd, if it's true. I've worked with the Cherokee at the Casino, and, if anything, they worship the Eagle. Sound's like someone lost a lot of money at the Casino, and they're looking for revenge.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  19. JC

    Same comment for Ezekiel...keep your Christian perspective out of the conversation. Your opinon and beliefs not part of the discussion.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Bryan Jon

      As a Native Christian, I say the Christian response belongs, it was brougt in to compare and justify right above it.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  20. BigRed

    Bet the Donald's kids are trembling with excitement. Another Trump kill this time of an American Bald Eagle to stuff and hang on the wall.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:02 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.