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)


    March 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Laughing Out Loud

      LOL! Nice post. Your grammar and spelling says it all.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • AndriconBoy

      I’d actually prefer it was a human being. We have 7 billion of those. We have far less eagles.
      But I do have to add a couple things. For starters, the belief that it’s “just a damned bird,” is part of what almost drove it to extinction in the first place. Learn some respect for the world around you.

      The other thing being, drop the Batman reference. It’s seriously lame, dude. 😛

      March 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  2. duckz86

    The eagle "flies higher then any other creature." Nice grammar.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • fred

      I am sure his grandmother appreciates the complement do you know her?

      March 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Webster


      Look up "complement'.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  3. Catherine

    For decades, native americans have been much more respectful of the environment and much less wasteful than the average US citizen. Its great that so many americans are now becoming more conscientious and that eagle populations are increasing again.. However – I think there is more to this than what we have read in this short article and its inappropriate for others to judge. It was not the use of eagles for tribal religious purposes that endangered them – it was various US citizens that shot and hunted them for no purpose at all. It was not native american beliefs, practices or technology that extinguished or endangered so many species. Bison, condors, turtles, prairie dogs, many wild fish species... the list goes on. Spending time and effort on reducing our own carbon footprint and working on ways to reverse damage is much more productive than criticizing others from behind a computer screen.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Laughing Out Loud

      Excellent post!!

      March 16, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • fred

      Carbon footprint?
      18% of our carbon footprint comes from stockyar cow farts. Are you a vegitarian or just a contrairian

      March 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  4. Mary


    March 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Laughing Out Loud

      Get a grip Mary! Thousands of animals are slaughtered every day for food, testing, and to make way for new subdivisions. So just relax, and finish making your chicken for dinner.......

      March 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  5. Andrew

    This board is a pretty stark reminder of the ignorance and lack of respect for Native Americans who were here, taking care of this land long before European "Americans" came with their genocidal insanity. Keep up the great tradition of disrespecting and condemning what you don't know. I'm sure it will pay off in spades.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Laughing Out Loud


      March 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Nii

      Don't worry it is more religious than ethnic. I know because if I was an atheist Black Sudanese African( not from Sudan) I wud be carried shoulder high but since I'm Christian I feel like Coyote on Roadrunner. Lol

      March 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Patty

      The ignorance is the killing of living creatures for myths and fairy tales. Nothing..absolutely nothing is gained from this except two living things are killed. No one should be allowed to brutalize or kill in the name of any religion, I don't care who they are. This is a disgrace and any decent person should be angered that it's being allowed.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  6. Nestle

    ~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."~

    Won't "jeopardize the status of the eagle population"??? They won't be "doing quite well" if you kill them.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  7. joey

    to all the people who are saying they shouldn't be killing any animals, eat more chikin

    March 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  8. Turkey

    If the turkey had been the National bird, would we eat eagles on Thanksgiving? Let them do what they want.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Joe

      It isn't about being an American Symbol...The Bald Eagle was on verge of extinction and finally has been able to grow in numbers...why do they need to KILL this majestic bird of prey only to use feathers for ceremony purposes...The Turkey is mass produced at Turkey farms...the majority of Americans eat farm produced Turkey's, not wild Turkey's...

      Can they not find or harvest only the feathers or go to rbird rehabilitation centers for ceremonial feathers???

      Just because you want to see your words posted on CNN, does not mean you should make IDIOTIC comments...try saying something productive and perhaps somewhat intelligent, unless you are incapable of doing so...if that is the case shut up and sty in the hole you live in!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  9. Leilah

    Would they decide NOT to kill the bald eagles – if all patriotic Americans and animals lovers boycotted their casino?
    Would they choose money over religion?

    March 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Ulises

      Way to stereotype the Native Americans with casinos! We need more people like you to keep this segregation and ethnocentric thing going!

      March 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  10. Laughing Out Loud

    Everyone's getting their panties in a bunch over 2 birds dying, yet don't give a crap about the thousands of PEOPLE dying every day from starvation, war, etc.... Thanks for the laugh!!

    March 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  11. BigJohn4USA

    For Religious purposes. Sounds like a violation of separation of church and state. Where's the ACLU when you need them?

    March 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Jared

      What people forget about the seperation of church and state is that it works both ways. The Native Americans were using Eagles in their religious ceremonies long before the US was formed. Prohibiting the excercise of their religion would be the state infringing upon their rights to practice it.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  12. Alfred the Great

    Better to kill the Indians.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • PulTab

      Like that's worse than the stupid cr@p that every other religion does?

      March 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • P. Travis

      Really? It makes me sad that two eagles will be killed! But your comment is reprehensible!!

      March 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  13. BATMAN

    "The eagle "flies higher then any other creature. It sees many things. It's closer to the Creator..." THEN SACRIFICE A ROCKET SHIP.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Chuck

      Or let them capture a falling spy satellite.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  14. psychopath

    Let's not pass judgement. we are all ignorant. Absolutely no one is infallible, especially close minded Americans.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Solex

      Funny how you ask people to not be judgmental and then call Americans close minded in the same sentence....

      March 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  15. Joseph

    I feel like if any culture in the States can be trusted to hold to a quota of 2 bald eagles, it's the Native Americans. They love this country and the animals on it more than anyone else.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Thatoneguy

      Apparently you have never seen a reservation.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Chuck

      "They [American Indians] love this country and the animals on it more than anyone else."

      I am not Indian and yet I love this country and its animals and I resent the implication that someone else does so more than me. American Indians do not have a monopoly on loving this country or on loving animals.

      Historically, American Indians have hunted populations to extinction and farmed land to exhaustion. This idea that they have some special connection to nature and to the land is a recent fabrication.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Brian

      Yeah sure, you never have seen what they do with their nets in the Great Lakes. Nothing but a bunch of legalized poachers. They kill all types of species they are required to let go. They also do not mark their nets as to not get caught, and just reply with a an "oh the flag must of fallen off." Yeah right.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  16. Michael

    Actually man flies higher than any creature using their plastic and aluminum machines. Sacrifice them before you sacrifice an eagle.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Andrew

      So, the U.S. govt. is already breaking the law in killing astroneagles. Got it.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Chuck

      It was a eagle that landed on the moon. I don't think anyone has flown any higher than that.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  17. JBroke

    It is interesting that so many people are upset with 2 eagles being killed (evidenced by this article existing) when millions of other animals are being killed daily. What makes this different? Isn't that just something we project onto these animals, that some have value and others don't?

    March 16, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Michael

      No, it's the fact that they are being killed for no reason. If someone murdered a cow and just left the carcass to rot I'd be just as angry.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  18. Kosher Kow

    i see native americans over fishing major rivers in Northern CA for "subsistence" to feed their tribe, but often find them selling them on the docks to make some cash. they wipe out streams and rivers which then in turn reduces the quotas other non native americans are allowed to take. its vile and disgusting.

    needing feathers for relegious ceremonies? give me a break!

    for people who are supposed to revere the land, theyre almost as destructive as big oil companies... take away their sovereign status and treat these people like the rest. i'm tired of each individual group getting special treatment, which might benefit a few, but actually hurts quite a bit more.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  19. Jerry S

    Tomorrow if I say gays are against my religion, would they let me kill all gays? "Not that there is anything wrong it", just an example.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • psychopath

      Terrible example. fallacy. how old are you??? 12

      March 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • BigJohn4USA

      Excellent example. I was thinking of Rastafarian and the ganja man as a denied example.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Troy

      Good one Jerry! "MAN" is to blame.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  20. Reality

    Killing for religious purposes? That just adds more credence to the significant stupidity of all religions.


    March 16, 2012 at 3:45 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.