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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. LDavis

    This makes me sick, Eagles mate for life!!!!!! For our Goverment to allow this to happen is very, very sad. Eagles is an American Symbol, why dont they tear up two american flags when they kill the eagles. This is a very sad time for me. I watch eagles all the time on Decorah Eagles.com Live Cam 24/7. These birds are majestic, beautiful !!!!

    March 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • gabriel

      You should be disgusted at the states that allow hunting for fun.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • tim

      Geese mate for life too. That doesn't stop me from shooting and eating them. 🙂

      March 16, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      gabriel wrote, "You should be disgusted at the states that allow hunting for fun."

      The sport of killing things even humans would be found out as bein inhumane if there were o spor in killingg,,,, 😦

      March 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      The sport of killing things even humans would be found out as bein inhumane if there were no sport in killingg,,,,

      March 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Joe

      Bald Eagles (and Geese) do mate for life, HOWEVER, Bald Eagles (and other species) do not always mate for life...if one is killed or dies the other will find another mate. Also, if they are unsuccessful mating they will seperate and find other mating partners....

      I did not make that argument because if a Bald Eagle loses its mate, it won't die or never mate again....it will move on to another suitable mate....BUT thanks for playing and please try again!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  2. Joe

    Why kill anything for ceremonial purposes? Kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it? I understand kiling whales more so then I do the Bald Eagle, I don't agree with it, I just understand it more. At least the enite Whale is used...for food, fuel, and trade...

    March 16, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Hi Joe,,,, Killingg things of Life is not the issue. Giving prayer to the things we kill before we kill be it for food or whatever should be the case,,,,,,,,,,

      March 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • tim

      Do whalers use every part of a whale? Native Americans used to use every part of an Eagle.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Joe

      Hang around a Bald Eagle's nest for a couple weeks, collect the feathers, and call it good! They Native American's get the feathers and the bird keeps its life!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • tim

      Joe, its more than feathers. They use the bones for tools and whistles as well. I doubt an Eagle is going to leave its own bones behind in the nest.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Joe

      Tim, it will leave its bones when it dies! A Bald Eagle does not live forever...would it not be more meaningful to find the remains of a Bald Eagle or steal it by killing the animal? It is for ceremonial purposes only...the Native American's have industrialized tools and no longer require bones or other remiains to survive; it is only ceremonial...

      March 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Guest

    I think reparations should end with three generations,meaning its about time we are all equal.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • TeePeeEl

      Agreed.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Suzanne

      Absolutely!!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  4. chilady

    If the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming owns any casinos, call for a boycott of the casino

    March 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  5. Edgar Sparkle

    The only religions Obama likes are either animist or Islamic.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • phearis

      How does it feel to be a GOP Pawn and a mor-on?

      March 16, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Suzanne

      Twit!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Cal Veteran

      What does Obama have to do with this? Obama likes islamists??? Tell that to Al Qaeda and the taliban, he's wiped more of them off the face of the earth in 3 years then Bush did in all his years in office.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Rags

      Edgar Sparkle just tarnished his 'sparkle' with a simpleton remark.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  6. Lois

    Outrageous.....This is an American Icon and they they are going to be sacrificed??????????..........Cruel Cruel Cruel........I know they aren't extinct anymore but this is really so terrible...Do you know that Eagles mate for life????????/......Land of the Free.....Freedom of religion...I am so sickened and outraged by this.....................

    March 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Colin

      Yes, religious superst.itions can be quite disgusting, can't they?

      March 16, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • gabriel

      I take it you dont eat turkey for thanksgiving.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Marlin

      They were never extinct.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Matt Flynn

      Could not agree more this is outrageous........

      March 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • JPD030

      I am on board with you Lois. This is ridiculous. How about I come up with a "religion" where I get to kill two people off the street, at random because it is my religious belief? The American Bald Eagle is not just a status symbol of the U.S.. It is a graceful bird that has been a symbol for many areas of the world, freedom, democracy etc. However, It is not for this reason that I am against the killing of two Eagles. It is for the simple reaosn that because it is "Native Americans" exploiting the loop holes of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. In other words... where does it stop? It is beyond "Hey stupid! When are you going to wake up and smell the freaking roses?" Everyone has some input into their religious freedoms and rights. How about the rights of this magnificent creature. Absolutely unbelieveable!!!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • gabriel

      Im sure if bald eagles fall back into the endangered list the United States would not allow it.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Rags

      Lois,

      We didn't do it!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  7. dotheflippinmath

    To the parrot who keeps repeating Atheism is unhealthy... and "Prayer really changes things
    Proven, " I would have to ask if you're aware of the scientific experiments done on whether group prayer can have any impact on another person's illness, and on more measurable things, and it was PROVEN, quite soundly, that group prayer has no statistically significant effect on any observable illness or event. On the other hand, personal faith and prayer do statistically tend to make one more content with life and death. I'm agnostic myself. I'd define that as an optimistic atheist. I do believe teaching children that there is a heaven that we (and our pets) all go to when we die. I do not think teaching about damnation, crucifiction, and hell, are in any way beneficial to a young mind. And teaching a child that he/she is going to heaven, while their friends with other beliefs are going to hell, is downright EVIL, and truly destructive to American society. Might I remind you that Christ himself was a Jew, and that Jews do not believe in the devil, nor hell. Christianity, esp. evangelicals, have completely twisted the goodness of what Jesus tried to teach, into a hateful, intolerant, self-absorbed religion. Patriotic? Not! I say the way a decent American should prioritize: Family 1st, Country 2nd, Religion and Self 3rd. If there were such a thing, I would give my soul for the sake of my family, or to take away all the hatred and injustice in our Country. When you say Jesus comes first, you're saying that YOU come first. IMHO, THAT is SELFISH and WRONG! Oh, yeah, let the Indians have 2 birds. They probably rescue many more every year. Something like 100 eagles died in Alaskan fish slurry ponds/trucks a few years ago, and many more will die hitting windmills and power-lines (where most eagle feathers come from – there is a market – freebies for Indians are not a priority). And, I do love birds and nature. Mostly, I love my family and our country, and even you folks who hate my beliefs.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  8. Colin

    The debate about whether Native Americans should be given more leeway than others (and how much more) in exploiting natural resources is something upon which reasonable minds can differ, given the history of the USA. But, to allow people to do what would otherwise be prohibited because they should have "religious freedom" is ridiculous. All one has to do is call something a "religious practice" and both the government and the press cower away from confronting them like frightened mice.

    Look, not surprisingly, there are no Native American, Christian, Hindu, Muslim or Jewish sky-gods watching over us, willing to swoop in at the eleventh hour and bail us out if we look like messing the environment up. Throwing off the retarding effects of our religious superst.itions would go a long way toward enabling us to confront issues with objective clarity.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • TeePeeEl

      I don't believe 'native' Americans or any other group should have rights that are not freely granted to every US citizen. I know that's broad and some may throw up their 'what about's', but this should be the rule.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • fred

      Would you approve if we took a crow to a Catholic Church and had it take on the image of an eagle and then shoot it?

      March 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • gabriel

      Prior to there even being a United States, this tribe was practicing their worship with the bald eagle. The Government would not allow any new religions saying that they too "need to sacrifice bald eagles." Given the history and nature of the situation is the reason they allowed for TWO of the eagles to be used.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Rags

      RIGHT! My religion abhors the Republican Party, therefore the Republican Party does not exist!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • TeePeeEl

      Again...we won, they lost. With that logic of they were here first...everything would belong to them.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  9. Phenom

    There were a number of natives killing protected eagles in British Columibia a while back, just to sell the feathers for profit. And these people are supposed to be the guardians of mother earth?? Not likely.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • tim

      Just because a small group of people in BC sold eagle part for profit, doesn't mean ALL Native Americans do the same thing. I know of a group of white people who scammed my grandma. Does that mean all white people are involved in scams?

      March 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • gabriel

      Every race group has its rotten apples. You shouldn't assume that all Natives are the same.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  10. Nii

    As I said it is not ethnic but religious on these boards. The blog is infested with rabid militant atheist viruses which attack any form of religion. i don't know cud be Chinese but they sound like White Americans but rarely Christian. lol

    March 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Nothing gets by you.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  11. Brian

    If they LOVE nature so much, why they put up their casinos everywhere? Lots of concrete and asphalt where majestic forests once stood! They poach with legalized netting, use casinos to fuel more alcoholism in their tribe, and pretend to preserve nature. Sorry dudes, you guys lost the war long time ago, get over it and get a real job. What ever happened to separation of Church and State? Well at least we should be glad their religion doesn't call for the sacrifice of "white man!" Damn gov't would probably grant it. Although as long as it was a politician maybe not so bad an idea! hmmmm.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • TypicalAmerican

      Get a clue and use the internet (since you obviously have access) to learn about the subject before you make an ignorant statement.

      I'll help you out (this is taken from WIKIPEDIA. I'm sure you've heard of it):
      "There are 562 federally recognized tribal governments in the United States. These tribes possess the right to form their own governments, to enforce laws (both civil and criminal) within their lands, to tax, to establish requirements for membership, to license and regulate activities, to zone and to exclude persons from tribal territories. Limitations on tribal powers of self-government include the same limitations applicable to states; for example, neither tribes nor states have the power to make war, engage in foreign relations, or coin money (this includes paper currency).[119]"

      March 16, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Shelli

      Excellent.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Shelli

      I meant Excellent to Brian by the way.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • TexasAnnie

      I've actually been to a few Indian casinos– and believe me, NONE of them were on land where "majestic forests once stood". The Indians got stuck with some of the worst cactus filled arid lands in the country. The casinos were actually an improvement. One area in Colorado (where you would THINK forests would stand) didn't have a decent tree within a good half mile– just rocks & scrub brush. Another in Oklahoma was in the middle of an area that was so dry, I wonder how deep they had to drill to get irrigation water & how many miles of pipe for potable water. If you've ever been to the reservations in New Mexico, well, just take your own water & a fan & a snake bite kit. The Indians didn't get any great pieces of land when reservations were established, believe me.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • TeePeeEl

      They shouldn't have received any land. We've allowed those who have chosen not to, to resist becoming integrated within our society. Hey, give me some land and let me do with it as I please...even if it is barren. Sounds like a deal to me.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  12. Ridic

    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?"

    Really? A book or artifact isn't a living animal. How barbaric. But then again I consider all religion to be barbaric.

    "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?"

    The Satanic Religion needs a blood sacrifice from a virgin. So i guess this gives them an open door to murder in the name of their religious beliefs.

    The guys logic doesn't make sense, therefore it is illogical. They should be revering the Eagle, not killing it. This nonsense just opens the door to anyone killing eagles and arguing if one group can, then they should be able to.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  13. DMT

    THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! BALD EAGLES MATE FOR LIFE; I AM SO UPSET AND OUTRAGED, AND LOL CAN JUST GO SUCK AN EGG

    March 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  14. John E. Lamb

    When I go on my annual fishing vacation in the UP of Michigan, I am told the chances of my catching a Walleye are slim and none because the Native Indians have the right to take as many as they want through the ice in the Winter while the normal American is limited to 2 per day. So, I am deprived of being able to catch and eat a very small amount of a very tasty fish. What justice is there in that?

    March 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Ridic

      Same thing anywhere there are native tribes. They get the pick of the fishing and hunting. Everyone else gets one or two and we are the ones paying to sustain those populations. Definitely no one should be fishing and hunting with no limits, but the limits need to be the same for everyone. Stop using your 'heritage' as a justification for extra privileges. You are Americans. Get a job, get a life and stop depending on handouts from the rest of us.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  15. JakeAZ

    i think we should respect the traditions of native peoples. we took everything from them, its the very least we can do. as much as it makes me uneasy to kill innocent sentient creatures (as a vegan) ...i'm ok with it in this context.

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

      Uh, I took nothing from no Indian...........nor did anyone else living in this century.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • DB5

      It is not our fault the Indian's had not progressed from bows and arrows to rifles. They were not developing the land either. If history did not progress upward it would be dead, the way a hospital monitor flat lines when you die. What have the Indian's done to help society? Casino's and Pow Wow's? I do not think so!

      As a retarded atheist would say, survival of the fittest.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Superkittn

      Um, I didn't take ANYTHING from them. My grandparents were all still living in Europe at the time. Don't pass your sweeping generalizations at everyone because we are white.

      March 16, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  16. naji

    Funny how a people who are indigenous to this land can't even practice their own religion because the people who are suppose to be civilized have not respect for their practices. I hate how people can be so ignorant and selfish. Its almost like someone coming into your house and telling you how you are gonna live regardless of it being you culture for 1000's of years. Stupid Non-Native American Snobs

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

      They're not 'native' Americans...they just got here first. 'My people' got here after but were stronger and so, just like the 'native' Americans did and most humans throughout history...we competed with them for the resources.They lost.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • naji

      Then I guess you won't be upset when America becomes majority "brown" in the next 10 years....Good luck with you kids on them job hunt buddy!!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Shelli

      You can't be serious dude. Kill an Eagle for sacrifice? Really? Can you say stone ages? I guess if your religion says sacrifice a child, you would think that's ok too? I mean what's the difference right? I always thought Indians respected all life the same. So kill your kid then. Dope . .

      March 16, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Noocrat

      "suppose to be civilized"

      Civilized people don't practice religion. Animistic, Abrahamic, or otherwise.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • TeePeeEl

      If we can get rid of all of the special rights granted pretty much to everyone except white males, then I wouldn't need to worry. Because it will truly be a country where your destiny is controlled more by yourself (if you're the best fit for the job, for example, you will get it). And yes, that includes getting rid of the good 'ol boy cronyism that is rampant in the white male world as well.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  17. TeePeeEl

    Well, one of the more accepted causes of the extinction of native North American large mammals is over hunting by the the 'native American' humans (which they are not...they were the first settlers which came across the Bering Straits). So, I'm not sure they should be viewed any different from any other settlers to North America.

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

      Thank you for that answer.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  18. Bryan

    Land of the free, freedom of religion.

    Keep in mind that only counts if you are white and christian. You people make me sick.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • esmith1001

      The name Waco comes to mind. Wasn't that a "religion" situation too? Face it, the "Native Americans" picked the wrong side in a war and lost. No way they should have more rights than the rest of us, even though they already do. Killing eagles affects us all. Where do you draw the line?

      March 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  19. Pipe-Dreamer

    As humanism journeys ever onward, religious predilictions should promote within their ranks- "A calling to give religious teachngs to that which we kill and do find sustenance from." Say a prayer at the time we kill the cattle and poultry. Religions have fallen astray and do not any longer obey the scripture to teach ALL CREATURES,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 😦

    March 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  20. AndriconBoy

    To anyone here complaining about this being done out of religion...
    If you belong to an organized religion, check yourself first. You are part of an organization that has done worse. Shut up, already.

    If the the eagles were being sacrificed for smoe X-tian tradition that went back several hundreds of years, you'd be complaining about how everyone was trying to oppress your beliefs. You'd be telling them they're sinners for trying to stop you and how wrong they are.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
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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.