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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. lmao

    ok! the statement written is hypocritical... "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" if there is already a shortage of supply of feathers, then many tribes will kill the birds now for the feathers lol

    March 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  2. hthoreau

    I am offensive and I find this bald eagle

    March 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • O.S. Bird

      Quite right. Let's have another drink!

      March 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  3. UrBFFJill

    So I take away from this that the government is willing to do anything, even if it's against another law, to allow religious freedom in this country. I hereby commit myself to a new faith that requires the televised ritual sacrifice of two politicians (we'll go with one from each major party) in order to appease my god every 4 years. Step up government, I deserve this.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  4. Lynn Ladouceur

    I think it is a shame to kill anything in this day and age. Time to 'modernize' your religious practices.

    Sorry,

    March 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  5. Threedims

    Give them old bald eagles or let them breed them for their ceremony.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  6. Steve Taylor

    The bald eagle is a sacred animal to MILLIONS of US citizens. These religious beliefs of these tribes, however fervently held, should not override the feelings of honor and respect that the rest of the country holds for these beautiful birds - not just the whole breed, but each and every magnificent specimen of our beloved national symbol. This is quite distressing to me.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Brian

      True. But they have been doing this since thousands of years before the U.S. was founded. And unlike most U.S. citizens, they don't just believe it to be sacred and honored, but a holy spirit close to God. It means more to them than just a National Symbol.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  7. 4evernative

    sorry, but if there's anyone to blame, it's the forefathers who signed signed treaties for such rights...oops. if they wanted to rid this nation of its native inhabitants, both birds and PEOPLE, they should've. until then, such rights will be exercised, including religous beliefs

    March 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  8. nancy

    Look at it this way, they did it the legal way, they requested permission. They could have just done it and who besides them and God would even know?

    March 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  9. Threedims

    Can't they give the indians old bald eagles and or injured ones?

    March 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • walter

      hahahaha, that really made me laugh out loud durring my conference call

      March 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  10. Chief Dizzy Buzz

    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.

    More religious mumbo jumbo.

    Apparently Holden has never heard of geese, which fly much, much higher than any type of eagle.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      Really? Gee whiz, can you come to our show and tell tomorrow tell us more interesting made up facts?

      March 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • facepsalm

      @UhYeahOk : The section on how high migratory birds fly is truly enlightening.
      http://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/migratorybirds/fact_sheets/default.cfm?fxsht=9

      March 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  11. Big John

    I think a good point is made here- Native Americans are probably more concerned about bald eagles than any of you reactive redneck hicks posting your outrage on here.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Synapse

      Tell it, John- speak the truth!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  12. jason

    science flies us to the moon, religion flies us into buildings - reminds me of that billboard - think its bs – why give into this, does law not have precidence here.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • walter

      religion...the utlimate show stopper since day 1

      March 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Devi Bakt

      Correction, Jason: ISLAM flies us into buildings.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  13. BaldEagleLover4Life

    THIS IS SO SICK AND TWISTED. WHERE ARE THESE INDIANS? I'D LOVE TO SEE THEM BE KILLED!

    March 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Keep on promoting Killing people and animals via negative propoganda does nothing to stop such things,,,, 😦

      March 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      Yea, birds are more important than people. You must be a left winger democrat, the party of morons...

      March 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • BaldEagleLover4Life

      YES, I'M A DEM, AND PROUD OF IT, MORON! GET A REAL LIFE. GO SUCK GWB'S D*CK.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  14. Laughing

    Let's blame this on Obama as well.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  15. Jackie Potashner

    This is an outrage! I can't believe our politicians are this dumb to allow this during an election year. The Feds are allowing horses to be eaten, wolves (who happen to have the same DNA as dogs) to be killed and now bald eagle )the symbol of our nation) for some religious rite? What is our nation's actions symbolizing?

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

      How about Native Americans have had their belief structure suppressed by "Americans" for hundreds of years and now they want to practice a rite of their ancestors, you want to oppress them further... yea good luck with that redneck. Native Americans were here long before you buddy boy.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • walter

      perhaps we can send the stuffed animal version of a bald eagle. nobody has to know...

      March 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  16. jack

    While I think that there are a number of things in all religions that are silly, stupid or terrible or whatever adjative you want to apply and I don't personally think that the killing of two eagles is necessary, I am not totally against it either. People do things all the time that their religion either says to do or not to do. How many of you who believe in the bible have broken any of the ten commandments? How many animals have been killed because of habitat destruction? Like we neeed another shopping mall. How about air and water pollution? We humans do a fair amount of harm to animals each day and no thought is given to it. And before you say it-No, I am not a Peta or a tree hugger, but a conservationist.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  17. Eduardo Ferraz

    It goes to show how ignorant religious people and the courts can be.
    I find it sad and deplorable the US government allowing those beautiful creatures to be slaughtered for their feathers. It is barbaric.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      No more barbaric than some of the things you non religious types do. You must be a democrat, you only accept those who accept your beliefs otherwise they are wrong and stupid.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  18. Kristen Ford-Newell

    Please don't kill those beautiful birds. They are part of our American heritage, whether White, Native, Black or Asian

    March 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  19. MohaBear

    Freedom of religion! No contraceptives for the eagles!!!

    March 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  20. gabriel

    Its a shame that the United States is forced to give the Natives whatever they want . Maybe if they took another approach in taking their land they wouldn't have to deal with all this bad publicity they're having now.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Synapse

      "Its a shame that the United States is forced to give the Natives whatever they want"
      Yeah... maybe if their religions hadn't been here for 10,00 to 20,000 years- and maybe if WE hadn't stolen everything from them killed them, and acted like they weren't even human for the last 500 years... we wouldn't owe them anything.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:36 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.