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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. pANK16

    This native american heritage crap is really rediculous, less than 2% of native americans can even speak their "native " language, and are they going to hunt these majestic birds with hand made weapons, derived from mother earth or other wild animals, no commercially baught weapons, same thing out in the PNW with gill netting using power boats and commercially baught nets, only to sell salmon on the side of the road, the biggest welfare system that the U.S. government funds, at least illegal immagrants work.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      You might learn to spell in your own "native" language before throwing too many stones...

      March 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  2. 2smrt2blib

    The indians have plenty of feathers given to them for FREE....Captive, injured birds die every year. Wonder if they will walk out of the casinos in tuxes before they change clothes and kill these regal birds.... Wish Bush was in office... we could at least have someone to blame for this insane act!

    March 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  3. red white and blue

    so we should be ok with letting people religiously slay someones family pet on halloween now for their religious purposes?? There are legal ways of doing things but even if it is made legal and it is allowed, does that mean it is right?

    Is this the symbol of our nation or is this becoming just another bird....... THINK

    March 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  4. Guillermo

    This is just nuts. Why don't they switch to a more nautical ceremony and burn a carp or something.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  5. Emily Littella

    What's all this fuss I hear about an Eagle Rights Amendment? Now, I realize that the eagle is the symbol for the United States of America. But I wouldn't like to sit next to one on the bus! Well, I think the eagle's been treated fair enough! We put them on the back of the quarter, didn't we? Well, I'm angry! Do those birds expect to vote? They don't even have fingers to push the little lever in the booth! And they'll get their wings caught in the curtain! It'll be a mess! Between you and me, if we give eagles rights, the next thing you know, we'll have to give rights to pigeons! And then robins! And parakeets! Why, you won't be able to get a seat in the park! It'll be the BIRDS sitting on the bench throwing US little pieces of toast! If we're gonna give birds rights, we'll have to give them to parrots! At least they can talk! Not the eagle! They don't do a thing!

    March 16, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      Hello? Is this Cheddar Cheese?

      Oh. Never mind.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  6. Kim

    "The eagle "flies higher then any other creature. It sees many things. It's closer to the Creator"." OK, so.... because Native Americans care about the bald eagle population and feel that eagles are close to God, they want to kill two???? Strange way of showing respect for "God's creatures."

    March 16, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  7. The Irony

    Its ok all you hypocrits, next lets just move into Canada.. put all the frenchies on reservations. Next we will tear down there forrests and build huge shopping malls and pay them off with liqour so they can be alcoholics too! When they ask why or resist we can kill them as well. OH, and lets push Christianity on them too.. cause we all know that religion is correct because the white man says so.

    Then when they want to kill a Moose for say Thanksgiving.. lets all come to the forums and protest how they are crazy to do such a thing when they get approved for a tag.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  8. Stephen

    Ridiculous! This is the most absurd thing I have ever heard of. Your religious "right" to kill something?!?! Theyr'e out of their minds for reasoning that.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • O.S. Bird

      They're out of their minds to kill something for religious purposes?!? OK, I can agree with that...as long as Christanity is included. LOL

      March 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  9. Jordan Wiener

    G-D thats awful! Killing our country's symbol of strength.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Terminatus

      NOPE! Obama did that when he killed our economy.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • The Irony

      Term-the-Germ, no Sir, you need to go one more back and thank Daddy and Baby Bush.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Stephen

      Terminatus, Clintion's surprlus turned to a deficit in a month and a wrecked economy in 2008 after a half decade of tax cuts to wealthy people and nonsense wars. Review current events before posting.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  10. Eddie The Eagle

    This will be stuffed and mounted at our new Super Casino..

    March 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  11. Terri

    Sorry about my typo!!!! I meant: "beautiful" They symbolize "freedom," leave them alone please!!!!!

    March 16, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • kris

      I agree w/ you conpletly so thank you

      March 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  12. Terminatus

    There's nothing more ignorant than an Atheist saying we should get rid of all religion! LMFAO!

    Okay you dolts....RELIGION has only brought us civilization, medicine, advancements in art and science, gov't, law...and the list goes on. Frankly, if it weren't for religion in some form or fashion, you may not even be here! Dumb @– atheists I swear.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • TING

      Religion does help keep the population under control by you guys killing one another.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      Consider me one of those ignorant dolts, and please educate me on exactly how religion is the causal agent in civilization, medicine, government, science, and law.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Terminatus

      Actually NO, Ting. The population continues to grow out of control, so your theory is sadly impotent.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Stephen

      Witch burnings, wars of aggression, religious wars, the Inquisition, over 1200 years (450-1650) of virutally no advancement outside war machinery and weapons, the Crusades, that's what we have to thank religion for!

      March 16, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Are you smarter than a fifth grader? -NO

      You have got to joking right? Have you ever heard of the Dark Ages? Religion has hindered all of the about and still continues to do so. Prime example – stem cell research.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • TING

      Actually NO, Ting. The population continues to grow out of control, so your theory is sadly impotent

      No Terminatus, impotence is not the problem.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • cmkc

      Religion is man-made – fallible, subject to error, hyoprocisy,evil guised as good, and atrociitis committed in its name.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Terminatus

      Well False, human beings have been religious since they learned to crawl out of the African savannah millenia ago. Without putting too fine a point on it, religion has been the inspiration and the driver of most of modern western civilization. Religious ideology spurred the Greeks, the Romans, the Chinese, the Egyptians, and so on and so forth. Our greatest accomplishments in engineering, mathematics, science, art, etc have a basis in religion. The Greeks for example appreciated the mysticism of the Golden Ratio and thought it to be tied to their religiosity. The Egyptians perfected engineering feats for the sake of their afterlife. I could go on. Listen, if you're too lazy to enlighten yourself, then so be it.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Terminatus

      You nimrods really think that RELIGION is the cause of all the misery in the world?? Seriously?? Wow. And here I thought it was generally the fact that human beings are just sick and twisted–religious OR not. Human Nature is split between the murderous and the compassionate. At least SOME religions try to combat the wickedness in their teachings.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Alex

      religion sucks

      March 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  13. Chuck

    I think CNN just posted this article to confuse their liberal audience. These responses are all over the board. It is amazing to me that so many progressive thinking and liberal leaning people are really this ignorant of American Indian belief and culture.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  14. John in Vegas

    Religion: The business of celebrating life by causing death?

    March 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Terminatus

      NO! That would be HUMAN NATURE. Religion, specifically Christianity, does not call for DEATH, DESTRUCTION, HATE, BIGOTRY....just the fools that interpret it. You don't think Atheists kill???? GROW UP d_bag.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • John in Vegas

      Thanks Terminatus. I rest my case.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Terminatus

      Your case was never put forth in an intelligent manner, therefore I win. And who says I'm religious?? I simply enjoy the truth bro. lmao

      March 16, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  15. Eduardo Ferraz

    These indians should try to do something productive for society. Sitiing around the campfire drinking moonshine and gawking over bald eagle feathers hardly qualifies for that.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Terri

      Thank you!! I agree!!!!!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  16. wolfbaby63

    I see nothing wrong with this, it's a part of their religion and they did things the RIGHT way, followed the letter of "white man's" law and were granted permission. As someone upthread said, they didn't have to, no one would no.
    Why restrict someone's religion. How about we make people wait 2 years for a Torah, Bible, Crucifix, prayer cloth, etc.
    Now we have to take their religion too? I don't think so!

    March 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • kris

      I toltlely agree w/ you and natives were befor us whites

      March 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  17. Mark from Louisiana

    Why is it when a oil company has a spill and any kind of bird dies, they are fined $7,000 per bird. Yet hundreds of thousand of birds including American Eagles are killed each year by wind turbines, but they aren't fined?

    March 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Terri

      (Because of some idiot, idea that we must respect their tribes' rituals...) 😦 I agree! They should NOT allow them to kill these beautiful birds.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  18. Cristanu

    It's not cool at all.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  19. whight_knight

    It's a shame to know that an endangered bird is to be killed however not only did the native americans do it the legal way they also have been doing this for hundreds of years before the white man came around and made "laws" so it's not like it's something new so why don't we all worry less about something that's been happening for centuries and worry about our domestic enemy in the white house that we need to get rid of before he destroys us all!

    March 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Terri

      Grow-up!!!!

      March 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  20. White Eyes

    In some areas of our country, indians are allowed to remove baby eagles and hawks from their nests and kill them for religious purposes. How evil is that?

    March 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Super Indian :)

      Really..... White Eyes you have NO clue what you are talking about. ALL Tribes in the United States adhere to the SAME ferderal law when it come to these ceremonies. There are much BIGGER things in our Goverment and lives to worry about!!!!!

      March 16, 2012 at 5:02 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.