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. JP

    Well, I'm sure those eagles will feel honored to give their lives for some silly-assed religion! This country gets more psychotic and screwed up every hour of every day!

    March 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • XxMacleodxX

      they were here first...your ancestors killed them and took their lands....if they want to eat a bird so be it....it was theirs in the first place

      March 16, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  2. Timetowinialwayswin

    Well as long as the numbers remain healthy there's nothing wrong with this. Course it is kinda sad how i'd do five years in fed prison if i shot a kansas medowlark in kansas... Never had the chance to taste one... dunno how mad i should be about it.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  3. Phil from Dallas

    I can't believe the government gave permission to kill Bald Eagles. I agree with Dallas123.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  4. Natalie456

    I agree 100% with Dallas 123. If you do it for one tribe there surely will be more requests in the near future. No... it should not be allowed, no way for no reason. Sacrifice of animals in all forms is disgusting. Be satisfied to make that Eagle in the form of a doll & use that...

    March 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  5. Alaska

    Those native americans need to stop puffing on their peace pipes, it's giving them hallucinations.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • A

      Your comment is a knock on liberals. Yet it's the liberals who are the most against animal cruelty and religion.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • JP

      They do a lot more than just puff a little happy weed! I lived there for years & I've seen the degradation of that culture due to alcohol & hard drugs first hand. I seriously doubt that a few eagle feathers will have any effect on their real problems at all.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  6. 720

    Native Americans were doing this LONG before this bird was a symbol of America.
    Get over it people.

    Now go on with your day and head down to your local casino like you always do and plunk down more money you dont have.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Thank You.
      Native Americans should decree that all these "SETTLERS" in America should head back to Europe where their ancestors came from.

      March 16, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  7. Peter

    My religion mandates that I kill Golden Retrievers and Dalmations and hang their tailes on my car antenna so where do I apply for that permit again? Are we in 2012????

    March 16, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • JP

      How about a religeon that mandates that you kill everybody that doesn't agree with it? Oh, wait...

      March 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  8. Ray

    @Vino They took the Bald Eagle off the endangered species list last week. That being said this permit appproval is just ridiculous. Nothing associated with America is safe anymore and before you start spouting about how the Indians were here first; look around how many do you see, how many are you friends with? And I don't mean faceboob friends. Freaking pitiful

    March 16, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • What I read...

      What I saw in that post was...

      blah blah blah, they don't follow my religion, blah blah blah

      so what if two birds die? you eat animals right? should I protest every time a cow or pig is slaughtered?

      March 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  9. JOSE0311USMC


    March 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Yeah, Arapahos, eagles, dogs, cats, cows.... well not cows they're tasty.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  10. Bob

    Bald Eagles are overrated. They perch above acting all high and mighty and swoop down and steal prey from hard working Osprey or other raptors. Come to think of it, that is a pretty good symbol for America,

    March 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  11. florence

    so, i hope you are a vegetarian dallas!!! because they way they kill any animal, is extremely spiritual– if you saw the way a slaughter house killed for your bacon or hamburger– you would become a vegetarian– do not deny some of the most truly spiritual people on the face of this planet the chance to do what they have always done, and that is to worship this planet and show the greatest respect to the animals that anyone shows-

    March 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  12. VinoBianco

    And I respected Native Americans, then they go around killing animals in the name of religion...so much for that.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Cannibalism

      And I respected Christians, then they go around committing symbolic cannibalism...so much for that

      March 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Just an Idiot

      Religion needs to end

      March 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • lacey

      and the crusades, the inquisition, and jihad were/are ok?

      March 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  13. JW

    Some of the negative comments on this subject are dumb. It is their right. Want to be dragged out of your churches while you pray. We all have a religion whatever it may be. So what religion is wrong here? What religion is right? I believe in god. Leave the Native people alone, the original people of the US.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  14. Cin S

    What does killing anything have to do with religion?

    March 16, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • sean

      That's the backbone of almost all religions... killing and sacrifice.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Anomic Office Drone

      Well, Old Testament God seemed to kill a lot.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  15. julie

    If Indians wanted the right to do as they please then they should have allowed themselves to be conquered. The eagle is the symbol of our country. No one should be allowed to kill them

    March 16, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Are you kidding me?

      So now you're saying that it is the Native American's fault that they were conquered? Hmmmmm...bow and arrows vs. cannons and guns.

      Gee, it's a wonder them injuns were able to last so long!

      March 16, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • JOSE0311USMC


      March 16, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Just an Idiot

      SEMPER FI!

      Yes, typical americans....feel sorry for a blood thirsty, murderous group who tried to kill the white man to control the land, but lost.

      I bet you feel sorry for the TB as well.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  16. cpc65

    Ugga bugga bugga. For anyone criticizing Native American religion it's no more mystical magical hocus pocus mumbo jumbo than any other religion.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  17. Christa

    Our government should be ashamed of what they have done to this symbol of life.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Nonimus

      The same symbol of life that preys on other life, occasionally survives on carrion (dead animals), etc.
      Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful animal, but let's be realistic here.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Oh what nonsense for a Settler like you to make?
      You shoot and kill pigs and tiny cotton-ball squirrels for food don't you? These are Native Americans the original owners of this land called America doing exactly what their forefathers did before your settler grandparent set foot here to impose your culture and way of life.
      Hey, settler, why don't you pack and head back where you came from.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Just an Idiot

      CHE....The original owners of the land? I believe that would be animals, like the bald eagal. Why not defend the animals instead of the native americans

      March 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  18. VinoBianco

    You people are outraged for the WRONG reasons...who cares what the "national symbol" is? Hi! The SPECIES is EDANGERED. Get your priorities straight.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • enquust

      It's on the Threaten List not Endangered.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Dez

      They haven't been endangered for nearly 10 years.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  19. Christa

    Native Americans are all about the earth and its animals, they have meanings therefore they should respect the lives of the bald eagles. They are more than just the symbol of our country. The mystical belief of the power these feathers carry is nonsense. They should not be allowed to kill bald eagles.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Your Beliefs

      Fine, I herby declare any religious ceremony you perform to be "nonsense."

      Simply because they do not belong to your religion, does not make it wrong. Learn some tolerance people.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Bereal

      They are all nonsence. This one just happens to be harmful as well which is why it is rightfully offensive to most people. Kill to eat, otherwise live and let live..

      March 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Hey settler "Christa", one minute you want the Gov't. out of your business; next minute you blame the SAME Gov't for not protecting your silly interest.
      Which is which? What gives you the Birth Right to impose your silly WILL on Native Americans a.k.a "the Original Owners of America" of their culture and traditions before your settler grandparents set foot on this land? Your irks are just Settlers of this land called, America.
      Settler, pack and head back to where you came from. You want Native Americas to buy you a plane ticket also?

      March 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Just an Idiot

      Che...the native americans LOST...Get over it.

      And they are not the original "owners" of the land...do some damn research holy cow

      March 16, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  20. Dallas123

    Killing an animal or any living being for religious reason is disgusting & barbaric. If one has religious custom make a bald eagle doll & perform waht ever needs to be done.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • JOSE0311USMC


      March 16, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37
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.