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. lilly

    I have a problem killing anything for a "religious" reason.

    March 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • alumette

      me too. What sorry excuse is that ? there is no reason for killing these endangered animals. Please, let these native americans buy their feathers from Walmart so they may dance in the rain. There is no way mother earth would accept ritual killing of such beautiful specie. Not natural at all to kill these birds. Shame on our laws !

      March 17, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  2. Woody Edwards

    I'm against killing the eagles

    March 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • alumette

      of course. We should all stand and state our disapproval. Let the native do without the killing. Not necessary.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  3. john

    According to Wiki this is how Americans dealt with Bald Eagles in the 20th century:

    In 1930 a New York City ornithologist wrote that in the state of Alaska in the last 12 years approximately 70,000 Bald Eagles had been shot.

    Later illegal shooting was described as "the leading cause of direct mortality in both adult and immature bald eagles," according to a 1978 report in the Endangered Species Technical Bulletin

    the mid-20th century by a variety of factors, among them the thinning of egg shells attributed to use of the pesticide DDT

    The Native American tribe wants to kill TWO for a religious tradition that dates back generations. I'm okay with that. It's the general population that needs the regulations.

    March 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • alumette

      too many humans and too many guns.....we need more eagles and way less humans. Radical birth control should be mandatory. We are choking the resources !

      March 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  4. john

    the reason the Bald Eagles are protected is because idiot American citizens nearly wiped them all out. They poached them, hunted them for sport (killed them just for fun) and drove them out of their natural habitat. I don't see most of the critics point here. Ignorance put forth as patriotism. If you read your history, then you would know where I'm coming from.

    March 17, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  5. dondijon

    I hope this permit is next:
    Tuscarora people – Wikipedia, The Tuscarora ("hemp gatherers") are a Native American people of the Iroquoian-language family, with members in New York, Canada, and North Carolina.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  6. Daniel

    that is not right cant believe that they would let them just kill them thats our symbol of strength so messed up should not happen

    March 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • mulin

      Our symbol of strength or THEIR symbol of strength?

      March 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  7. terri

    I know that people will not agree with me but this is my opinion. take it or not I don't care. But the us government took so much from the Native Americans for over a hundred years and now we are trying to make something that they have done for hundreds of years from them i hope they get to do what will make them happy i thank that it's time i would not like to see this animal killed but its there right they are the ones that have to live with it not me and i hope they get more of there land back its there's.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Mike French

      why don't you give the house and land you live in if your bleeding heart feels for them? You are all for the Indians as long as you prosper right?

      March 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  8. Gio

    so can i burn the flag now? it looks like congress wouldnt care..... and might as well rip up/burn our currency

    March 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Aaron

      from what i read the american people are idolizing the bald eagle which also from a religous point of view is agianst God's law. thats what is wrong with this country people just get too concerned over little things the american people need to open thier eyes and look around and relize the big picture. this country wouldnt be if it wasnt for the native americans the land you live on belongs to the native americans and i was reading one post saying why dont you give your house and property up to the native americans. well i proudly would because i am native american also. and TWO! Just TWO eagles is not going to hurt them at all. and on top of everything else how would you like it if the government took away everything from you? i mean they can if they want. they took everything away from the native americans and i dont think the government needs anymore power the founding fathers would be very upset with this country today Gays getting married all the Hate and disrespect and the Government control. This country is suppose to be free. Gas prices is another big thing OBAMA NEEDS TO GO! Get someone in office that cares about the native americans and this country and the people who cares about what other countries are doing until they threaten us we are spending way too much time worrying over small things. Pull your head out and think right quit being so selfish people

      March 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  9. dan

    Unbelievable, mankind is the worst thing that's ever happened to this earth.
    Aren't you glad you wasn't born an animal.

    March 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • lilly

      Earth needs a nice pandemic to come along, real soon.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • alumette

      yes it is. There are exceptional , sensitive and intelligent people but too many are scavengers with no souls. What went wrong ?

      March 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  10. Alfred the Great

    This is absolutely ridiculous.


    March 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Aaron

      No One Write anyone if you are going to write to the damn Congress and government tell them to leave there asses out of the american peoples personal buisness and tell them to give the native americans whats theirs back

      March 17, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  11. joe doh

    wow, how did they stay sober enough to do that !

    March 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  12. drew

    The part of this story that really bothers me, is that certain religions are given special consideration while other religions are dismissed as cults or lunatics. Why is it legal for Native Americans to ingest hallucinogenic substances and kill wildlife, yet Rastafarian followers are not allowed to smoke marijuana? It needs to be fair across the board. Either allow all religions to perform their ceremonies as they see fit, or disallow all religions equally.

    March 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Aaron

      Some religions believe in killing other people so equal is not able sorry and the native americans were here first

      March 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  13. Bob

    Christians, your own bible is loaded with demands from your "god" that you sacrifice animals too. Read Leviticus, and that is just to get started. Even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions for sacrifice in there. If you think rationally at all, that is, but that would or should eventually make you dump your sicko Christian supersti-tions.

    So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

    Please, stop referencing that Christian book of nasty, AKA the bible, as a guide to, well, anything.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Be free of religion in 2012.

    March 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  14. Happenstance

    I have three bald eagle feathers I collected from the base of a nest I stumbled upon (high up in a tree). I didn't know there was a nest there until I literally bumped into the tree. There were feathers scattered all around the base. Am I breaking the law by keeping them? This happened about 30 years ago.

    March 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • maxwell

      owning bald eagle feathers, without proof o native american heritage, is a federal offense and can result in a fine of up to $25,000 dollars.

      March 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  15. brad

    once again a senseless killing in the name of religion. stalin may have been an athiest but he was also our ally in WWII against Hitler who believed that God was on his side.

    March 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • john

      is the sky blue in your world?

      March 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  16. upstateny

    Before you know it people will be allowed to kill people for religious reason and all terrorists attacks and cold blooded murders will be justified.

    March 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • john

      it already exists. ya ever heard of jihad? how bout the crusades? pretty soon? dude wake up.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    March 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Jesus

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!! . .. ..

      March 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven !

      March 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • lilly

      Prove it.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  18. Sarah Cartier

    Religion and senseless killing have always gone hand in hand. The gods must be blood thirsty beings.

    March 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • just sayin

      Like when atheist Joe Stalin murdered 24 million? That kind of hand in hand?

      March 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Sue

      False analogy. Stalin's killings were not done because of any dictates of atheism. Religious killings were (and are) done because people think that some mythical being demands it of them.

      March 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • just sayin

      I beg to differ all atheist mass murderers are standing on their atheism when they order millions killed.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • lilly

      @Justsayin Never let facts obscure your insanity.

      March 17, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  19. GodsPeople

    hmm. Legally the Fed has no choice. Freedom of Religion. I wonder, however, if they'd give like.. Satanists sacrificing people freedom of religion, too?

    March 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  20. cwp

    Why can't they "take" molted feathers from captive bald (and golden) eagles? These feathers are easily collected and stored wherever these eagles are kept in captivity due to the birds being rehabbed, but unreleasable. Numerous cultures in SE Asia are changing with the times and accepting molted tail feathers from endangered hornbills species maintained in zoos instead of harvesting/killing them in the wild so that they can meet their cultural/religious needs without killing off the species...why can't this Native American tribe do the same?

    March 17, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Bigtoe13b

      Did you even read the article? They have been using molted feathers that the government provides them with.

      March 17, 2012 at 3:12 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.