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. Jesus II

    Hmmm...we alway site the bible in defense of our questionable beliefs but I think the sacrifice of young, innocent animals has a long history there. Everything dies. In Alaska, where I live, the most humane death an animal can be blessed with is a well-placed bullet. By the way, I am not a hunter. An animals death at the hand of man is not always cruel in either the act or the intention.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  2. Common Sense

    I suppose you think it's okay though to blind thousands of bunny rabbits, monkeys, cats, dogs and ferrets to see if masquera will hurt someone's eyes. It's okay to bound and cripple a newborn calf, so someone can eat veal...

    March 16, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  3. AnnieS

    Someday the planet with be free of the most destructive species ever to have evolved. It is just a matter of time before we have fished the oceans clean, exploited every species, polluted every habitat and unraveled every ecological assemblage.

    I guess religion justifies every atrocity under the sun.........

    March 16, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  4. Jake H

    Yeah take a life of an innocent animal, for some silly religion that requires feathers.
    It probably started out as unicorn hooves, and hobbits. But they couldn't find any of those.
    Hey look there is an eagle! We'll use that instead for our stupid beliefs.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Jack Vigdor

      Why not instead of criticizing these people for their religion, why can't you respect that this is their belief and culture. After all. We, those of European descent, invaded their land. They, the indigenous people of norh America, happily killed and at the animals here and did not push the eagles to extinctions in the thousands of years before we got here. I certainly don't feel that any particular religion is rot, and many are downright silly, but I respect the right of individual Americans to believe and practice as they want as long as they don't proselytize or bother others.

      March 16, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  5. bassmaster22

    It is amazing what people can get away with in the name of religion. This is why the planet will be a baron waste land in 100 years as "god/gods" require believers to murder the enemy. Hope everyone has seen the madmax movies as they are a preview of things to come.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  6. Lilarose1941

    Why can't they use the carcass of an Eagle that died from natural causes. This will get their fat asses out of their recliners to go out onto their "sacred" lands and do something, like look for dead Eagles that died from natural causes. The Indians are not making friends here. I am going to England to claim my rights as an ancient there. Why not?

    March 16, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Perspective

      Lilarose, it is a federal crime to pick up your own feathers, carcass, etc. without reporting it...and then the BLM takes and puts it in the federal repository where it goes to whomever is next on the list of those waiting. If you are caught with items that you do not have permission to have, it is a fine. This is why they had to ask for permission in order to get them.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Dorkus Maximus

      Asking why they couldn't use feathers from a found eagle carcass is kind of like asking why the Catholic church can't use beer instead of wine for communion.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  7. Perspective

    We kill animals every day for food; birds, cows, buffalo, pigs, fish, etc. Buffalo were killed off to the point of near extinction by non Native Americans whereas the N.A. lived off the populations for food, clothing, shelter, religious purposes with no damage to the herds.
    Saying the tribe wanting 2, just 2, not 200, not 2000, 2...for their ceremonies is wrong is rather hypocritial when you're going to chow down on a pig or cow for lunch. If you want to get upity about killing animals, go after those who kill tigers, gorillas, rhinos, pandas, and other critically endangered specials FOR MONEY. Those are the folks you should be upset at, not the tribe that wants the right to have 2 bald eagles after many years of not being allowed to due to the laws of those who took their land away.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  8. Wisco30

    This is disgusting. I dont know what else to say.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  9. Steff


    March 16, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  10. David

    I think native Americans are playing the "Native American" card a bit too often. They want to make all this money on casinos, now they want to slaughter our national bird...why? Because they are Native Americans, and are better than the rest of the Americans. GET OVER IT...you are not the first people to have other people settle on your native land and change things. GET OVER IT!

    March 16, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Errogant2

      They're trying to recover from 400 years of theft and genocide.

      March 16, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Joshua

      You're on their land David. If you don't like it move back to Europe. I'm pretty sure you eat chicken and turkey regularly. Get over it.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  11. laddyboy

    Hey, we gave them smoke shops and casinos, and named sports teams after them, wasnt that enough?

    March 16, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  12. ur mama

    This is why I have no religion. It's used to justify killing and (off subject) segregation. Well, maybe I should find religion to have an excuse to kill an animal or a person. Oooh, you know what flies higher than an eagle? A pilot. So I'm going to file to kill two pilots a year because my religion says its ok. Pilots get even closer to God. Ohhh wait! Astronauts do! Nevermind, I need to kill astronauts because that's what my religion wants. No one will miss them, I mean it will only be two a year. So stupid.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  13. JohnRJohnson

    The notion that Native American tribes are more responsible about the treatment of nature and would, therefore, not kill off the Bald Eagle is a myth. Drive through any reservation area in Montana. They are wastelands. The wild life has been all but wiped out by indiscriminate hunting and desecration of the land. Rusted hulls of old cars and refrigerators line the landscape in what used to be pristine land. Give these tribes the right to kill Bald Eagles and rely on their responsible stewardship of the land we will see our national bird back on the endangered species list in 5 years.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Marcnj

      you dumb shyt, that's what that land looked like in the first place. That is that kind of land our government "gives" them for reservations. And if there's anything of value found on the land, it is taken back and the people are forced to move. And I'm talking about now, in the 21st century, this is still going on. Wake the f'k up.

      March 16, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Dorkus Maximus

      You might give the Indians a little slack if you looked at how the reservation lands were selected by the federal government. Basically any land that had any other value to the "white man" was ruled out and reservations were made from what was left. Indian tribes that lived in the lush Mississippi delta and Gulf coast were herded and shipped off to arid Oklahoma and parts west, etc. Read about the Trail of Tears.

      March 16, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Nonimus

      Please read the article. It said a permit to kill exactly 2 eagles.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Joshua

      You need to study more so we don't confuse you with the monkey. Whites have destroyed more land than any other race. Who dropped the atomic bombs? It sure wasn't Native Americans. Just go swimming at Bolsa Chica beach in California to see what you've done to the water. There are countless other examples.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  14. Char646

    How dumb is this tribe??
    "We're more concerned about the eagle population than any culture", so we must have two of them to mount on our wall!
    "flies higher then any other creature. It sees many things. It's closer to the Creator," so we must kill two of them, made by the same Creator mind you, to show how much we respect it!
    What's even dumber is the approval of the application.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Bill in Florida

      I'm not going to debate the emotional, animal-rights, or religious viewpoints here. From a biological perspective, this truly is nothing. It's equivalent of running over a rabbit or a squirrel with your car.

      March 16, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  15. Paul

    It is more moral to kill baby seals for coats than to wear polyester coats. They are biodegradable, self-sustaining, water-proof, renewable, and delicious with spotted owl sauce.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • momoya

      >Troll comment detected!!<

      March 16, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  16. Paulie

    If Obama were alive in the 1800s he would have sanctioned the slaughter of buffalo if he thought it might win him some votes.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Errogant2

      Obama had nothing to to with the approval of the permit.

      March 16, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Bill in Florida

      President Obama has plenty of responsibilities. Grating a take permit - of which literally thousands are granted by federal and state agencies every year in this country - is not one of them. Grow up.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Simon Says

      Repeat Moron.


      If Obama were alive in the 1800s he would have sanctioned the slaughter of buffalo if he thought it might win him some votes.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Racists settler; did you wake up with trailer park fleas or rabies?
      Your lips are foaming.
      Get rabies shots. It’s covered under Obamacare Plan.
      For sure, you're disguising evil human being.
      There's a demonic evil beast living within thee.

      March 16, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  17. TW

    Religion = justification for killing.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  18. Hugh G. Rection

    As long as they do it traditionally with nets, darts, arrows etc etc. No Guns!

    March 16, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  19. Sagebrush Shorty

    So once again certain religious groups are given special treatment.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Hey American Setter, the Native Americans are the TRUE owners of this land called America. They have undeniable BIRTH RIGHT to practice their tradition and beliefs your forefathers have taken away from them.
      Get a grip of yourself! Will ya?

      March 16, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  20. Bob B

    Religion in general is the cause of killing many animals and most people in the world. Great isn't it.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • steven harnack

      Hey< I'm an atheist and I would usually agree with you but to equate Native American beliefs to organized religion is like equating a pea shooter to a bazooka.

      March 16, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Mr N.

      Really? I wasn't aware that Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc, were religious, yet their ideologies are responsible for more deaths that all other ideologies put together.

      March 16, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • AGuest9

      And, Mr. N, in their day, the "holy" Roman Empire, the Crusades and the Inquisition all conducted atrocities in the name of the pope. The whole Mao/Stalin/Hitler/Pol Pot comparison is beyond old. I don't see George Washington's name there. He wanted the "red devils exterminated." Wasn't that christian of him?

      March 16, 2012 at 11:09 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.