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OK to Kill Bald Eagles?

Why is the U.S. Government allowing the killing of the American Bald Eagle?

“Say What” was my reaction when I first came across the news article that announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on March 9, 2012 had granted a permit to allow the killing or capture and release of two bald eagles this year.

I mean, is someone at the Fish and Wildlife Service off their rocker? Surely no red-blooded American would even contemplate the killing of our beloved symbol of majestic strength, grace and freedom. 

Well, oddly enough, it is perhaps the a true red-blooded American who in fact sought this official permit from the US Government to allow the very act that will likely lead to the death of two bald eagles.

The true American that I speak of is the Northern Arapaho Native Indian Tribe from central Wyoming. It is important to note, although I am still not comforted by the fact, that the taking of the Bald Eagles is for ceremonial purposes.

In other words, the Northern Arpaho tribe basically argued that the existing prohibition against the killing of the bald eagle violated their constitutional right of Religious Freedom. 

 Let me the first to admit that I am not a scholar of the US Constitution. Sure, I had to study it in law school and it was the bar exam. None the less, I don’t think you need to be ivory tower gent to recognize that religious freedom should not be without limitations. Even for those who were here first. 

What next? The Incas practiced human sacrifice… any modern day Incas out there? Better yet, just tell the “po po” that the peyote in your possession is for religious ceremonies.

Religious Freedoms are a slippery slope. Allowing the  Northern Arapaho to kill even two bald eagles under the guise of religious freedom is bound to bring even other more unsavory requests. What is illegal should be illegal for all of us.

Religion should have no preference. Beyond that, isn’t it obvious that you just don’t kill the American Bald Eagle?

What say you? 

Legal blogs are a form of informational advertising and should not be taken as legal advice.  Please contact me at bill.joherl@roadrunner.com if you have any questions about this topic and/or another legal matter.

William R. Joherl, Esq. 

Image: Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Megan Rozsa March 22, 2012 at 06:41 PM
On the Fairlawn-Bath Facebook page, this is what Heather Nagel had to say: "No bc (sic) it is illegal for ALL. We cannot do a we please and claim its for religious reasons." Do you agree?
Sonia Gwynes March 22, 2012 at 08:32 PM
An interesting bit of history. Northern Arapaho: During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many changes came to the Reservation. Catholic and Episcopal missionary activity led to widespread conversion to Christianity, though many Arapaho continue to practice the traditional religion as well, centerered around the so-called "Sun Dance."... ...Ironically, in light of the major social and political advances made by the Northern Arapaho and other tribes in the face of continuing indifference or hostility from many quarters (despite official rhetoric to the contrary), Northern Arapaho and many other Native American cultures face another crucial moment at the turn of the 21st century. While much of the revival of the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's has been successful in elevating pan-Indian cultural pride and awareness, the particular traditional tribal cultures and languages are more threatened than ever. For the most part, previous efforts at language preservation have produced extensive documentation, but have not led to a growth in younger fluent or even semi-fluent speakers. More and more often, ceremonies such as the Sun Dance are conducted in English, and traditional aspects of this and other rituals are lost or ignored. The traditional oral storytelling traditions are slowly fading away, with their rich historical and cultural heritage. http://www.colorado.edu/csilw/arapahoproject/contemporary/history.htm
Sonia Gwynes March 22, 2012 at 08:39 PM
More tidbits: Bald eagles were removed from the federal list of threatened species in 2007. The birds remain protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Several Indian tribes have been allowed permits to kill golden eagles for religious purposes. From the 1880s to the 1930s, the federal government enforced so-called "Civilization Regulations" that criminalized traditional ceremonies, including the Northern Arapaho’s Sun Dance. Many Indian religious ceremonies were stamped out, Harjo said. "They’ve done the correct thing, the proper thing. It’s a good step in the direction of the United States trying to make amends for things that they did all too well to suppress Native American religious freedom for so long," Harjo said. Federal lawyers filed a status report in the lawsuit this week saying that the Eastern Shoshone Tribe had opposed the killing of eagles on the reservation the two tribes share. The Northern Arapaho permit specifies the two bald eagles must be killed or captured off the reservation. Brian Rutledge, vice president for the Rocky Mountain Region of the National Audubon Society, said his group encourages tribes to raise captive birds, rather than killing wild ones. "But we understand," Rutledge said, "that there are religious decisions that are made here that may not be understandable to all, but are well within the rights of the people acting on them."
Sonia Gwynes March 22, 2012 at 08:39 PM
"This isn’t a wholesale run on the bald eagle that would drive them back into an endangered or threatened position," Harjo said. She emphasized that only a few tribes have intact ceremonies involving eagles and said that only a few individuals within those tribes have a religious need to kill wild birds. On the Wind River Indian Reservation, the Northern Arapaho are preparing for spring. Nelson White, a tribal elder, said his people are listening for this year’s first clap of thunder. "That thunder represents the eagle hollering," White said. "And when that happens, that’s when everything is waking up. The grass is coming back up, the birds are coming back, the plants and animals that were in hibernation are coming out. It’s a new beginning. "So in essence, with this decision," White said, "with this you might say victory, we say ‘ho’hou,’ — ‘thank you.’ " http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/lifestyle/53755435-80/eagles-tribe-bald-arapaho.html.csp
John Konrad March 23, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Wouldn't this be a great time for some "common sense"? So many birds are found injured or dead just due to living within our society. Also, some of the injured must be euthenized. Is there a compromize position available here? Has it even been discussed?
Bill Joherl, Esq. March 23, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Hi John: Very good question. Per my research, the US Government actually has a repository for deceased bald eagles. I know this sounds a bit gruesome, but its function is to provide feathers and bones for use in Native American Indian rituals. So, yes there is an alternative. Although, I do not know if the Northern Arapaho Native Indian Tribe's Sun Dance ritual at issue actually requires the eagle to be alive and well at the time ceremony.
Sonia Gwynes March 23, 2012 at 10:02 PM
http://jetson.unl.edu/cocoon/encyclopedia/doc/egp.rel.046 The Sun Dance is a distinctive ceremony that is central to the religious identity of the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains. The Canadian and U.S. governments perceived this ceremony as superstitious rather than religious and suppressed it, and full liberty to practice the Sun Dance was regained only after the mid–twentieth century. The ceremony is highly variable because its performance is intimately connected to the authoritative guidance of visions or dreams that establish an individual relationship between one or more of the central participants and one or more spirit persons. In all cases, however, the primary meaning is understood to be the performance of acts of sacrifice in ritual reciprocity with spiritual powers so that the welfare of friends, family, and the whole people is enhanced. Some Indigenous interpreters have suggested an analogy between the piercing of sun dancers and the piercing of Jesus on the cross, seeing both as acts of voluntary sacrifice on behalf of other beings and the cosmic welfare. While this interpretation may facilitate understanding for some, interpreters must be wary of imposing any religious category that clashes with the central concern of the Sun Dance: to establish and maintain kinship with all the people's relatives, including other humans, the animal and plant relatives of this earth, and the cosmic relatives of the spirit realm.
Nickol Wilson April 27, 2012 at 04:20 PM
This is such a fascinating conversation. I believe I spotted 8 eagles in Kent, Ohio on 2 seperate occassions, which led me to this blog. Anyone else know or have seen these birds in our vicinity?
Nickol Wilson April 27, 2012 at 04:22 PM
About the ceremony, I am of Cherokee decent, but have no connection/up bringing in their culture. As with most Natives they got along better if they assimulated & the Cherokee's were great at doing so.However, I have been researching a bit of that part of my heritage. I met a full blooded Cherokee who is a Christian, as well,& told me how the Native Americans have always been very close with God. As we would call the Trinty of God; Father, Son & Holy Spirit, they would call Him, The Great Spirit, as God is in fact a Spirit. He said that they are opposed to dark spirits (i.e demons, etc.) & their rituals/ceremonies are not dark or elevating the darknes, but are reverancing God, The Father & connecting the people to God & His Glory. But, they are all important to the people/culture, but the white people have misunderstood this aspect of their ways. He said a lot of what they do points to the cross. So Sonia, your posting seems very aligned with what this Native American man shared with me. Haha...he also shared with me about the "moonbow" , in Kentucky, a real place that displays a rainbow at night, very few places in the world like this. It is considered Holy ground & all the tribes would gather there annually & it was considered neutral ground, so not fighting could take place there. I found this to be very interesting, especially once I looked it up.
Nickol Wilson April 27, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Cont......He also said Ohio had very significant cites like this, like an area in the Metro Parks, in Akron where a tree stands that is very old & the Natives would go there for prayer to God, kinda like when we go to Church to pray, but outside. What are your thoughts about this?

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