The Northern Arapaho Tribe secured an extraordinarily rare permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to kill 2 of the national birds for religious use.


A pair of Wyoming bald eagles now qualify as a really endangered species.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe secured an extraordinarily rare permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowing the Native Americans to kill two of the national birds for religious use.

The national agency, in a 2009 report, said it has never issued a license for the killing of a bald eagle — making it likely that the tribe was the first group to ever get the legal go-ahead.

The highly unusual decision came three years after the tribe’s initial request to kill two of the eagles. The ruling could defuse a federal lawsuit filed last year by the tribe in the flap.

Federal law bars the killing of any bald eagle under almost any circumstance. The Wyoming tribe argued that the ban was a violation of their religious freedom.

Although the bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened species five years ago, the bird remains under the protection of the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Act.

Eagle feathers and body parts are often used in tribal rites, and the Arapahos use the bird in their Sun Dance. A tribal member was arrested for killing a bald eagle in 2005, setting off the legal battle.

The federal government keep a repository of eagle feathers and body parts for use in tribal rituals, although the Native Americans must file an application for their use.

The process was considered demeaning by some Native American groups, including members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe.

“How would a non-Indian feel if they had to get their Bible from a repository?” Northern Arapaho leader Nelson P. White Sr. asked after a 2007 court hearing.

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