Wyoming Native American Tribes at Odds Over Eagle Killing


The Wind River Indian Reservation is a sprawling area, the seventh-largest reservation in the U.S., with vast open land and filled with wildlife. Politically, two Native American tribes share jurisdiction over the land, each with its own government.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe are at odds over killed bald eagles on reservation land for religious purposes. The Northern Arapaho want to be granted the right to kill bald eagles on within the reservation, while the Eastern Shoshone opposes killing the eagles on the reservation.

In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) granted the Northern Arapaho the nation’s first permit to kill bald eagles for religious purposes, but the permit was only valid outside the reservation. More importantly, the permit was granted by the federal government, but not by Wyoming’s state government, meaning tribal members could still be arrested for killing bald eagles by state law. In effect, the federal permit therefore grants “no real permission to take eagles at all,” said U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson.

This Thursday, the Northern Arapaho Tribe filed court papers stating that the permit the tribe was granted is useless, but because it doesn’t specify a place where the birds could be legally killed. Now they are asking to kill the birds on their own reservation. The tribe says that the USFWS and the Eastern Shoshone tribe do not have the right to prevent the killing of bald eagles for religious purposes.

The Eastern Shoshone tribe has joined in on the lawsuit in opposition to the Northern Arapaho side. The Shoshone Tribe said killing eagles goes against its cultural beliefs and that doing so would violate the joint Shoshone and Arapaho Law and Order Code.

In response, Northern Arapaho filed among their court papers that Eastern Shoshone have traditionally killed eagles and that this act would not be offensive to Eastern Shoshone nor their religious ceremonies. The Eastern Shoshone killed eagles for religious purposes before the federal government established a repository to dispense eagle carcasses and feathers for ceremony, according to administrative records cited by the Arapaho.

The attorney general for the Eastern Shoshone gave no immediate response to Northern Arapaho claims, although the tribe plans to file a written response in court.

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