The man who killed the eagle Jan 11, 2008 14:12:26 GMT -5
Post by blackcrowheart on Jan 11, 2008 14:12:26 GMT -5
The man who killed the eagle
DENVER (AP) - The future of a Northern Arapaho man who shot a bald eagle
for use in his tribe's Sun Dance two years ago now rides on the eventual
decision of a federal appeals court.
Winslow Friday, 23 of Ethete, Wyo., listened Monday as lawyers
representing him and his tribe sparred with a lawyer from the U.S.
Department of Justice before a panel of judges at 10th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Denver.
The U.S. Department of Justice wants the appeals court to reinstate a
criminal charge against Friday. If he's convicted of illegally killing
the bald eagle, he could be sentenced to up to a year in jail and fined
The appeals court did not immediately issue a ruling on the case after
Monday's arguments, leaving Friday to wait.
"Getting older, I understand what stress does to you now,"
Friday said after the court hearing.
Friday acknowledges killing the eagle with a rifle on the Wind River
Indian Reservation in central Wyoming, home to both the Northern Arapaho
and Eastern Shoshone tribes.
Friday says he didn't know about a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
program that allows American Indians to apply for permits to kill eagles
for religious purposes. Attorneys representing him and his tribe claim
the federal agency did its best to keep the program secret and only
grudgingly issued the permits.
Late last year, U.S. District Judge William F. Downes agreed, dismissing
the criminal charge against Friday.
"Although the government professes respect and accommodation of the
religious practices of Native Americans, its actions show callous
indifference to such practices," Downes wrote in his ruling. "It
is clear to this court that the government has no intention of
accommodating the religious beliefs of Native Americans except on its
own terms and in its own good time."
Kathryn E. Kovacs, lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, said
Monday that Friday had no standing to argue about shortcomings of the
federal permitting process because he never applied for a permit before
killing the eagle.
Kovacs also told the appellate panel that Friday's ignorance of the
permitting process "does not give him a license to ignore the
John T. Carlson, an assistant federal public defender representing
Friday, argued the Fish and Wildlife Service kept the existence of
permits quiet and instead tried to point Indians toward a federal
repository in Denver that stores the remains of eagles killed by power
lines or other causes.
Requiring Native Americans to secure permits to kill eagles infringes on
their religious freedom, Carlson said.
"No other religion has a permit system denying it access to its
sacred objects," Carlson said.
Chris Schneider, lawyer for the Northern Arapaho Tribe, told the judges
that it was not in the tribe's interest to allow people to wipe out the
"The Arapaho believe, as a people, that the creator gave them the
golden and bald eagle," Schneider said.
Speaking after the hearing, Friday said he doesn't accept the
government's argument that he shouldn't be allowed to argue against the
permitting system because he didn't apply for a permit.
"I don't think they should be able to do that because of what the
First Amendment obviously says is my right to practice my religion,"
Friday said. "Now I have to wait for three months to a year (for a
Senior members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe appeared in court in
support of Friday.
Nelson P. White, Sr., a member of the Northern Arapaho Business Council,
said after the hearing that he doesn't believe Friday should be charged
with any crime. And he said tribal members don't kill eagles
"My grandfather gave me a whistle from the eagle bone, and his
grandfather gave that to him," White said. "We don't kill birds
every day, or every year."
White said many of the birds American Indians receive from the federal
depository are rotten, or otherwise unfit for use in religious
"That's unacceptable," White said. "How would a non-Indian
feel if they had to get their Bible from a repository."
Steve Moore, lawyer with the Native American Rights Fund, in Boulder,
Colo., said Monday that people in Indian country and in American Indian
legal circles continue to watch Friday's case with great interest.
"The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Interior Department know full
well of the frustrations of Indian people who attempt to legitimately
and sincerely use eagle feathers for cultural purposes," Moore said.
"But they have not taken effective steps to try to correct the
Increases in the eagle population allowed the federal government to
remove the bald eagle from the list of threatened species under the
Endangered Species Act this year. The bird had been reclassified from
endangered to threatened in 1995.