Editorial: Eagle case belongs in tribal court
"The federal government's four-year effort to prosecute an Ethete man, Winslow Friday, for killing a bald eagle for use in his Northern Arapaho tribe's religious Sun Dance ceremony may be almost over. It's high time for it to end.

U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson of Cheyenne has ordered the transfer of Friday's case to a tribal court, which should have a special insight about the underlying issue of American Indian religious freedoms. The young man has endured a baffling turn of events as the case has made its way through the federal court system.

It all started when Friday made a promise to his dying grandmother to participate in the Sun Dance, a sacred ceremony under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that requires an eagle. He admitted shooting a bald eagle on the Wind River Indian Reservation in March 2005, but he added that he didn't know it was illegal. Friday also didn't know about a federal process to legally obtain a permit to take one of the birds. In fact, most American Indians were unaware that it existed.

In 2006, U.S. District Judge William Downes properly dismissed all criminal charges against Friday for failing to get federal permission to shoot the eagle. The judge noted that bald eagles are thriving and no longer protected under the Endangered Species Act. A limited harvest by American Indians, he added, is not considered a threat to the species.

While federal regulations say eagle permits should be available to American Indians, Downes found that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service generally refuses to grant such permits to Indians. So why should anyone bother to apply, or be prosecuted for not applying?"

Get the Story:
Editorial: Eagle killing case belongs in tribal court (The Casper Star-Tribune 10/7)

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