Thursday, 15 March 2012

Time to celebrate - but, to what extent?

The Native American tribe in Wyoming celebrates the ‘sun dance’ in its glory. This ritual requires the use of eagle feathers and the eagle itself playing an important part of the ceremony - “it is one of the Plains Indians' most sacred animal. The eagle flies high, being the closest creature to the Sun. Therefore it is the link between man and spirit,”. Yet, the sun dance as well as other ceremonies was banned as "Indian offences" by the bureau of Indian affairs in the 1890s and it was not until 1934 that the US government formally lifted those prohibitions. Nonetheless, up to 2007 it was illegal to kill bald eagles, which were latter on removed from the federal ‘threatened and endangered species list ‘ but yet they were safeguarded by laws; for example the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Tribal member Lokilo St Claire noted that "The eagle has been with us for so long, even before the settlers came. For the government to tell us you can't use that bird anymore... it slaps natives in the face." Therefore, on November last year, the tribe filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the “government's ban on the taking of an eagle infringed on religious and free speech rights guaranteed to tribal members by federal law, the constitution and treaties.”

Today The Reuters reported with a big headline the following:
US Fish and Wildlife Service has approved a first-time permit allowing a Native American tribe in Wyoming to kill two bald eagles in a centuries-old religious ceremony once outlawed by the federal bureau of Indian affairs.

Indeed the news is a victory for the tribe, but will it be temporal? Will they need to apply every year for the permit? Would the government make further steps and amend the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act? I do not what to be pessimist, on the contrary I am sharing the good news today...but I would like to see further actions in this matter.

Thanks to Lucas Lixinski for sharing the link.

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