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Old 06-20-2008, 12:31 AM   #6
eap7
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Feds aim to revive eagle charges

By BEN NEARY
Associated Press writer Wednesday, March 28, 2007 2:03 AM MDT

CHEYENNE -- A federal judge in Wyoming was wrong to dismiss criminal charges against a Northern Arapaho man who shot a bald eagle for use in his tribe's Sun Dance, federal prosecutors argue in papers filed last week.

U.S. District Judge William Downes last October dismissed criminal charges against Winslow Friday. Friday and the Northern Arapaho Tribe had argued that the charges against him should be dismissed on the grounds that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service generally refuses to grant permits allowing tribal members to kill eagles even though federal regulations say the permits should be available.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe argued in Friday's case that federal records show more than 5,000 American Indians are on a waiting list to get eagle carcasses from a federal repository in Denver and that the wait is about 3 1/2 years.

In his order, Downes said that while the federal government professes respect and admiration for accommodating the religious beliefs of American Indians, "its actions show callous indifference to such practices."

"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," Downes wrote.

An attempt to reach Friday for comment on Tuesday was unsuccessful. In an interview last year, he said he had no regrets about killing the eagle.


"I'm going to say no, because of what I did with the bird," Friday said last year. "I participated in our Sun Dance. No, because that made me feel good in my heart."

Robert Rogers, an assistant federal public defender in Cheyenne who represents Friday, said he's sure "Indian Country will be watching the outcome of this case closely."

"There are other prosecutions going on, here and around the country, for Native Americans who are using eagle feathers in religious ceremonies," Rogers said Tuesday. "This case will be important for this region at least."

Lawyers with the U.S. Department of Justice filed a 50-page brief in the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver last week arguing that Downes' ruling dismissing the charges was wrong.

"The district court erred in holding that Friday was not required to seek a permit because applying would have been futile," the government's brief states. "Both the Eagle Act and the regulations expressly provide for the availability of permits to take eagles for Indian religious purposes, and the record shows that take permits are in fact available and have been issued in short order."

To support their point, the federal lawyers filed an extra brief asking the appeals court to take notice of an eagle permit the Fish and Wildlife Service issued last October to the Jemez Eagle Watching Society, an American Indian group in New Mexico. The brief states the New Mexico permit reflects "the indisputable fact that the FWS has permitted the take of eagles for Indian religious purposes."

The government also notes that both the Navajo and Hopi tribes in the Southwest receive annual permits from the federal government allowing tribal members to kill eagles, and that the Hopi permit allows an annual take of up to 40 eaglets.

The government argues that it can't allow every American Indian who says they need an eagle for religious purposes to shoot one. "The record in this case shows that allowing tribal members to take eagles for religious purposes without a permit would seriously compromise the Fish and Wildlife Service's ability to administer the Eagle Act and threaten the viability of the species," the brief states.

The brief states that the National Eagle Repository receives almost 2,000 requests for whole eagles annually and has about 4,000 pending requests. "The potential demand is significant when compared to the estimated population of bald eagles of only 7,700 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states," it states.

Stuart S. Healy III, assistant U.S. attorney in Wyoming, declined to comment on Friday's case on Monday, saying his office can't talk about pending cases.

Rogers noted that seven government lawyers signed the brief. He said the Northern Arapaho Tribe has asked the appeals court for permission to file an argument on Friday's behalf.

"They are using a lot of resources," Rogers said of the federal government. "But yes, I feel we have adequate resources to meet them."

Last edited by eap7; 06-20-2008 at 12:33 AM..
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