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Old 07-30-2008, 05:19 PM   #1
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Northern Arapaho inmate allowed to pray as Native

Man, prison settle religion lawsuit
By TOM MORTON
Star-Tribune staff writer Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Riverton man serving a life sentence in the Wyoming State Penitentiary for murdering his daughter has agreed to drop a federal civil rights lawsuit against state prison officials.



Andrew Yellowbear Jr. agreed to end his civil lawsuit after the Wyoming Department of Corrections agreed to allow him to possess four eagle feathers for religious purposes, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson wrote in his order on Tuesday.



Yellowbear, a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, was convicted in 2006 of beating to death his 22-month-old daughter, Marcela Hope Yellowbear. He is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.



In January, he drafted and filed his own lawsuit claiming that he was a victim of religious discrimination because the prison withheld a bald eagle feather and disrupted his application for, and the shipment of eagle feathers from, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



In his application for the feathers from the National Eagle Repository in Colorado, Yellowbear wrote that he was seeking the loose feathers for use in the sacred Sun Dance, sweat lodge and smudging ceremonies.



The state denied it had violated his rights or burdened his religion.



Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union agreed to represent him.



Stephen Pevar with the ACLU's Racial Justice Program said the Northern Arapaho use eagle feathers to "communicate prayers to the Creator and to receive answers to prayers. Denying Mr. Yellowbear these highly spiritual feathers is akin to denying Catholics access to a rosary or crucifix.

"

The penitentiary generally allows American Indian prisoners to have three feathers, but Pevar said Yellowbear has been limited to one feather.

Prison officials confiscated that single feather after Yellowbear filed his lawsuit

Yellowbear wanted 10 feathers, according to his lawsuit.



But both sides began negotiating.



The recently updated Handbook of Religious Beliefs recognizes eagle feathers as sacred objects, and the number four "is a number of great power" to many American Indians, Johnson wrote.



American Indian prisoners are permitted to have as many as four eagle feathers in their individual cells, according to the handbook.



They also may use a fan comprising more than four feathers, but they will be only permitted for group activities and will not be stored in individual cells, Johnson wrote.



The handbook is a guide and does not necessarily reflect the policies of the Department of Corrections.



But the compromise between the department and Yellowbear stipulates the department will abide by the four-feather guide if Yellowbear dismisses his complaint, Johnson wrote.



Besides satisfying Yellowbear and the Department of Corrections, the agreement appeared to make the judge happy, too.



"The Court compliments the parties for reaching a reasonable result that accommodates the spiritual needs of American Indian religious practitioners to access eagle feathers while not unduly threatening the needs of prison officials to maintain security," Johnson wrote.
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Old 07-30-2008, 05:24 PM   #2
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This just makes me sick.. What gives this man the right (or any Native person who commits horrors like him) to hold such sacred rights as having feathers? And the fact that he filed a lawsuit for religious discrimination makes me sick.
And what disturbs me the most, is the fact that he even mentions smudging ceremonies, sweat lodges and sun dances... All after hurting our Nations most sacred people. Our children!!

I really hope that he gets what is coming around to him, at the fullest force. I pray for no mercy on this sick, disturbing man
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Old 07-30-2008, 08:14 PM   #3
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If we can not allow our incarcerated people to pray in a manner in which they are accustomed where does the line get drawn. Religous freedom is a fundamental right. If we seek to censor those who are incarcerated then do people who are on probation also not get to pray in a simlar fashion. If we allow people to determine when, how and where First Nation people pray then we are then opening the door to let others determine how we live. All of us and not just those who are involved in the legal system. Using the argument that he violated one of our sacred children is a very emotional point of view. We don't know what this person experienced as a child, maybe this is all he knows. Maybe he was a very damaged person to begin with. We are not in a position to judge him. If we say throw him away or hope he dies then that is also wrong. Maybe he can get to a place of healing in his life so that he can begin to understand how he has deeply affected not only his people but all of our people. I know you don't know who I am but I do have a relevant argument, due to the nature of work I do. Maybe this individual can find some way of forgiving himself in the future before he is called home.
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Old 07-30-2008, 10:34 PM   #4
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He should have prayed before killing his baby. Thats messed up. I don't believe there's forgiveness for something like that no matter how much people say you can repent or whatever.
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Old 07-31-2008, 10:41 PM   #5
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I think any N8TV deserves the right to practice their religious right no matter where they are incarcerated or in the free world. Yes, what he did to get him where he is at is hard to overlook and forgive for some. Furthermore, I think if he were spiritually sound he would not have taken the life of his own his own child. What he did to preserve the right to practice N8TV beliefs was for all N8TV's. Oh and you know, the majority of many brothers and sisters who have committed violent offenses against their fellow human being were out of balance and lacked that one thing-spirituality.
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Old 08-01-2008, 04:06 AM   #6
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My reply was not posted, I received a notice stating it had to approved by a moderator. I am new to the site and I was wondering......
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