Eagle Defense

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Letters and Comments

Last updated: June 06, 2013
For privacy issues, surnames will be withheld unless you give REF permission to credit you fully.  Help us keep this matter in the public arena with your donations.  Keeping a light on this barbaric practice will help us deliver eagles from the darkness of ignorance.


Our press release has developed many responses-What follows is a sampling, without any changes in the original text we received.  You get to make up your own mind. Some people have sent numerous follow-ups, but we cannot publish everything. Order of receipt determines position in the queue-most recent on top. Editors Note: One individual has stated that the folks at Audubon and PEER have backed away from the original story that appeared in Audubon Magazine written by Ted Williams,  so we checked with both organizations. Both Audubon and PEER stand by their opinions as stated in Ted William’s excellent piece.   We also maintain our position that eagles and other raptors being sacrificed to fulfill religious or any other notions/rituals is barbaric and must stop.  You can respond to each person below by clicking on at the end of each comment. We will publish responses as space permits.


James Parker’s letter (below) elicits response from Hopi Tribal Public Relation’s, Ms. Claire Heywood-April 17th we received a copy of the Letter to Mr. Parker.  It is scanned in below, unfortunately the copy we received was a bit light. We await anyone’s comments on Ms. Heywood’s reply to Mr. Parker.

This “Long Relationship” with Eagles Needs to End


In a Point-Counterpoint article from the May 26, 2013 Denver Post, writer Ted Williams mentioned our project, the Eagle Defense Network, in his well-written defense of keeping eagles and other raptors safe from the ravages of “religious freedom”.  I thought it imperative to publicly declare our support of his position, especially since the weight and status of the American Museum of Natural History, via the thoughts of Peter Whiteley, were thrown against him.  Interestingly, the Point-Counterpoint article was one white man arguing against another.  Couldn’t the Denver Post find a Hopi Indian willing to defend their barbaric practice of live eagle sacrifices to appease their deity?

To better understand the Raptor Education Foundation’s Eagle Defense Network position on this matter, it is valuable to look at the entire natural world from another perspective.  To that end, I present the thoughts of Henry Beston, from his book, The Outermost House:

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.

Assuming Beston’s insightful clarity, and having spent more than half my 62 years working with live raptors in an educational mission to diminish the onslaught they face, you will perhaps forgive me if I think Whiteley’s ethnological musings smell of intellectual rot, even as he attempts to perfume them with the politically-correct drivel so prevalent in many of our once-illustrious institutions.  In the early 1970s I worked for the Denver Museum of Natural History as it was then called, and I’m quite familiar with what often drives institutional thought: politics, politics, and more politics.

I’m sure Whiteley is also quite familiar with the long-standing cultural practices of human sacrifices as practiced by the Aztec, the Maya, the Zapotec, and the Inca.  Religious and political beliefs were, no doubt, part of their justification for killing fellow humans to appease their gods.  Whiteley’s logic infers that he might long for these ancient practices to still be with us, at least in some remote corner of the Colorado Plateau.  Fortunately, our ancient primitive thoughts have evolved, and some of us have become more civilized, so that in most of the world, the ritual killing of humans is generally frowned upon.  Unless, of course, you happen to be an adherent of Islamic Sharia law, where “honor killings” and jihad against infidels are normal practices for some adherents of the “religion of peace.”  Human beheadings are on the rise, as are eagle deaths caused by certain Hopi Indians.

In his own words, Whiteley writes that the Hopi treat the eaglet “as a human child” plying it with baby presents and all sorts of other goodies while they prepare to ritualistically kill it.  Gosh, how cute is that?  Maybe they even provide the eaglets their own Facebook page?  How many ‘Likes’ do you think they might get with each sacrifice?

In due course, the Hopi quietly take the eaglet to a private place and ‘quickly’ suffocate it.  I have been told they smother it with cornmeal to suffocate it, which is the terminal equivalent of desiccated water-boarding.  I’ve had to attend the euthanasia of some of our raptors over the past three decades, and even with the best drugs and medical techniques, this is no easy proposition.  A quick suffocation?  I would like to see Whiteley’s face afterwards if he ever had the intellectual honesty to witness one of these ritual suffocations.  I doubt he would be so cavalier with his words, but at least it would imply that he was writing about something he had actual knowledge of.

Despite what Whiteley writes, there is good evidence that golden eagles are declining in some parts of their North American range, namely, Arizona.  But scientific honesty in government circles is fleeting when your job is threatened.  Now another tribe, the Northern Arapahoe, wants permits to kill bald eagles, and with over 500 federally recognized tribes in this country, should there be an eagle in every Indian pot, Curator Whiteley?  Where are any of the tribes who profess a reverence for eagles?  We have yet to hear from one of them.  How about PETA, or Hollywood?  Have you heard any protests from one of your politicians?  And the myriad of raptor rehabilitators, researchers, and natural history educators are dead silent as well.

Simply stated, this ritualistic live eagle slaughter is barbaric, and it deserves the same opprobrium that beheadings, torture, and ritualized terror demands of all civilized humans.  Yet the silence is deafening, as virtually all of the political class, most of the populous, and the entire progressively biased press corps is mute.  We cannot offend our indigenous peoples; the white Europeans screwed them.  Fair enough, but now, who is screwing the eagles?  The Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations are all responsible.  Sadly, many of the good people at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are appalled at what their imperious politicians force down their throats.  Few of them, however, will speak out against their overlords for fear of losing their jobs.

The origin of the word “sacrifice” stems from the Latin sacerfacere, which means to “make holy, to elevate”. The Hopis mistakenly believe that their barbaric killing of what they allegedly respect and love, will make the world come back into balance.  The reality is that the natural world is never in balance, and slaughtering eagles to facilitate a delusion is ugly, brutal, and simple madness.  More simply put: this is institutionalized animal cruelty, which is being legally enabled by cowardly government officials.

Indians do not own eagles.  In one sense, they belong to all of us.  In Beston’s intuitive grasp of nature, they belong to themselves.  Let them live, Curator Whiteley.  Let them live unmolested, and free from the tyranny of ANY religious sect.

Peter Reshetniak,
Raptor Education Foundatio



Eagle Slaughter Continues: Enabled By Political Favoritism of Barbaric Religious Behavior


Eagles continue to be slaughtered in order to fulfill the religious fantasies of a small Hopi sect. Thanks to Frank Buono for keeping on top of this wonderful example of our political system permitting a religion special privileges in exercising barbaric behavior. Sharia Law is already among us.  We find it very disturbing that no other Indian tribes, groups, or organizations, despite their allegations of having great reverence for eagles have  come out publically to stand with us against this religious barbarism.
Frank also reports on the first request to slaughter two bald eagles by the Northern Arapahoe Tribe.




March 29, 2013


On January 11, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) the 2012 Hopi Tribe eagle and hawk collecting report. The USFWS issued the permit to take the raptors under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (for hawks).


In 2012 the Hopi Tribe collected 17 golden eagles and 9 unspecified (red-tailed) hawks in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi’s reported cumulative take from 1986 to 2012 is now 512 golden eagles and 184 red-tailed and other hawks. In contrast to the 2010 and 2011 when the large majority of the take was from Navajo Nation lands, with Navajo permission, the report for 2012 shows that the Hopi took 11 of the 17 golden eagles, and 5 of the 9 hawks from Hopi lands.


PEER expects that the USFWS Regional Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico will soon issue a new permit to the Hopi Tribe for collecting during 2013. Customarily such permits specify that the Hopi submit their annual collecting report at the end of the spring and early summer collecting season. PEER will seek that report when the Hopi submit it.



Calendar year 2012 saw an interesting and complicated eagle permit dispute far to the north of the Hopi lands. In May 2008, the Tenth Federal Circuit Court in Denver upheld the permit requirements of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, finding in them no violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The decision was in connection with a criminal proceeding brought by the Department of Justice against a member of the Northern Arapahoe Tribe in Wyoming. In March 2012, the Secretary of the Interior decided to issue a permit for the Northern Arapahoe to take two live bald eagles. That permit has since been embroiled in an intertribal dispute with the Eastern Shoshone who regard the eagle as their messenger to the creator, harm to which is unacceptable. The Shoshone Tribe shares the Wind River Reservation with the Arapahoe. In deference to the Shoshone, the USFWS permit allowed the take of the eagles only off of the reservation, a condition that a Federal court upheld as valid in November 2012. The issue is further complicated by questions about whether the Northern Arapahoe would be prevented by Wyoming State law from taking the eagles outside of the reservation. The issue remains unresolved.


PEER began its scrutiny of eagle collecting in the southwest as a result of the 1999 Hopi attempt to take eagle nestlings from Wupatki National Monument in Arizona. The USFWS permits may not legally be used to take eagles or hawks within any area of the national park system except under 36 CFR 2.1(d) where such take is specifically provided for in law or as a treaty right. Neither is the case at Wupatki.



There is nothing new to report about the rule proposed by the Interior Department in January 2001 that requires that the superintendent of Wupatki National Monument, Arizona allow members of the Hopi Tribe, in possession of a USFWS permit, to take golden eaglets in the park. PEER opposed the rule in written comments (as did the National Parks Conservation Association, The Wilderness Society and the Association of National Park Rangers). The rule has not been made final. The National Park Service (NPS) last wrote to PEER on March 27, 2003, stating that “…there continues to be no planned action related to this issue at anytime in either the near or far distant future.” PEER opposes opening national parks to the traditional, religious or ceremonial take of wildlife, natural or cultural resources by any religious or culturally-affiliated group, except as a park enabling act provides for it.



20 Golden Eagles (average) Every Year Have Been Slaughtered For Religious Reasons


Thanks to Frank Buono for continuing to keep an eye on this reprehensible activity the U.S. Government enables.



November 14, 2012


On November 5, 2012, after a protracted delay, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) the 2010 and 2011 Hopi Tribe eagle and hawk collecting reports. PEER originally requested these reports on August 3, 2011. The USFWS issues the permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (for hawks).


In 2010 the Hopi Tribe collected 11 golden eagles and 1 unspecified (red-tailed) hawk in northeastern Arizona. In 2011 the Hopi Tribe collected 18 golden eagles and 8 unspecified (red-tailed) hawks in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi’s reported cumulative take from 1986 to 2011 is now 495 golden eagles, 175 red-tailed and other hawks. The 2010 and 2011 reports show that the large majority of the take was from Navajo Nation lands, with Navajo permission.


On April 20, 2011, the USFWS Regional Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico issued a new permit to the Hopi Tribe for collecting during 2011. On April 3, 2012, the USFWS issued a new permit to the Hopi Tribe for 2012. The 2012 permit specifies the Hopi annual collecting report due on September 10, 2012. This is a change from the previous requirement that the report be presented to the USFWS by January 31 of each calendar year.


The 2011 and 2012 permits authorize the take of the same numbers as the 2009 permit – 40 golden eagle eaglets and 50 red-tailed hawks. The 2011 permit continued a limitation first imposed in the 2007 permit that the take of 40 eagles by the Hopi may include no more than 18 from Navajo lands. However, the 2012 permit does not contain this limit.


A USFWS letter of April 9, 2012 transmitted the 2012 permit to Hopi Tribal Chairman Singoitewa. The letter notes “We have also received Tribal Wildlife Grant reports from the Hopi Tribe as well as from the Navajo Nation on Golden Eagle nesting success on their respective lands. Based on results from these sources, all of which suggest measurable declines in nesting attempts and productivity of Golden Eagles in the areas of consideration in the southwestern U.S., we believe that if these downward trends continue, we may re-examine the authorization for 40 birds to the Hopi Tribe in the future.”



The USFWS reports that the agency issued a 2011 permit to take one golden eagle to the Jemez Eagle Watching Society of Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico dated September 22, 2011. The collecting report was due on December 10, 2011. PEER has not yet obtained that report.

During 2012 the USFWS received two applications to take eagles, other than from the Hopi Tribe. On March 15, 2012 Jemez Pueblo applied to take 15 bald eagles (immature and adults) and 25 golden eagles (nestlings, immature and adults) within the New Mexico counties of Sandoval, Rio Arriba, Los Alamos, Santa Fe and San Miguel. The USFWS also received an application (dated April 30, 2012) from a member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, New Mexico to kill in the wild 4 immature golden eagles.


PEER hopes to receive any USFWS permits in response to the two applications in the near future and will prepare a new report early in 2013.


This report does not yet cover the controversy with the Eastern Shoshone sparked by Secretary Salazar’s decision to issue a permit to the Northern Arapaho Tribe in March 2012 to take 2 bald eagles.


PEER began its scrutiny of eagle collecting in the southwest as a result of the 1999 Hopi attempt to take eagle nestlings from Wupatki National Monument in Arizona. The USFWS permits may not legally be used to take eagles or hawks within any area of the national park system except under 36 CFR 2.1(d) where such take is specifically provided for in law or as a treaty right.



There is nothing new to report about the rule proposed by the Interior Department in January 2001 that requires that the superintendent of Wupatki National Monument, Arizona allow members of the Hopi Tribe, in possession of a USFWS permit, to take golden eaglets in the park. PEER opposed the rule in written comments (as did the National Parks Conservation Association and The Wilderness Society). The rule has not been made final. The National Park Service (NPS) last wrote to PEER on March 27, 2003, stating that “…there continues to be no planned action related to this issue at anytime in either the near or far distant future.” PEER opposes opening national parks to the traditional, religious or ceremonial take of wildlife, natural or cultural resources by any religious or culturally-affiliated group, except as a park enabling act provides for it.



PEER persisted for 15 months in seeking the documents despite the USFWS lack of response. The USFWS conduct is all the more puzzling given the history of this issue. On June 9, 2000 PEER first submitted a FOIA to the USFWS seeking “the annual (1986-1999) permit reports by the Hopi to FWS detailing eagle collection locations” in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi are required to submit such a report as part of their application for a new annual permit. PEER sought this information to help determine the nature and extent of Hopi take of golden eagles in the vicinity of Wupatki National Monument.


On August 16, 2000, the USFWS withheld the annual permit reports under FOIA exception #4 – “confidential business information” and the USFWS Native American Relationships Policy. On September 5, 2000 PEER appealed the withholding of the annual reports of the permittee, explaining why the annual reports are not protected by FOIA exception #4 – “trade secrets and commercial or financial information,” and why the USFWS Native American Relationships Policy is not a basis for withholding information found in FOIA.


On October 22, 2001, the Solicitor advised, and the Department of the Interior overruled, the USFWS Regional Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico and released the information sought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding Hopi collection of golden eagles in northeastern Arizona.


The Department rejected the USFWS rationale, holding that the annual report submitted by the Hopi “…is neither commercial nor financial in nature” and therefore may not be withheld. The Department sent to PEER copies of all annual reports submitted by the Hopi from 1986 to 2000.


For nearly a decade, the USFWS responded professionally and promptly to PEER’s requests for the Hopi Tribal annual eagle and hawk collecting reports.

Then, the USFWS ignored the PEER request of August 2011. In May 2012, PEER resubmitted the request. Finally, in October 2012, PEER threatened a lawsuit. On November 5, 2012, the USFWS released the documents to PEER.


The USFWS explained the delay because they had undertaken consultation with the affected Indian Tribes under Secretarial Order 3206. PEER approves of such consultation but pointed out that the USFWS must nonetheless respond to a FOIA request within the timeframes specified in law and regulation. A Secretarial Order does not suspend either.


The Continuing Live Sacrifice of Golden Eagles

Thanks to Frank Buono for continuing to keep an eye on this reprehensible activity the U.S. Government enables.



GOLDEN EAGLE UPDATE – September 24, 2010

In July 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) the 2008 and 2009 Hopi Tribe eagle and hawk collecting reports.


In 2008 the Hopi Tribe collected 38 golden eagles and 6 unspecified (red-tailed) hawks in northeastern Arizona.   In 2009 the Hopi Tribe collected 23 golden eagles and 6 unspecified (red-tailed) hawks in northeastern Arizona.   The Hopi’s reported cumulative take from 1986 to 2009 is now 466 golden eagles, 166 red-tailed and other hawks.


On March 12, 2009 Acting USFWS Director Paul Schmidt issued a new permit to the Hopi Tribe to collect eagles for 2009.   In contrast with past permits, the 2009 permit authorized the Hopi to take only 23 golden eagle eaglets, a reduction from 40.   On April 17, 2009, attorneys for the Hopi Tribe (Arnold and Porter LLP) objected to the reduction of authorized take of golden eagles from 40 to 23.  In response, the USFWS amended the permit on May 7, 2009 to reinstate the take level to 40.


Beginning in 2003 the USFWS HQ in Washington, D.C., issued eagle permits and the Regional Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico issued separate permits for red-tailed hawks.   On April 7, 2009 the Regional Office issued a permit for the Hopi to take red-tailed hawk nestlings in northeastern Arizona during 2009.   The permit limits the numbers of red-tailed hawks that can be taken to no more than 50.   On April 5, 2010, the Regional Office once again began issuing BOTH the eagle permits (under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act) and the hawk permits (under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act).  The 2010 permit provides for the take of 40 eagles and 50 hawks.


The 2009 and 2010 permits continued a limitation first imposed in the 2007 permit that limits the take of eagles by the Hopi to no more than 18 from Navajo lands.   The Navajo lands subject to Hopi eagle collecting are depicted on a map entitled Exhibit B-1.   PEER possesses this map.


The USFWS reports that the only permit issued in 2009 was to the Hopi Tribe.   In 2010, in addition to the Hopi permit, the USFWS issued a permit to take one golden eagle to a member of Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico.


The 1999 Hopi attempt to take eagle nestlings from Wupatki National Monument in Arizona resulted in PEER’s scrutiny of the eagle-gathering permits.    The USFWS permits may not legally be used to take eagles or hawks within any area of the national park system except under 36 CFR 2.1(d) where such take is specifically provided for in law or as a treaty right.


There is nothing new to report about the rule proposed by the Interior Department in January 2001 that requires that the superintendent of Wupatki National Monument, Arizona allow members of the Hopi Tribe, in possession of a USFWS permit, to take golden eaglets in the park.    PEER opposed the rule in written comments (as did the National Parks Conservation Association and The Wilderness Society).   The rule has not been made final.   The National Park Service (NPS) last wrote to PEER on March 27, 2003, stating that “…there continues to be no planned action related to this issue at anytime in either the near or far distant future.”    PEER opposes opening national parks to the traditional, religious or ceremonial take of wildlife, natural or cultural resources by any religious or culturally-affiliated group, except as a park enabling act provides for it.


The attached article on Indian take of eagles appeared in Audubon Magazine in 2001 by author Ted Williams.  It may be of interest.


Live Eagle Sacrifices Continue

Thanks to Frank Buono for continuing to keep an eye on this reprehensible activity the U.S. Government continues to enable.



GOLDEN EAGLE UPDATE – February 19, 2008

In August 2007 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) the 2005 and 2006 eagle collecting reports of the Hopi Tribe.

In 2005 members of the Hopi Tribe collected 25 golden eagles and 16 unspecified (red-tailed) hawks in northeastern Arizona. In 2006 the Hopi took 22 golden eagles and 9 unspecified hawks in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi’s reported take from 1986 to 2006 is 369 golden eagles, 135 red-tailed and other hawks.

On February 1, 2006 the Director Dale Hall of the USFWS issued a new permit to the Hopi Tribe for 2006. On April 26, 2007 USFWS Deputy Director Kenneth Stansell issued a new permit for 2007. As in the past, the permits authorize the Hopi to take up to 40 golden eaglets.

In keeping with a departure begun in 2003, the USFWS HQ in Washington, D.C., not the Regional Director in Albuquerque, New Mexico, issued the 2006 and 2007 Eagle permits. The Regional Office issued a separate, new permit on March 23, 2007 for the Hopi to take an unlimited number of red-tail hawk nestlings in northeastern Arizona in 2007.

PEER requested copies of all environmental compliance documents for the permits. The USFWS provided PEER with “categorical exclusions” signed on February 1, 2006 and April 26, 2007 that the USFWS asserts satisfies NEPA.

A new aspect of Indian religious eagle gathering is that additional tribes are now taking live eagles under USFWS permits, for the first time. They are:

  • Jemez Pueblo – In October 2006, the USFWS issued a permit to Jemez Pueblo to capture up to 2 golden eagles in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, administered by the Forest Service, in Sandoval County, New Mexico. The USFWS had previously denied a Jemez request in 2002 to take eagles. In July 2007 Jemez reported that they successfully collected two immature golden eagles.
  • Taos Pueblo – In February 2007 the USFWS issued a permit to Taos Pueblo to shoot one mature golden eagle on Taos Pueblo Tribal lands in Taos County, New Mexico. An additional permit allows the permittee to transport the taken eagle and its parts anywhere within the United States. Report was due to USFWS by December 31, 2007.
  • Isleta Pueblo – In April 2007, the USFWS issued a permit to the Pueblo of Isleta to take two mature golden eagles on Pueblo lands in Valencia and Bernalillo County, New Mexico. The Isleta Report is due on March 31, 2008.

PEER takes no position on the USFWS permits for Indian religious take of eagles. PEER opposes any attempt to unlawfully use the permits to take eagles or hawks within any area of the national park system except where such take is specifically provided for in the park’s enabling statue or proclamation or a treaty.

The controversy over a 1999 Hopi attempt to take eagle nestlings from Wupatki National Monument in Arizona resulted in PEER’s scrutiny of the eagle-gathering permits. There is nothing new to report about the rule proposed by the Interior Department in January 2001 that requires that the superintendent of Wupatki National Monument, Arizona allow members of the Hopi Tribe, in possession of a USFWS permit, to take golden eaglets in the park. The rule has not been made final. However, the National Park Service last wrote to PEER on March 27, 2003. The NPS stated that “…there continues to be no planned action related to this issue at anytime in either the near or far distant future.”

HOPI – GOLDEN EAGLE UPDATE – September 10, 2005-Killing Continues

 In July 2004 and May 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) the 2003 and 2004 eagle collecting reports of the Hopi Tribe.

In 2003 members of the Hopi Tribe collected 12 golden eagles and 2 (red-tailed) hawks in northeastern Arizona.   In 2004, the Hopi took 26 golden eagles and 4 hawks in northeastern Arizona.  The Hopi’s reported take from 1986 to 2004 is 322 golden eagles, 110 red-tailed and other hawks.

On March 30, 2004 the USFWS issued a new permit to the Hopi Tribe for 2004.  On April 8, 2005, the Washington Headquarters of the USFWS issued a new permit for 2005.    As in the past, the permits authorize the take of 40 golden eaglets.  In keeping with a departure begun in 2003, the USFWS HQ in Washington, D.C. and not the Regional Director in Albuquerque, New Mexico issued the 2004 and 2005 Eagle permits.   The Regional Office issued a new permit on March 22, 2005 for the Hopi to take an unlimited number of red-tail hawk nestlings in northeastern Arizona.

PEER requested copies of all environmental compliance documents for the permits.   The USFWS provided PEER with “categorical exclusions” signed on April 4, 2004 and April 8, 2005 that the agency asserts satisfies NEPA review.

The controversy over a 1999 Hopi attempt to take eagle nestlings from Wupatki National Monument in Arizona resulted in public scrutiny of the eagle-gathering permits, first issued in 1986.   As a result, the USFWS has made an effort to better document the agency decision to issue the 2004 and 2005 permits.   USFWS provided PEER with a two-page evaluation of the effect Hopi eaglet collection on the golden eagle population of the West.   The “estimation study” by a contractor (WEST, Inc.) concluded “5,400 nestlings …might be expected to be produced” in a given year throughout the western United States.   The study, dated March 16, 2004, continues “[T]he golden eagle population in the western United States would not be materially affected by allowing the take requested by the Hopi.    However, the USFWS Statement of Decision says, “available evidence, sparse as it is, suggests that Golden Eagles may be declining in Arizona…”

There is nothing to report about the rule proposed by the Interior Department in January 2001 that mandates the superintendent of Wupatki National Monument, Arizona allow members of the Hopi Tribe, in possession of a USFWS permit, to take golden eaglets in the park.    The rule has not been made final.   However, the National Park Service wrote to PEER on March 27, 2003 that “…there continues to be no planned action related to this issue at anytime in either the near or far distant future.”

Thanks to Frank Buono, former NPS employee, and member of PEER for submitting this bulletin.

Substituting symbols might bring sanity back to the debate
about Hopi’s sacrificing eagles

Several letters to our Eagle Defense page have stated that since the use of eagle parts is symbolic, why not substitute those parts with something else?  Cultures adapt to the times. A classic example was witnessed by several of our staff when they visited a recent Pow Wow in Denver. The quintessential, high tech symbol, the CD, was being used as an integral part of  a ritualistic dance costume. Why not take advantage of current technology to produce all the eagle parts necessary, as REF’s staff did with the eagle skull on the left? This replica, similar to one’s offered via the Pow Wow circuit, but of a much higher quality, is cast from special resin, using museum techniques, to produce great fidelity to the original. Virtually every bone from an eagle skeleton could be reproduced in this fashion, then introduced into the symbolic repertoire by the blessings of the tribal medicine man or shaman.

Better yet, how about engaging some of the exceptional Native American artists to reproduce raptor bones in porcelain.  This medium could replicate skeletal artifacts in a way that would embody the spirit of the artist and the eagle.  The bone’s delicacy could be matched in porcelain, while the artist’s talents would provide a personal connection with the entire culture, historic and contemporary.  Native American pottery has reached remarkable heights in displaying technique and creativity, why not employ those same gifts to resolve this sacred matter?  This might even parallel the jewel-like rainbow creations of the Huichal Indians of Mexico.  Or…?

Eagle feathers, supplied from live collection’s like ours, could also be made more readily available. Additionally, the immature golden tail feathers that are so highly prized, could probably be produced from mature plumage. Removing the melanin pigment in mature feathers, would show the white, and with some research, this could probably be done without bleaching the feather and ruining its properties.  Instead of killing eagles, interested parties would just collect the feathers as they fall out during the molt.

Not one eagle or raptor has to be killed, and producing such symbols could certainly become a way to boost employment on reservations while expanding spiritual and artistic expression. If shimmering CD’s can be incorporated into sacred dancing costumes, why not this idea?  Is this just too rational to expect, or is symbolism more important than substance?  Remember, you read it here first.

June 20, 2001

JUNE 10, 2001

On March 8, 2001 the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the talking of eagles for religious purposes from Wupatki National Monument, Arizona.

PEER sought all documents related to any public comments received by the Department of the Interior on the Wupatki issue from September 12, 1999 to January 22, 2001. The PEER request included any correspondence or records of contact between the NPS and non-Federal parties about the Wupatki issue or the drafting of a potential proposed rule, including but not limited to contacts with the Hopi Tribe, or their representatives.

The NPS responded to the FOIA on May 22, 2001. The NPS response revealed a remarkable fact. BEFORE the NPS even proposed a rule on January 22, 2001 to allow the Hopi Tribe to take eagles in Wupatki, the Department of the Interior received 1245 letters opposing that activity.  The number of comments the Department of the Interior received BEFORE proposing the special rule for Wupatki rivaled the number of comments the NPS received in 1982 when the NPS proposed in the Federal Register to revise ALL of the rules that govern the parks. This is remarkable because the NPS, in the face of obvious and significant public controversy, still failed to do an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed rule. The NPS also convinced the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to forgo its normal review of proposed regulations because the proposed rule was “minor.” It is a safe bet that the NPS never told OMB about the 1245 comments.

The NPS now claims to have received 3,600 comments on the proposed rule since January 22, 2001 with 2,389 opposed and 1219 (1099 of them were form letters) in favor. This number varies from the 4300 (see earlier report below) that NPS officials reported to me in early April. The NPS is assembling a team of employees to analyze the comments. The NPS Office of American Indian Liaison, an advocacy group within the Office of the NPS Director, is in charge of assembling the team. The group plans to meet in the last week of June and address the comments over a three-day period. Good luck to them. If someone were to read only the 17 page comment submitted by the National Parks and Conservation Association, one realizes that it would take several days to digest and fairly weigh those comments, let alone the 3600 other comments.

There is no indication of where the Bush Administration is going.  Unlike the rules that banned snowmobiles in Yellowstone, the Bush Administration has shown no interest in halting the Wupatki rule and its implications for altering the status of parks as wildlife sanctuaries.

Thanks to Frank Buono, former NPS employee, and member of PEER for submitting this bulletin.

Face it everyone-the fix is in—3600 comments to be judged  in three days by the foxes sent by the coyotes watching the hen house-democracy in action.  What are you willing to do?

Record Outcry Over Eagle Slaughter

4,300 people submitted commentary to the National Park Service (NPS) concerning the Hopi Tribe’s request to collect baby Golden Eagles from Wupatki National Monument in Arizona. The eagles are  kept for a few months and then killed in rituals practiced by a small sect of Hopi Indians, or “People of Peace.” In a 60 day comment period, NPS officials reported a record 4,300 individuals participating with 500 additional comments received after the deadline.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), National Audubon, Raptor Education Foundation (REF), along with other organizations and individuals,  decried government agencies violating federal laws in showing religious favoritism by permitting a small group of Hopis to torture and kill at least 208 Golden Eagles since 1986. During the same period, untold numbers of other raptors, especially Red-tailed Hawks, were also killed in a similar fashion.  Bureaucrats from the Clinton administration simply looked the other way.

REF has begun an education campaign to inform the American public about this barbaric practice. No tribal group, European or otherwise, has exclusive rights to desecrate or kill wildlife under the cover of “religious or political freedom.” Either all tribes get to trash the ecosystem,  of which eagles are an integral part, or we must all be restrained by common sense and ecological principles. Any tribal group or individual claiming such imperious rights is simply displaying ecological ignorance. Unfortunately, ignorance appears to be a growth industry spewing forth toxic clouds of superstitious beliefs obscuring reality with symbolic nonsense.

Our planet’s wildlife is a global trust suffering the Tragedy of the Commons. Humans have spent the past few hundred years sacrificing the health and wealth of our ecosystem in pursuit of numerous traditions hidden behind the chimera of politics, religion, technology, status, and progress. No doubt, the human material condition has consistently improved, however, any claims to ethical, moral, and spiritual improvements must be measured against the fact that the past century was the bloodiest and cruelest in recorded history. Fueled by fear and/or pride, no culture can claim freedom from some degree of complicity in slowly eroding the natural rights of all living creatures.

The Hindu religion calls our current period the Kali Yuga, or the Dark Ages. An ecologist might precisely describe the past 100 years as the Parastic Ages. Much of humanity has become infected with the viral belief that you can get something for nothing as evidenced by America’s ecology being subjected to the control of small geographic regions (24% of America’s bio-mass) densely packed with millions of humans whose appetites are only restrained by what they have not yet imagined. These bio-regions consume the most, pollute the most, demand the most, and then scream the loudest when someone dares ask for some measure of accountability or restraint.

Who speaks on behalf of wildlife as it succumbs to parasitic mores infecting more and more people with the crippling disease of Lottery Living, or something for nothing?   We do. Join us to bring some common sense back to the Commons. Help us stop the slaughter of raptors under the cloak of religion and government hypocrisy.

Note: Our letters to the Chairman of the Hopi Tribe,  Wayne Taylor, and Interior Secretary, Gale Norton, have gone unanswered for months, despite the fact that we have made suggestions to resolve this issue…see below.

Dead Eagles, Billions Missing, While Interior Continues To Fiddle.

Could it be that the federal government is tossing bones, or dead eagles in this case, to American Indians because the feds have severely mismanaged  their trust funds?  Are the feds simply trying to appease American Indians in any way they can because they may owe billions of dollars to various tribes?

Former Secretary of the Interior under Clinton, Bruce Babbitt and his minions, were the ones responsible for closing their eyes to the illegal taking of eagles from various sources, and Babbit may soon be facing another contempt of court charge for providing U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth information that was “at best misleading and at worst false” about a computer system designed to monitor funds paid into various Indian trusts managed by Interior while Babbit was in charge.  This time, however, Babbit’s penalties will have to be paid by him and not the taxpayer as happened in his first contempt-of-court citation before the same judge.

In the 19th century, Congress set up a series of trust funds to handle banking needs on Indian reservations.  These trusts now handle approximately $500 million per year and represent revenues to various tribes from land sales, rents, grazing rights, and other activities. Since the mid-1990’s, Congress has spent $614 million to improve an accounting system that has been incompetently managed for decades. With sloppy accounting and missing records, the Interior Department has no idea what they owe American Indians, yet they claim the losses are minimal.  Just like their decisions made permitting eagle slaughter during religious rituals to continue without knowing how many eagles are actually surviving in the areas concerned.  But hey, what are a few dead eagles if it keeps Indians distracted.

In an earlier trial, Judge Lamberth found that the American government had breached its trust duty in managing Indian accounts.  This has been going on for decades.  So if we can trust the Interior Department to be incompetent in handling simple bureaucratic things like numbers and records, we can certainly be assured they have applied the same expertise in managing billions of living creatures and systems that represent America’s patrimony.

If this is not an argument for privatizing much of Interior’s functions then we may as well let Interior continue to expand its feudal enterprise and use America’s natural resources to reward and appease the princes of various oil and mining kingdoms, the chiefs of the Indian archipelago, and the lords of numerous special interest groups who want equal access to our national parks and monuments.

Let’s just open the American Commons to the commoners, and in twenty years we will have our just reward.

November 28, 2001 Update: Judge Lamberth, a rare legal eagle, has ordered that Gail Norton, head of the Interior Department stand trial for providing false information to the court concerning the mismanagement of  Indian trust funds. Maybe we can get the Hopi tribal members interested in sacrificing eagles to substitute bureaucratic apparatchiks for the raptors that  they want to kill for their religious beliefs. I might even join that religious ritual.

Peter Reshetniak

For more on the religious slaughter of eagles just click

U.S. Politicians Look The Other Way, While Small Sect Kills Eagles in Barbaric Rituals.

We have spent the past two decades educating children and adults about the intrinsic value and beauty of eagles and other raptors. We have worked hard with limited resources, and have been rewarded with successes such as the recovery of the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon. We are not alone in this mission. All of us work within the guidelines of the rules, regulations, and laws established by Congress, which are administered and enforced by the Department of the Interior.

Yet somewhere in the convoluted, corrupted, and corrosive political process the very rules, laws, and even our Constitution, which directs civilized behavior does not apply to those we elect to represent us. Examples are many, but in this matter, its not just the taxpayer’s money and common sense that are violated. A very limited and irreplaceable natural resource, belonging to all of us, is being sacrificed by our government for the benefit of a very small religious group within the Hopi Indian Tribe.

Politicians have been allowing this small group of Hopi religionists to gather live baby eagles and other raptors, and then kill them to fulfill rituals of their faith. Since 1986, the government admits they have permitted 208 golden eagles to be killed in this barbaric fashion. They also admit untold numbers of red-tailed hawks are slaughtered by the Hopi Tribe (People of Peace) to satisfy their religious notions.

We do not wish to deny this minority their religious beliefs. They can believe whatever they want. We do, however, wish to stop the barbaric sacrifices that are stealing one of our very limited, natural resources: golden eagles and other raptors. They are stealing from all of our children and their children. This theft and butchery is occurring under the watchful eyes of government agencies whose very role is to protect these natural resources. This is government sponsored criminal madness. It is political correctness at its worst, and every cowardly politician and bureaucrat that has winked at the death of each one of these 208 eagles should face the maximum fine permitted for killing one of these beautiful creatures: $500,000. Good people in government law enforcement and environmental research are also sacrificed to political expediency. They need our help.

Sadly, the only way politicians will act to prevent this continuing rape is to face a lawsuit exposing their complicity in these despicable acts of religious terror. We need your help and your money to bring a suit to stop this slaughter. Please contact us about contributing to the REF Eagle Defense Network. If the Hopi people are permitted to continue and even expand their environmental terrorism, then why not any other religion or group that wants similar privileges? Maybe virgins will be next, but better yet, how about politicians?  Go here for  a great expose at Audubon Magazine.

See  April 10, 2001-Special Bulletin from Frank, former NPS employee.

Hopi Tribal Public Relations department responds to one of the letters posted on the Eagle Defense Network page- April 17, 2001-Official Hopi response is up.  Contact the Hopi Tribe.

Sacrificing Raptors for Religion Continues…

On March 28, 2002 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) the 2001 eagle collecting report of the Hopi Tribe. In 2001, members of the Hopi Tribe collected 24 golden eagles and 9 hawks of unidentified species in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi have taken 270 golden eagles, 67 red-tailed hawks and 35 other (unidentified) hawks from 1986 to 2001. The Hopi Tribe reports that they took a total of 33 birds in 2001, which is down from 42 birds in 2000.

PEER also requested from the USFWS (Albuquerque office) copies of permits issued to other Tribes for the religious take of live eagles. The USFWS has issued at least 4 permits to others for Indian religious use, beginning in 1997. The latest permit was issued in 2001. The permit authorized a Navajo medicine man to take from the wild 1 golden eagle, 5 prairie falcons, 5 red-tailed hawks, 10 northern harriers, 10 sharp-shinned hawks, 10 merlins, 2 ferruginous hawks, 2 northern goshawks, 25 kestrels, 5 rough-legged hawks and 10 Cooper’s hawks. The birds were to be collected in New Mexico. PEER requested copies of all environmental compliance documents for the permits but was provided none. Presumably, they do not exist because the USFWS has not complied with the National Environmental Policy Act when issuing any of the permits to take live eagles and hawks.

There is little to report about the status of the rule proposed by the Interior Department in January 2001. That rule mandates that the superintendent of Wupatki National Monument, Arizona allow members of the Hopi Tribe with a USFWS permit to take golden eaglets in the park. The rule has not been made final.

Editors Note: Thanks to Frank Buono, PEER representative for continuing to keep us informed. We would argue that this barbaric activity easily qualifies as environmental terrorism hiding behind religious freedom claims, and is being aided and abetted by the federal government which is,  therefore,  a tax payer’s subsidy of religious activities.

EAGLE UPDATE – July 10, 2003 Religious Slaughter Continues…

On May 20, 2003 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) the 2002 eagle collecting report of the Hopi Tribe. In 2002 members of the Hopi Tribe collected 14 golden eagles and 2 hawks of unidentified species in northeastern Arizona for religious purposes. The Hopi have taken 284 golden eagles, 104 red-tailed and other hawks from 1986 to 2002. The Hopi Tribe reports that they took a total of 16 birds in 2002, which is down from 33 birds in 2001.

On April 21, 2003 the USFWS issued a new permit to the Hopi Tribe for 2003. As in the past, the permit authorizes the take of 40 golden eaglets and an unlimited number of red-tail hawk nestlings in northeastern Arizona. In a departure from the past, the USFWS Director in Washington, D.C. and not the Regional Director in Albuquerque, New Mexico issued the 2003 permit.

PEER requested copies of all environmental compliance documents for the permits. Until now the USFWS provided no such documents in response to PEER requests, presumably because they did not exist. This year the USFWS provided PEER with “categorical exclusions” signed on April 23, 2002 and April 18, 2003 that the agency asserts relieves the USFWS of further NEPA review for the Hopi permits.

The controversy over a 1999 Hopi effort to take eagle nestlings from Wupatki National Monument in Arizona, and the resulting scrutiny of the general permit, led the USFWS to better document the agency decision to issue the 2003 Hopi permits. USFWS provided PEER with a Statement of Decision dated April 2003. The USFWS claims that taking 40 golden eagle nestlings from northeastern Arizona “will likely reduce the rate of population growth in the affected Golden Eagle population by about 0.3%, an effect we consider negligible.” The Statement continues “We caution, however, that available evidence suggests that Golden Eagles in Arizona may be declining, and we are concerned about the background factors that might be causing larger scale-declines.” Page 2, Statement of Decision. The Statement acknowledges that the Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS) trend “for Arizona is strongly and significantly negative, despite a meager
sample size,” Page 4, Ibid.

Of further interest, PEER noted that, in 2002, Jemez Pueblo in northern New Mexico and a Navajo religious leader requested permits to take
eagles; requests denied by the USFWS for reasons unknown to PEER. The USFWS states that “other tribes have announced an interest in requesting permits to take Bald and Golden Eagles” in several USFWS regions. Page 3, Ibid.

There is little to report about the status of the rule proposed by the Interior Department in January 2001. The proposed rule mandates that the superintendent of Wupatki National Monument, Arizona allow members of the Hopi Tribe, in possession of a USFWS permit, to take golden eaglets in the park. The rule has not been made final. However, the National Park Service wrote to PEER on March 27, 2003 that “…there continues to be no planned action related to this issue at anytime in either the near or far distant future.”

Editor’s Note: We wish to thank Mr. Buono for continuing to relay information in this matter.


On October 22, 2001, the Department of the Interior overruled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Regional Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico and released information sought by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding collection of golden eagles in northeastern Arizona.

On June 9, 2000 PEER submitted a FOIA to the USFWS seeking “the annual (1986-1999) permit reports by the Hopi to FWS detailing eagle collection locations” in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi are required to submit such a report as part of their application for a new annual permit. PEER sought this information to help determine the nature and extent of Hopi take of golden eagles in the vicinity of Wupatki National Monument.

On August 16, 2000, the USFWS withheld the annual permit reports under FOIA exception #4 – “confidential business information” and the USFWS Native American Relationships Policy. On September 5, 2000 PEER appealed the withholding of the annual reports of the permittee, explaining why the annual reports are not protected by FOIA exception #4 – “trade secrets and commercial or financial information,” and why the USFWS Native American Relationships Policy is not a basis for withholding information found in FOIA.

On May 29, 2001, the USFWS attempted to surmount this obstacle by explaining that the collection of the eagles raises the social status and the “wealth” of the collectors in the eyes of the (Hopi) community. The increase in status and “wealth” qualifies as “commerce” the USFWS alleged.

The Department completely rejected the USFWS rationale, holding that the annual report submitted by the Hopi “…is neither commercial nor financial in nature” and therefore may not be withheld. The Department sent to PEER copies of all annual reports submitted by the Hopi from 1986 to 2000. (PEER has already obtained the 2001 annual report from another source).

The Department decided that the location of a small number of eagle collecting sites (“Eagle Shrine”) could be withheld under FOIA exemption #6 – “personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” The Department reasoned that the sites are “so interlaced into particular clan ownership and specific individuals’ use that the location of the shrines is equivalent to an address, a telephone number or a social security number.” The withholding is of little meaning to the PEER request. From sources outside of the FOIA process, PEER has obtained this information already.

The annual reports reveal some items of interest: the number of eagles and hawks sought by the Hopi applicants has grown from 25 to 50 from 1990 to 2000;· the Hopi took 2 goshawk chicks (known as grey eagles) in 1993; the Hopi have taken 246 eagles, 67 red-tailed hawks and 26 other (unidentified) hawks from 1986 to 2000, and the level of take has increased from 11 birds in 1986 to 42 birds in 2000.

The struggle to obtain basic information from the NPS and the USFWS is a sideshow to the main issue – the rule proposed by the Department on January 22, 2001 to extend the reach of the Hopi permit for the first time into an area of the national park system – Wupatki National Monument. The Department has not yet acted on the proposed rule.

Submitted by Frank Buono, former NPS employee

Editor’s Note: We wish to thank Mr. Buono for continuing to relay information in this matter.  As you can see from his report above, USFWS appears to have more interest in obscuring what the public learns about the barbaric practices of some Hopi tribal members in the Hopi’s  quest to continue live sacrifices of eagles and other raptors to their religious interests.  Is this how Americans wish  to have their tax dollars spent?

From Amy Swan:

I just read an article entitled “Faith Based Environmental Initiative in Action.   A Good Thing,” and I have to say that I’m entirely unimpressed with such a sarcastic, offensive article.  I’m guessing that this was a cheap stab at some sort of “conservation” humor.  I cannot say that I am thoroughly informed on this particular issue, but as a Christian and a conservationist, I found no value in such an article.  You took an important issue, poked fun at it, and alienated a large percentage of the population by generalizing their religious beliefs.

Could you please point out the similarities between the religious practices of the Hopi tribe and the various Christian religions you included?  How can you possibly draw such inferences?

I realize this was probably supposed to be a somewhat light-hearted article.   However, as a conservation organization, wouldn’t you rather offer an educational, informative article that would spark interest from outside parties, instead of ridicule their faiths and offend them.  As a student of environmental science, I am very concerned with the environmental education of the general public.  What you are doing is the exact opposite.

I hope that in the future you will take a more sensitive approach to such issues, and present your organization’s concerns in a a more constructive light.

From The Editor: Thanks for your comments.  Had you taken the time to educate yourself about the issues, which you say you have not, you might understand the direction I have taken, the matter at hand, and why I have chosen the approach I took.   As far as alienating a large percentage of the population as you infer, your assertion has only you to back it up.  You’re making a generalization as well.   Browse through the various articles on these pages and you might get that education you are looking for.

The similarities between  the Hopi religion and other religions, including Christianity, in a generalized way is simple.  All these religions use some sort of symbolism to point to what they consider the over-riding reality, i.e., God, The Great Spirit, or what-have-you. Examples of such symbols are the cross for  Christians, and the eagle for various Indian tribes.  The Hopis torture and kill their living symbol for the sake of their religion, and let’s not forget that “the one true faith” not long ago tortured and killed persons they considered heretics, and all under the auspices of their religion.  Or have you conveniently forgotten the Inquisition? A small sect of Christians still sacrifice their children to their religious beliefs this year-read more about this barbarity.  Just be careful, the truth might just set you free.

A more sensitive approach to imprisoning and torturing a living creature for the sake of your religion or anyone’s religion?  Give me a break!
Peter R.


Bush Administrators Moving to a Decision

The new Director of the National Park Service (Fran Mainella) is on her way to Arizona today and will meet with the leaders of the Hopi Tribe  tomorrow morning at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. The office of Senator Jon Kyl arranged the meeting. The explicit purpose of  the meeting is for the Hopi to obtain support from the Bush Administration to make final the special regulation to allow the taking of eaglets from Wupatki National Monument, an area of the national park system in Arizona. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton will also be in Arizona. She is to join with Director Mainella tomorrow either in Flagstaff for the meeting with the Hopi Tribe or at the Grand Canyon National Park afterwards. It is unclear as of this report whether Ms. Norton will also attend the Hopi meeting in Flagstaff. Attempts to confirm the Secretary’s schedule in Arizona with the Interior Office of Public Affairs were unsuccessful.

Frank Buono is a former NPS employee.

From the Editors: If the government can hold private meetings with the Hopi Tribe in dealing with this issue is there not an inherent implication that the other side needs the same opportunity, and shouldn’t both meetings be accessible to the media? Or are we just seeing a politically correct version of the smoke-filled back rooms where deals are struck over cigars, wine, and dead eagles?  Decisions made behind closed doors that favor a small minority religion?  The separation of church and state? Yeah, sure.

Arizona Senator McCain Endorses Barbaric Religious Ritual of Imprisoning, Torturing, Then Killing Wildlife…

The Bush Administration is considering whether to open the national parks to the religious take of park wildlife. On January 22nd, 2001, the Interior Department proposed allowing the Hopi Tribe to take golden eaglets from Wupatki National Monument for religious sacrifice. The proposal invites and sets up other parks for similar requests. During the last week of June, a National Park Service (NPS) team reviewed public comments received on the proposed rule. As reported earlier, the NPS received 3,600 comments on the proposed rule since January 22, 2001 with 2,389 opposed and 1219 in favor.

The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility also reviewed the public comments. Some points of interest emerged from the PEER review. The following national conservation or humane organizations opposed the rule: National Parks Conservation Association, The Wilderness Society, Audubon Society, Humane Society of the United States, Fund for Animals, Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Raptor Education Foundation. Eight chapters of Audubon Society (from Arizona, New Mexico, California, Florida and Colorado) opposed the rule, including the Northern Arizona Chapter. Other local groups opposed, including the Washington Citizens Coastal Alliance. The Association of National Park Rangers – the professional organization that represents 1200 NPS rangers, strongly opposed the rule.

The Rocky Mountain office of the National Wildlife Federation endorsed the proposed rule. (That comes as no surprise since the National Wildlife Federation has never advocated for parks as strict sanctuaries for wildlife.) The Hopi Tribe, several of its villages and over thousand of its members supported the rule. So did Zuni Pueblo. Both Arizona Senators – McCain and Kyl endorsed the proposed rule, as did Congressmen Stump and Pastor from nearby congressional districts.

More interesting comments in support of the proposed rule came from Ted Nugent and his United Sportsman of America. That group knows very well what is at stake here! And it ain’t exactly religious freedom. In all fairness to Mr. Nugent, we grant that hunting may be a religious experience to him.

The most telling comments came from Arnold and Porter – attorneys for the Hopi Tribe. The Hopi lawyers repeat verbatim arguments made by the National Rifle Association (NRA) in 1985 when that organization sought to open parks to hunting and trapping. Arnold and Porter, just as the NRA before them, argue that the Organic Act creating the NPS does not prohibit the hunting, trapping or killing of park animals. Arnold and Porter continue that the Secretary of the Interior has broad discretion to allow the hunting and killing of animals in parks. The Secretary, they argue, is limited only where taking of animals would “impair” park resources.

Disingenuously quoting a only a part of a sentence , Arnold and Porter cited NRA v. Potter to support their (and the NRA’s) assertion that the 1916 Organic Act does not really prohibit hunting in the parks. In NRA v. Potter, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said this “Although the language of the Organic Act, standing alone, may not be plainly inconsistent with the concept of limited hunting and trapping, plaintiff’s (NRA) interpretation of it is inconsistent with that principle of statutory interpretation known as expressio unius est exclusio alterius, i.e. that omissions from enumerated specifics are generally presumed to be deliberate exclusions from the general unless otherwise indicated.”

In 1985, the Department of the Interior argued compellingly that the Secretary possessed no discretion under the Organic Act to allow the taking of wildlife from parks except where Congress authorized it for that park, or for the destruction of dangerous wildlife as provided for in the 1916 Act. Now, Arnold and Porter argue that since the NPS allows the taking of park wildlife for scientific research, that demonstrates the NPS has the discretion to allow the taking park wildlife. They fail to recognize that the NPS allows the taking of wildlife for research only to serve the NPS’ mission to conserve wildlife.

The arguments from Arnold and Porter and the National Rifle Association are bogus. They ignore nearly a century of statutory construction that parks and monuments are strict sanctuaries for wildlife, to be waived only by Congress. But if the Bush Administration adopts the “broad discretion” rationale long advocated by the NRA, and now presented by Arnold and Porter for the Hopi Tribe, Bush and Secretary Norton will have adopted a premise that not even James Watt or Donald Hodel attempted to assert. Ted Nugent will have reason to be pleased.

Submitted to REF by Frank Buono, Former NPS employee.

From Kimberly: How dare you say that a Hopi tradition, thousands of years old, is barbaric? It is something you do not understand. Yes you have “read” up on the subject but you will never truly understand it as a non-Hopi much less a non-Native American. In preserving our religion, our culture, and our way of life not everything is explained to or privy to outsiders. Outsiders include non-Native Americans, different tribes, as well as the different clans and small children within the Hopi tribe. We, as Native Americans and Hopis, are not bad people and have more respect for the animals, land, and people than most in the United States. That does not mean that we have to be Vegetarians or Vegans.
And how dare you ask for substitutions to this religious event? That, to us, would be blasphemy. A plastic or ceramic reproduction never had a soul and is not a creation of Tawa. That is just as bad as non-Hopi, non-initiated peoples making a profit out of (fake) Kachina dolls. Just because they look the same does not mean they are the same.


If this practice is so wrong and causing, or contributing to, a decline in Golden Eagles in Arizona would not the USFWF stop renewing our permits? Would not the people higher up tell us we cannot do this anymore? We take an average less than 20 Eagles/Hawks a year. Why not focus on others who hunt Eagles for sport?


I cannot believe a country “founded” by people escaping religious persecution would ask the Hopis to alter their religion so that it is assimilates to others. Let us just make one giant following!


I do not expect an educated or dignified response to my “rant” as I have read the responses from your registered “Eagle Defenders” who seem to be bigots with no cultural ancestry – like Albert from New York.


On another note, Hopis are a peaceful people who work hard to live the life we believe Tawa would want us to. We are not perfect, no one is, but we are taught to respect other’s beliefs. We know we cannot persecute a peoples’ belief with out first learning their beliefs  – maybe the EDN should try that.



P.S. I have made references to the Hopi religion that I hope you are all familiar with since you are voicing your opposition specifically to the Hopi Indian Eagle Gatherers.

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The term “barbaric” is easily defined, and indeed slaughtering animals on the alter of any religion has long ago vanished from most civilized behavior. Being a barbarian, a savage, or a primitive falls within the definition of barbaric behavior. Just go to any dictionary and you will see that our use of the word is precise.

Does it take being a cannibal, or a pedophile to truly understand that these acts are vile and disgusting? No! Any rational, well educated person can understand that certain behaviors are barbaric or evil, despite the fact they have never actually committed such behaviors themselves.

Religions, being stories told to children, or myths used to organize groups of people towards common goals, are continuously changing. Some more slowly than others, but they adapt to the currents of the culture they are part of, or they die. So making a change or a substitution for the Hopis might be blasphemous to you, but others might see it as a perfectly logical adjustment of an aspect of the religion that needs to be reformed.  That’s what Christian reformations were and are about.

As far as why various federal agencies allow these practices to continue, most rational people are aware that such decisions are not based on science or reason, but politics.  And a little bit of common sense yields the observation that most politicians are bought by votes, or money, or power.  So permitting such barbarity to continue is useful to them.

Calling us bigots, does not lesson the fact that slaughtering animals for your religion’s requirements as you perceive them, is simply barbaric behavior. If stating the truth is bigotry, then, we should all be a little more truthful.

Perfection?  I allege that we are all perfect, despite our apparent imperfections. Try that one on for  size.

Peter Reshetniak: Editor


From Chad:
I have stumbled across your website over a year ago and have tried to ignore your attack on the Hopi people.  However, seeing that you have updated it in relation to Hopi permits issued this year, I feel the need to respond.  I would first like to thank you for making links to my congressmen and women available to me so readily so I could voice my support for the Hopi people and their traditional practices.  While I admire the stated cause of your organization, which I understand is protecting raptors and the environment, your callous disregard for the facts as well as your disrespect for one of America’s most ancient people shows an ignorance that is unfortunate.

I have been familiar with Williams work relating to this issue for some time.  Any competent scholar of Hopi culture has and continues to discredit this work which is at the least poor journalism, and at the most a deliberate and knowing misstatement of the facts surrounding Hopi practices.  To keep this short, I will avoid pointing out the inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the article, since numerous others have done a more effective job than I can in this short email (See:  Jason Spaulding’s response for one).  My own experience comes from years of visiting and developing relationships with the Hopi people.  While I certainly do not speak on their behalf, my convictions do not allow me to sit idly by while your organization attacks a group using information that is inaccurate and inflammatory.  A few of your inaccuracies are as follows:

1)  Feathers from the eagles traditionally taken are used on the pow wow circuit, in Native American Church rituals or are sold.  In fact, feathers from these birds are used almost exclusively for traditional Hopi ceremonies that have existed for millennium.   This fact is readily apparent to any individual who has had the privilege and fortune to witness a ceremony at Hopi, and any assertion otherwise is insulting not only to the Hopi, but to the credibility of your organization.

2)  Your rights to Wupatki lands as an environmentalist supersede the Hopi rights to Wupatki.  While Wupatki is a National Monument, and thus belongs to all Americans (including the Hopi Sinom), it is also an ancestral home of the Hopi people (a fact well proven in the archaeological record) and is included within the original Hopi Tusqua or lands that are clearly delineated by certain shrines that have marked these boundaries well before there were designations of reservation and National Monument boundaries.  As a National Monument that is dependent on the ancestral ruins of the Hopi people for its designation, Wupatki has a responsibility to coexist with the Hopi in a manner that is sensitive to their cultural convictions and beliefs.  Your usual response to this comment, that this opens Pandora’s Box in relation to other federal lands, is an overhyped concern.  The Federal Government has realized that (i) Hopi people once inhabited Wupatki and built the buildings that are now the lands draw (ii) the Hopi people have continuously and aggressively asserted their rights to continue their traditional practices in this area, and (iii) that the Hopi people have rights within this area that are unique and should not be readily set aside.

3)  Your assertions that the Hopi are indiscriminate killers of eagles through the taking of multiple chicks from each nest are not backed up by either the number of eagles that are being taken or any reasonable analysis of Hopi practices.

4)  Finally, I would like to point out that your tie of eagle gathering to human sacrifice displays the ultimate irresponsibility of your organization.  I am sure that you will point to certain anthropologists who have made such assertions.  Of course, they fail to have substantial evidence either in the archaeological record or in the oral history of the Hopi people.   Human sacrifice is a rarity in Hopi oral tradition, and while it may exist in a few narratives, it was certainly not a consistent practice as is the limited gathering of Eagles by Hopi individuals who hold the required religious and clan affiliations within Hopi society to undertake such religious actions.

Finally, I realize that some of the points above may relate more directly to the Williams article.  However, your continued and open endorsement of this article as fact makes you an accomplice in spreading the false information contained therein.  I understand we probably will never see eye to eye on this issue, but in an educated society, I would hope that all sides of an argument would avoid the intentional use of disinformation as a strategy to sway public opinion.

Chad Burkhardt
ContactUs    Back to Top Mr. Burkhardt makes a number of assertions that are only supported by his own claims, and it appears he has not read many or any of the communications available to anyone with the time to read them, especially the information provided by Mr. Frank Buono, former NPS employee, directly above.

Chad  appears to be attempting to undermine the Williams article in Audbon with  vaporous claims, but offers no evidence from “competent scholars.”  Chad’s claims are just that at this point, however, without going into the numbered paragraphs, let’s just point out the very obvious in this matter- other readers may submit what they wish in response to Chad’s statements.

Our statements about this barbaric practice of religious sacrifices are not made against all Native Americans, nor all Hopi peoples. If Chad had taken the time to read carefully, we state that this is a practice carried out by a small sect within the Hopi Tribe, but as is typical of critiques like Mr. Burkhardt’s, precision and accuracy are not his concern. We have had numerous communications from various tribal groups that abhor this barbaric practice, and are supportive of the Williams article,  our stand, and Mr. Buono’s continued monitoring of this matter.

We find it most curious, however, that nowhere in his letter does Chad address our principle issue. Let’s pretend for a moment that West Nile Virus is not wiping out eagles and other raptors by the thousands, let’s pretend for a moment that there are plenty of eagles in Wupatki and other areas where they are being “collected.” Let’s pretend that this small Hopi group does not violate standing wildlife laws. Let’s pretend that sacrificing complex multi-celled animals to any religious notion is not barbaric, and not indicative of the dark ages, and then let’s pretend, that just because some religious group, or faction, or tribe, claims  certain “rights” by historical precedence, or earned status, or because of secrecy, that they should not be challenged.

Following Chad’s desires and logic to illuminate us as to why such barbaric practices should continue, it would follow that we dare not challenge these things. Therefore, by Chad’s logic, no one may challenge the sexual abuse of children by a small group of Catholic priests and higher-ups; that no one challenge the sacrifice of their children’s health because of religious notions of a very small group of fundamentalist Christians; that no-one challenge anything which despite its obvious barbaric nature, simply be permitted because of its age old practice.

Mr. Burkhardt is welcome to that type of world, we, however, prefer a world where respect for eagles and other creatures be shown by letting them live, by encouraging their habitat and ability to survive under the varied assaults of the 21st century, including the  spreading vestiges of the dark primeval swamp wherein the concept of sacrificing living things to propitiate the gods imagined as ruling the swamp. It’s time to step out of the swamp.

Peter Reshetniak: Editor


From Marti

I am horrified by the practice of animal sacrifice for any religion – no matter what ethnicity the practioners are. To learn that our government has basically given the Hopi permission to do so or “allowing” it to happen enrages me even more. I read the article linked from your site from Audubon and wanted to email a letter expressing my feelings to the  National Park Service as suggested at the end of the article. However, I am not good at writing letters such as this and tend to let my feelings get in the way of the points I’m trying to make. Does this organization have a sample letter or something I could use?

Thank you,

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We do not have a sample letter- we feel that the most effective communications are those that honestly reflect your feelings and thoughts–if you cannot or do not wish to write- call people up…communicate ….thanks for your interest and support.

Peter R.


P.S. I think the note you wrote to us more than adequately conveyed your sentiments. It was simple, clear, and to the point.


From John

Subject: Ingines killin’ eagles

You obviously feel pretty strongly about this issue, and I can’t say I blame you, but your self-righteous posturing deserves an equally self-righteous response.

Personally, I think it’s kind of monstrous myself, but then I don’t fully understand the ritual or it’s importance. However, it’s not like they are planning to wipe the species out, so I can’t say that it is morally right to impose white values on their culture. I mean haven’t we (whiteboys… I’m one too btw) done enough to the Indians? First we commit genocide on the vast majority of their population, then we steal their land, and finally we have the nerve to call them “barbaric” because they have a ritual which isn’t compatible with our supposedly enlightened ways. I mean step back for one minute… who the hell are you to decide what is right and wrong for another culture? I suppose you think they are cute when they dance around in circles going “hey a hiya hey a hiya” bangin’ on there drums and shakin’ their tomahawks, but the second they do anything that offends your superior sensibilities, they’re savages again.

I’m sure you are a vegetarian, and think everyone else should be as well, which is fair enough… we would be a more responsible species if we were. But when millions of animals go to the slaughter every year so as to create even fatter American asses, I think the loss of a few eagles for the sake of an important ritual is acceptable. At the very least, the animal is considered a God rather then just an extra patty on a burger for some mindless boob.

Sheesh… get off your soapbox already.


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Thanks for the soapbox reply–just like my great wife–Nope, not a vegetarian, in fact I like eating them!

All of us impose our own values on others to lesser or greater degrees-that’s what cultures do-that’s what families do. Rituals (important or otherwise) are made important by convention, and there is nothing that says anyone does not have the right to challenge conventions- that’s how cultures change and sometimes improve–otherwise, some cultures would still be burning virgins in volcanoes, etc. White folks, as you call them, have committed some horrible acts on other tribes, but theirs is not an exclusive guilt. Every tribe on  the planet has its good and bad sides.

By the way, we would not be a more responsible species if we were all vegetarians- nature has designed us as omnivores-not herbivores–to function according to our design is being true to our own selves…that is responsibility by my definition. Not knowing what you are causes most of  the mischief on this planet.

Thanks again for your comments, and the soapbox…

Peter R.

P.S. So, if burgers were Gods in your book would we have fewer mindless boobs?  Gotta talk to McDonalds…


From Medmn1

Our government is supposed to protect our constitution not our resources. Asking that our religious freedom be taken away for the protection of animals is a serious mistake. I will not support an organization that promotes religious oppression.


Dear Medmn1,

When religious freedom is used to torture or sacrifice species (human or otherwise) then it certainly deserves to be questioned, which is the great thing about having a constitution, i.e. freedom of speech. America’s best resource is its people, which is what the constitution is designed to protect, this includes the stipulation that the government not favor any particular religion or peoples (the establishment clause) and by allowing a very small sect of Indians the right to sacrifice eagles vis a vis their religion, the government is violating the constitution. The 5th amendment is also designed to protect private property (a resource by any definition) from being taken by agents of the state–and the great thing about the constitution is that it does not force you to support our organization, nor should you be allowed to force us to watch (in silence) the barbaric killing of eagles continue because your religious beliefs demand it—not so long ago, religions sacrificed virgins, children, and others to their beliefs, and it still occurs in this country- with children being sacrificed to religious beliefs that preclude the use of medical help–Killing defenseless children or creatures because of religious beliefs is religious oppression at its worst. It is also barbaric. Thank you for taking the time to communicate your opinions.

Cordially, Peter Reshetniak

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From  C. Allen

To whom it may concern,

Frankly, who the hell are you to judge someone’s religion? The Hopi tribe has been native to this land centuries longer than any of us European, Asian, African “immigrants”. They are part of the original Americans, before there ever was an America.

Oh, another thing, there is a big difference and a long way between sacrificing animals the their gods and converting to sacrificing humans.

If you bothered to study Hopi, or any other Native American culture for that matter, you will find that their belief of preserving Mother Nature and human life go way beyond that of any “American” culture, Catholicism, Protestant, Judaism, etc.

Get a grip!


Thanks for your commentary- I am me, and I, like any thinking sentient being may judge what I wish-free country as they say- unless it is not so where you are from. By the way, it is seriously doubtful that Indians were the original Americans-check your current anthropology information–it is now becoming apparent that what is the current group of tribes, displaced others that came before them… this has been going on all over the world- far longer than recorded history can document.

As far as a big difference between animals being sacrificed and humans- the difference is only one of degree, and doing a little research you will quickly confirm that one action may and often does become an excuse for a  more damaging action, i.e. the slippery slope theory–

I have a grip, obviously on you, for the brief moment –thanks for writing. And is this “brotherly love?”

Editors Note: C. Allen is from Philly.

P.S. Beliefs in preserving Mother Nature and human life are not the same as actions to do the same.  If anyone bothers to study “western cultures” anymore, one would quickly see that these cultures, especially in America,  have done more to preserve human life and Mother Nature than many of the other cultures combined.

Peter R.

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Responses to the Hopi Tribal Sentiments above.

Dear Ms. Heywood:

Conflicts arise when we perceive each other as standing in the way of accomplishing our personal goals.

I have tried to educate myself about the purpose of the sacrifice of eagles and in so doing have read from your web site about Hopi Religious Practices/Eagle Gathering, and its spiritual significance for the Hopi. I acknowledge that Native American people see that they have been gravely mistreated in this country historically and are concerned that their treatment will be the same in the future. I empathize with this position and continue to work to ensure that I behave in a manner that does not contribute to that uncertainty.

Ms. Heywood, I strongly disagree with your statement that 208 golden eagles between 1986 and 2000 amounts to only a “handful of eagles” annually. I believe that when you speak of a “handful” you are attempting to minimize the worth, value and importance of the loss of fourteen eagles every year to the earth and to all people. One might conclude by your description in that particular reference that we are discussing a handful of jellybeans. While we do not all agree that eagles are sacred emissaries to be sent “home” with gifts, prayers and messages to the spiritual deities, we all realize that eagles are not inconsequential, insignificant or inanimate as your momentary portrayal of them seemed to suggest. If someone took a handful of our family members over this same period of time and destroyed them, it would be a significant loss.

I am a volunteer with Raptor Education Foundation (“REF”). We are fully committed to the protection of raptors in all cases and circumstances. We cannot, in good conscience, duck the difficult challenges that may not be popular. The sacrifice of eaglets by the Hopi is no more or less important to REF than the behaviors that you attribute to being owned by the “dominant culture.” They include power companies that fail to use appropriate insulators, gardeners and farmers that spray pesticides to ensure the perfect lawn and plentiful crop, and the fellow who decides to take a few shots at an eagle and call it sport. At REF we feed, nurture and nurse those raptors that manage to survive all such human interference. Additionally, we educate the public about the negative impact these human behaviors and cultural practices have on raptors and on the environment as a whole.

I believe that Native Americans have taught a lot of other people in this country about how to respect and appreciate wildlife. I would hope that you would not be surprised that some students are beginning to pose some difficult ethical questions.

Laura L. Chapman, Docent

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Thank you. Far from your world, reading the various perspectives concerning the matter of Hopi Indians sacrificing eagles is most interesting. My antecedents came from the tribes of Mongolian warriors that interbred with Scandinavian warriors as they raped and pillaged their way back and forth across Asia and Europe. Out of that mix somewhere at some time, some of those tribes migrated across the Bering Straits as the current thinking goes, where there was not so much competition for pillaging and raping while having plenty to hunt and fish and gather. This was good. Especially, if you were not very fond of looking over your shoulder all the time. Life in this era was nasty, brutish, and short.

And so civilization spread its roots along with its barbarian hordes from a wide variety of tribes. My tribes valued the great Berkut Eagles (Editors note-these are golden eagles). They hunted with them, and one can still find a few of these falconers riding ancient horses across the vast spaces of the Russian and Asian steppes. Some of my tribal history was still apparent in my father’s and uncle’s faces, which bore traits similar to those of contemporary Navajos. But I digress.

I find it very curious that Claire Heywood would call Mr. Parker’s position “arrogant.” And when she finishes with the statement blaming western scientific philosophy as being single-handedly responsible for much of the worldwide stress, I am more than bemused.

First I would bet a small fortune that Mrs. Heywood has access to and utilizes many of those technological marvels produced by western scientific philosophy that she so quickly blames for everything wrong with the planet. Is she harnessing horsepower from gasoline, or is she riding a horse-would you like to wager? Would she pray or dance to some ethereal spirit to fix her broken arm, or would she seek out a western-trained doctor to set her bones and treat her with medicines and technologies that have extended human life, comfort, and pleasure far beyond what her great ancestors ever experienced. Does she awaken to look in her vanity mirror beneath an electric light to apply her makeup while she’s listening to her stereo, watching her television, or talking on her cell phone? And what does she wipe her bum with? Yes, the benefits of western scientific thinking can be good. Yes, they can be bad.

And she calls Mr. Parker a hypocrite.

What people like Claire fail to understand is that technology serves as nothing but a tool. In basic terms technology has evolved from sticks and stones, and the user determines to what end any such tools will be applied. Some serve good ends, some serve evil. The tools don’t care. Somewhere in her ancestral history, I would wager, somebody used sticks and stones as weapons for defense, aggression, or both. Mine did, because that is the common human story, regardless of one’s tribe. I still do. Not seeing this is simple delusion, but that seems to be obvious from her letter.

Is it not a greater arrogance, for Hopi tribal members to subject a beautiful young eagle, incapable of debate, to the superstitious dogma the Hopis use to kill its nascency?  Killed, no doubt, by someone who is convinced of his “superior” understanding of how this eagle must die and what the great-spirit thinks. Really?

What about the ecological integrity of the eagle? Or is the Hopi’s spiritual wisdom so “superior” that the eagle is nothing but a slave to their symbolism that justifies sacrificing living creatures to appease someone’s fears about reality; or, to sacrifice a living creature to appeal to someone’s fantasies about the future?

Barbaric behavior is the same in any age, in any culture, in any tribe. It subjects others to tyranny. Whether those others are eagles or humans, matters only to humans as measured by the degrees of their own ignorance. The eagle has no choice. This too, is tyranny. Tyranny often hides beneath religious vestments, political suits, the laws of men, the presumptions of science, and the arrogance of tribalism. It beats in every human heart. A wise man once told me that the safest place for Satan to hide is in church.

This is not a matter for debating a sustained harvest of eagles or hawks. This is a matter to resolve a far more important question? Who owns any other life, and to what end, if any, are other lives to be sacrificed?

Claire Heywood, would you care to respond in this public forum, or are you driving to the 7-11 because you’ve run out of toilet paper?


Petro Alexsandrovich
Geelong, Australia  ContactUs
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U. S Fish & Wildlife Service Allows Eagle Take Without Any Objective Standards and Processes.

JUNE 20, 2001

While the Interior Department considers what to do about opening up Wupatki National Monument (and other national park areas) to the religious take of golden eagles, the eagle gathering season is underway. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has sought all information relevant to the gathering of eagles and hawks by members of the Hopi Tribe. PEER does not object to the Hopi’s religious practice itself. PEER became involved only when political appointees in the Interior Department overruled National Park Service (NPS) professionals in late 1999 and threatened to allow eagle gathering in an area of the national park system. In its search for information, PEER has learned a great deal about the take of eagles by the Hopi Tribe. On April 12, 2001, PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regional office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. PEER sought the permit application by the Hopi for 2001; the USFWS permit for 2001 and any accompanying environmental compliance.

On May 29, 2001, the USFWS responded and provided the Hopi Tribe’s application for permit renewal dated on January 5, 2001. USFWS provided a copy of the permit for 2001, issued on January 18, 2001 (Permit # MB707073-0) to take 40 eagles and an unlimited number of red-tailed hawks for religious purposes in northeastern Arizona (including but not limited to Apache, Coconino and Navajo counties). The permit does not apply on lands where the taking of eagles is illegal, such as in areas of the national park system in northeastern Arizona.

Evident from the USFWS response, and like all previous permits, the USFWS has not conducted any compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The USFWS produced neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement. Due to the pressure brought to bear on the matter, the USFWS did tell the Hopi Tribe that the Interior Department “…is developing a population survey for golden eagles throughout their range in the Western United States. It is our hope to have this survey in place for 2002. Once the survey is in place, we will develop an objective process for evaluating requests for take of golden eagles for all purposes.” This is encouraging news but the USFWS words imply that that agency now lacks objective standards and processes to judge the take of golden eagles.

PEER has learned some other facts of interest. In 2000, 15 named members of the Hopi Tribe from twelve clans gathered 38 eagles and 4 hawks (42 birds). Twenty-nine came from Hopi lands. Two came from State of Arizona lands. Eleven came from Navajo Nation lands. The three most prolific of the 15 gatherers took five eagles/hawks each. The Hopi Tribal Final Collection Report for 2000 showed that none of the birds were reported taken from lands within an area of the national park system or Apache Reservation lands. In sum, the Hope Tribe has taken 246 golden eagles in northeastern Arizona from 1986 to 2000.

Submitted by Frank Buono-former National Park Service employee-see more from Frank below
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Bulletin From Frank

APRIL 10, 2001

1.  The Rulemaking Process
On January 22, 2001, the Department of the Interior proposed a special rule to mandate the take of golden eagles from Wupatki National Monument by members of the Hopi Tribe  (66 FR 6516-6521).   The comment period closed on March 23, 2001.   The special rule shatters the principle that our national parks are strict sanctuaries for wildlife unless directed
otherwise by Congress.  This principle reverberates throughout the history of the national parks and the National Park Service and has been the lynchpin of park management, stated in the first NPS regulations of 1936 and reiterated in 1983.

On March 27, 2001 NPS officials told me that the NPS received over 4300 comments on the proposed rule and approximately another 500 comments arrived after the comment period closed.  (As I understood the NPS
official, the NPS will acknowledge the 500 comments but will not count or address them in the rulemaking process.)  There is not yet an analysis of the comments, their contents, or the breakdown either for or against the proposed rule.  We do know that that the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Humane Society of the United States, the Association of National Park Rangers, the National Audubon Society, the Raptor Research Foundation and many others submitted comments strongly opposing the rule.

The number of comments alone proves that the proposed special rule for Wupatki is “significant.”  In 1982-83, the NPS revised its entire body of general regulations that govern the national park system.  The NPS received only 1966 timely comments on those rules – less than half of the comments received for a single park (Wupatki).   More recently, the
Department of the Interior received only 2,500 comments on revisions to the rules that govern operations on mining claims.  The mining regulations are a matter of intense national controversy.   The Bush Administration recently (March 23, 2001) proposed to suspend the final rule!   The 2,500 comments were received during two 120-day comment periods (240 days).   In contrast, 4300 comments were received for Wupatki in only one 60-day period.

Now, it is up to the Bush Administration to decide whether to adopt the proposed rule in final.  We know that they can suspend final rules that protect the environment.  Will they now adopt a rule that opens Wupatki, and ultimately the national park system, to the take of wildlife for religious purposes?   More investigation is needed to determine how the Department and the NPS are handling the comments and if a final version may be published.

2. Status of Eagles at Wupatki
Meanwhile back at the park, eagles appear not to be nesting at Wupatki in 2001.   The NPS and the Biological Resources Division of the USGS conducted surveys of eagles in the Wupatki area.   In February 2001 the team detected two pair of eagles engaged in courtship behavior.  One pair was just outside the monument at Doney Mountain.  The other was in Wupatki near Citadel Sink.   The NPS closed the parking area and trail to Citadel Ruin in late January 2001 since the potential nest site and eagles were present within 200 meters of the ruin.   Follow-up surveys of the Citadel Sink nest site showed that the eagles have not nested at the location and the NPS has since reopened the area to public use.  Usually,
late March is the period by which the eggs would be laid.  The time for nesting appears to be over.

Even if the Department makes the eagle-taking rule final in the weeks ahead, the facts on the ground may preclude imminent take by the Hopi while all-but-certain litigation addresses the rule itself.

From Frank

I want to thank you for the alert that the REF posted on the web re: Hopi
take of golden eagles from Wupatki.   I am (…), a retired NPS
employee who wrote PEER’s comments on the proposed rule at Wupatki.   Because
of efforts of people like you, the NPS received 4,300 comments on the proposed
rule of January 22, 2001.  I assume that many are negative.  This fight is a
long way from being over, let alone won.  I will add you to my e-mail so that
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From Patricia

I am puzzled by this stance you have taken: “They can
believe whatever they want. We do, however, wish to
stop the barbaric sacrifices…”.  Obviously, the Hopi
peoples can only believe – implying practice – their
religion within the boundaries you approve, therefore
you really do not wish them to believe whatever they
want. In fact, you wish to modify their religion to
suit your sensibilities.

You consider their practice uncivilized, and state
“They are stealing from all of our children…” As an
indigenous woman, I find your concern laughable.  The
Hopi people have been herded like cattle to a small
circle of land within someone else’s reservation,
itself too small to sustain the Navajo who are held
prisoner there.  The land they are forced to occupy in
their prisoner of war camp has been strip-mined
against their will and continues to be, their monies
from this are pennies on the dollar and “held in
trust” for them as they are considered too stupid by
your culture to spend their own money. Meanwhile, your
civilized and sensitive culture has robbed them of
billions of dollars and has yet to rectify a penny of
it.  Please don’t tell me about your sensitivities and
civilization: we’ve had quite enough of it, thank you
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From: James W. Parker, Ph.D.
As written to Kym Hall of NPS and Wayne Taylor, Chairman: Hopi Nation

Aerie East Environmental Foundation &
Education Programs

228 Holley Rd.
Farmington, ME 04938

I am  writing to oppose the removal and eventual killing of golden eagles from
any federal or state land by any religious/ethnic group, Hopi, or other, for
religious or ceremonial purposes.

I would have gotten this to you sooner, a the most recent storm in Maine took
away my electricity for about 3 days, so I couldn’t get to my computer files or
email.  US mail copies of this communication are enroute to you.

I first became aware of the ongoing practice from the news and environmental
magazine media, and more recently via direct contacts from other
environmentalists and biological educators.  I believe the decision to allow
the Hopi to do this is very misguided and probably politically motivated in
some cloaked manner.   I further believe that by continuing to use golden
eagles this way in a world with innumerable environmental problems, many
depressing the populations of species like the golden eagle, the Hopi are in
effect denigrating and dishonoring their own religious and cultural history by
showing an inability to respond with wisdom to the need for a change in ritual.

To cut to the chase, I believe it is time for us as an amalgamating people in
North America to accept the reality that all our ancestors had a bond with
their natural environments; Native American cultures are not unique in this.
Today many of us have largely lost this bond.  Many of us are now trying to
retain or regain it.   We do not do so by allowing our authorities to permit
any culture to continue a practice that is antithetical to our well-supported
understanding of wildlife science, is demonstrably unhealthy for today’s
remaining wild environments, and is intolerable as a way to treat living beings
in most other aspects of our culture.   What is universally sacred is
ecological truth, and the perpetuation of as much of a natural and healthy
world as can be managed in the face of population growth and resource
overconsumption.  The   golden eagle and other raptor species are, in today’s
world, not the cultural treasures of only a few cultures or peoples.  They are
a national, perhaps global, trust.  As such we should not allow them to be
used or abused by any one culture or people.  Continuation of the Hopi ritual
would now constitute abuse.

As I continue with some detailed concerns, please do not assume that I am
writing from only an emotional, sentimental, or religiously unfeeling
viewpoint.  I am a professional, Ph.D.-holding ecologist with a career of about
30 years in college teaching and private environmental education.  My research
career is focused  on raptor population ecology and behavior, and I am more or
less the leading long-term researcher on the Mississippi Kite, a small raptor
species which seems to have occupied the same homeland as the Comanche in the
Great Plains.  I hold about a dozen state and federal permits for salvage of
protected wildlife, collection of protected wildlife (based only on valuable
educational and research needs), rehabilitation of wildlife, and use of
wildlife for environmental education.  I have killed wildlife for research and
teaching needs, and I have euthanized wildlife innumerable times as a
rehabilitator.  I kill from a sense of ethical, spiritual, and professional
duty.  I do not like it, I pray as I do it, but I accept it as reality and
often as a necessity.  When I feel that I have not handled living wildlife
properly, I feel the need for greater wisdom.  To return to emotion; in my
environmental education programs I tell my audiences to use emotion, but to
base it on knowledge and truth (fact) as best one can grasp them.

My people apparently did and do hold the golden eagle and other raptors
sacred.  My people are the Scots and Irish (and their Celtic and Scandinavian
ancestors), the Germans, and (according to my grandfather) some tribe or tribes
of Native Americans.  My people are also those in the current global subculture
who have devoted their lives and careers to studying and teaching with animals
like raptors, and to trying to repair the damage done to them by humanity.  It
is not an exaggeration, distortion,  or inappropriate to say that those who
have done so have earned the right to claim a spiritual bond to wildlife like
raptors.  And earning a right is sometimes more valid than claiming it through
the genes.

No state or federal agency permits biologists and educators to do anything with
or to wildlife when it flies in the face of modern ecological knowledge by
risking damage to wildlife populations, or when it causes, or  could cause,
significant discomfort to individual animals.  In fact, many wildlife
biologists know well that the permits we must obtain are often administered in
ways that are clearly overly restrictive based on modern biology, are often
administered by those who know little or nothing about the wildlife species
they are regulating, and are sometimes administratively handled in irrational
and arbitrary ways that can impede proper field biology research and
environmental education.   I am told that today if I were to ask to retain, for
valuable education programs for 10 of thousands of citizens, a dead specimen of
bald eagle (found injured and which died in treatment), I would not be allowed
to  do so, but would be required to send it to the federal repository for use
only by Native Americans.  In sum, this would seem ridiculous in light of
granting the Hopi the right to kill golden eagles.

At this time, I hold a live unreleaseable  golden eagle and a proscribed number
of eagle feathers for education.  I am not allowed to rob nests nor capture
wild adults to obtain such a specimen of live bird or feathers.  I must place
such specimens with other proper agencies if I choose not to hold them.  I have
often wondered what would be the response if I asked for permission just to
hold one eagle feather because to me it is sacred to my European heritage and
life and spiritual dedication.  How about it feds?

It is apparently the case that areas that have been used by the Hopi to harvest
nestling golden eagles are showing significant population declines.  This
should be treated as clear evidence that the procedure is destroying the sacred
wildlife that they wish now to obtain from lands held in the public trust.  The
ancient clan chiefs of the Scots wore golden eagle feathers in their bonnets.
Should we give all US citizens with Scottish heritage the right to obtain
golden eagle feathers by killing adult or young eagles?  No?  But today’s
Scottish clan chiefs in the US can get federal permits to hold a feather from a
dead golden eagle.  Is that good?  Probably.  How about letting the clan chiefs
kill golden eagles to get the feathers?

Golden eagles occur world wide.  Should all people with heritages in cultures
holding the golden eagle, other raptors, or other wildlife in sacred awe (as
many have) be given permission to harvest and kill to “fulfill  cultural
heritage or religious belief”?  How are the Hopi people special that they be
permitted, in direct opposition to good biology, do what no one else is
permitted to do, apparently  when even some of their own people (the eagle
clan) can see the error in continuing the ritual of killing?  And in reference
to how the Hopi handle the nestlings they take, I as a wildlife rehabilitator
am not allowed to tether such specimens.  That’s because it’s supposedly
“inhuman” and detrimental to the nestlings’ proper well  being.  So should the
Hopi’s cultural heritage permit them to mishandle the live nestlings?  How do
we know the nestlings are also not malnourished and dehydrated?  This situation
is replete with nonsensical inconsistencies.

Yes, Native American peoples were disgracefully treated by our European
ancestors.  But that is neither here nor there today from the standpoint of
truth in environmental and population science.  It is irrelevant to what we, as
an amalgamated people in the United States, should permit as religious
expression.  It is my impression that we no longer permit many religious
practices that could be held in sacred respect:  Like the burning of “witches”
by fundamentalist religious groups; the killing of cats for sacred ritual by
Pagans (who don’t really do it, but are thought to) even though this introduced
species is destroying hundreds of thousands of native birds and other small
mammals every  year, etc.

Obviously, there are practices by some native peoples that we would obviously
not permit.  On  one of my trips to Belize, Central America, I encountered a
family of Mopan Maya in their village because they had a small mottled owl tied
up and dying of hunger, thirst, and physical abuse in front of their house.
Apparently it had been captured in their house at night while it was hunting
smaller animals that often reside in the thatched roof.  The Maya, and I am
told many African cultures, consider owls symbols  of death and other things
negative.  I, like most of the North Americans, have always been told owls were
“good” critters.  Usually we love them; they’re so cute.  With some respectful
negotiation and appropriate ceremony I was able to obtain the owl, “repair” it,
and release it later.  Now consider this; the many Belizians (with Maya
heritge) living in the US and African Americans might appeal to federal and
state authorities to carry out annual ritualisitic owl tortures and killings to
ban evil and death from their homes.  We can spare a few barred and screech
owls every year, right?

The perpetuation of the eagle killing ritual of the Hope does not represent the
honoring of a culture because it destroys irrationally a part of the
already-stressed natural environment.   And I assume the Hopi would strive to
honor this truth.  I have this disquieting feeling that, like the Native
American  tribes that have chosen to open gambling casinos, that despite their
efforts to resist the Hopi are being captured by a modern world that is
distorting their judgement.  Surely the wisdom of the Hopi people is  capable
of altering  ritual to take advantage of unreleaseable captive eagles that
could be killed ritualisitically, but only symbolically and not in fact.

I am respectfully and very seriously  yours, ContactUs
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From Rick

Your comments about the Hopi are “barbaric” and inconsiderate of the suffering White People have caused the Indian People.  The replacement of indian culture with white culture, the so called assimilation into civilized society, has destroyed a once proud people.

If I am a part owner in these eagles then I say let them have a few for religious purposes.  At least they will honor the eagles. ContactUs
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From Jack

I basically agree with your position. Some random reactions…

I am a Lutheran Pastor who took early retirement, in part due to my continuing disappointment in the church’s inability to speak coherently to problems like this.   I do care what these people believe, because, as with cannibalism, it affects my world and needlessly destroys a valued part of it.  Perhaps a way of helping them see that it’s in their interest to knock off the slaughter would work.

Mormons used to exclude blacks from the priesthood until they had what we call (and some Mormon friends came up with this) the “running back revelation.”    BYU’s football needs took precedence.

My experience with natives (I don’t use the term “Native Americans” since most of my contacts were in Canada) comes from six years spent in villages on the B.C. coast, most of it in the context of bush flying (I am also a pilot).

The Hopi Eagle scam is religious bullshit. The renewal (or the continuation) of the exercise of primitive Indian religious practices almost always boils down to a local political issue within a tribal or village group, where one side flexes its muscles with some outside agency as a way of showing off.  I think it’s important to not allow your reaction to fuel the fire instead of helping to extinguish it.  I am sure these same people enjoy the benefits of modern medicine for free, and drive trucks to pick up their birds.  Out here, we have Makah whalers using their ceremonial .50 cal. rifles to dispatch gray whales, and the ONLY reason they’re allowed to do this is because of religious claims made when the US was negotiating the whaling treaty.  There are some northern villages where subsistence whaling is necessary, but not Neah Bay.  It’s a stunt, and it worked because everyone got hot and bothered about it, which made the news because it’s so easy to cover.  But the whites, typically, have no religious clue, and can offer no informed critique of these specious claims.

For that reason, your diatribe about the child who died because of the parent’s religious convictions was a bit thin.  You can’t just whine about what people believe and expect to be taken seriously by them.  Would you also intervene to stop a bris?   Or what about rescuing a healthy Hindu wife who will otherwise be burned along with her dead husband’s corpse?

Remember who you’re dealing with.  These people are a part of a religious fringe for a reason, though they all, especially Indians, have many points of compromise.  It always seems that sooner or later, the statement being made by someone who clings to a set of beliefs that allow for otherwise illegal activity reaches a limit.  If the person himself can’t see it, certainly others can, so the more PR about what’s going on, the better.  No need for extreme rhetoric; just show what’s happening.  That’s how the pro-life types got so many on to their side, and though the tactic is despicable, it does work.  Show the dead kid, and show the slaughtered eagle chicks, but in doing it, come off as dryly and objectively as you can.  It will underscore the irrationality of the other side.  You can’t depend on the public to see it for itself, but on the other hand, you’re also not spinning a story so much as just showing it.

I’ll bet that the NPS, along with most federal agencies, is actually more afraid of dealing with the religious aspects of  this question than the native connection. That, in my experience, leaves the way open for these groups to do anything they want to do as long as it’s labeled religious in character.

However, if it really IS religious, then the symbolic meaning is invested into the objects through ritual, and there can be substitutes for the elements.  They are not likely to admit this, but it’s true.

The problem lies in the government drawing lines that define legitimate religious practice.  When they’ve tried that, it has brought all the fruits and nuts together with the straight denominations,  Moonies and Jews and Snake Handlers and Mormons and the rest, to tell Uncle Sam to back off.  You could butt your head against this one for quite a while and get nowhere.

Except: is there precedent with drugs?  Peyote is allowed for just a very few kinds of ceremony.  Tobacco is sacred, but still may not be smoked in an airplane on a reservation.  There are other examples of these lines being drawn as long as it serves some gov’t need, in this case their frantic war on drugs.  What about getting the NPS to get the Hopi to raise their own stock and leave the wild ones alone?

Anyway, I’d be happy to do some more research on this if it would help, though it will take a while to get beyond what’s already been done.  I suspect that your writing will have to be a bit more sedate in tone, but persistence will pay off eventually.   The need to be able to delineate certain behaviors as no longer allowable, whether they’re religious or not, will only increase. ContactUs
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From Eleanor

HI, you should provide links that instantly fax or email individuals that have the power to change the laws regarding the slaughter of eagles for religious purposes.  I was very sad to learn that this is happening and would like to send my opinion to officials.  I have found that many websites
now have the email/fax your representative feature.  It would also be nice to have and email address to the tribes involved.  Just an idea.  Thanks, ContactUs
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From Paul

The intemperance of your language (“rape” and “terrorism”) probably means that you have no intention of trying to understand what the Hopis are doing, or why.

I know enough Hopi people, and enough about the Hopi people, and what they believe, and what they do, that I don’t consider them a threat to raptors. Hopi land, and the Navaho land that surrounds it, is a haven for raptors–just as most land held by indigenous peoples tends to be an
ecological island.

If North America were peopled by Hopis, we would not be facing environmental degradation, I think. Traditional Hopis will not hook into the electrical grid because it would involve associating themselves with hydro dams, coal burning or nuclear power: instead, they have active solar collectors on their houses.

You owe the Hopis an apology. But I wouldn’t expect you to have the patience to find out why ContactUs
Back to Top Dear Paul,

If North America were populated by Hopis, that would imply that the Hopis successfully wiped out all the other Indians and white folks. If the country contained nothing but “traditional Hopis” it is really difficult to see how  solar collectors would have been invented by a non-technical culture…?

And Paul, ecological islands?  The reservations I have been through in Arizona and New Mexico are just as full of trash and trailers as other poverty stricken locations.

Are you thinking before you respond?

Albert from New York

From Ivan

dear sir-
it’s extremely interesting to follow to circular logicof your stated idea.  ‘twisted politicians’ must protect the ‘rights’ and “natural’ resources'” (double quotes for irony of words used) as long as the paradigm fits the desires of any given minority.  while you say that the rights of one minority, the Hopi Nation, is irrelevant to the wishes and desires of an opposing minority group, your organization, the job of the elected officials is to blame.  however, by protecting all the unless you are capable of the improbable change of the constitution which would do away with everyone’s right to freedom of religion, not just the Hopi people.  indeed, the actions of the dominant culture took away the large population base of eagles and peregrines that lived of the land, through deforestation, eco- change, and truly
‘barbaric’ rites of wanton killing for pleasure.  to call the Hopi practice of eaglet sacrifice barbaric is only propagandic ignorance ofanother peoples’ culture without regard to the wider understanding.  as a Navajo, i can say that my people have rarely seen eye-to-eye with the Hopi people over the aeons, but i respect their ways of life and their right to pursue the rites of life anyway they see fit.  as sovereign nations, the native people of this land need not explain their ways of life to every group that has a bone to pick with anyone that doesn’t agree with them.  the Hopi people collect their sacrifices on their land, as well as Navajoland, and have a way of prayer so deep and intricate it has survived four worlds for thousands of years. The middling wayward style of this nation may not like it, but without blatant hypocrisy of the rights it professes to give it cannot stand in the way of a given religious expression that has and will survive much longer than any memory of this American nation.  so if you please, before you attempt to sway public opinion with anachronistic words like ‘barbarism’ and ‘cruelty’ please remember which group gave rise to the utmost meaning that history will judge us all by.  ContactUs

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From John

Dang you people are quite racially insensitive and ignorant of the facts to boot Fact: The Hopi get NO money from the government to take Golden Eagles, it costs you zip, zero, nada …. stop inciting racial hatred based on money, that’s even worse than the initial crime ….Fact: The land they are taking them from is HOPI land, it was stolen and you’ll find NO treaty that ceded that land….. if you *really* had a sense of justice you would demand the US gave it back to the rightful and lawful owners who never ceded the title to that land, the Hopi (I suppose they can go to court and just win it back but the present *compromise* of allowing them a small number of eaglets per year seems a more than fair bargain for you) ….. Fact: The Hopi take eaglets ONLY from nests with two eaglets, as one of those eaglets will be KILLED ANYWAY by
the dominant one sibling …… I would think you so-called “experts” would know this (You probably do but *that* wouldn’t fit into your agenda, while ignoring this fact will) ….. Fact: Comparing this to the sacrifice of virgins would be considered racist if said about any other race than American Indian (What can be expected from a nation whose football team in the capital city is called “Redskins”, calling Indians “redskins” is the equivalent of calling Blacks “n*ggers”) Fact: You people need to get your priorities straight and fight the *real* environmental problems that are *really* harming eagles (selling your cars and computers would be an excellent start) and leave the Hopi, who haven’t started a war in several hundred years(I bet you wish you could say that about *your* nation huh, you can’t even make it a decade) to what they have always been, a peaceful people who by your own figures have taken on average less than 15 birds per year, birds that would have died anyway from their own sibling … ContactUs

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Dear John:

Nest site tenacity is a form of weak imprinting that causes birds to become loyal to a particular geographic location.  In many species, nest site tenacity is a stronger drive than mate fidelity.  Generally speaking, female birds are extremely sensitive to nesting failure because they spend a greater output of energy to build a nest and to raise the young, and they are much more vulnerable to nest predators than males.  If a female is unsuccessful in raising her young in a particular location, there is a good chance she will not return to the same nest site the following year.

In years when conditions are good, food supplies are adequate, water is available, and the weather is manageable, eagles will raise between one and three nestlings.  It would be incorrect to assume that in all cases one sibling will be killed.

Laura Chapman
Raptor Education Foundation Docent


This guy John cracks me up.  Telling us to sell our cars and computers- didn’t he read about this issue and respond on a computer, and I betcha, he drives a truck!

What crap!

Greg from Dallas.