A long while ago in our unit on civil liberties and civil rights, we touched on the situation of American Indian tribes and how they are treated today.
Yesterday I read in the news about how the Northern Arapaho tribe, who share a reservation with the Eastern Shoshone in Wyoming, was given a rare federal permit to kill two bald eagles off of their land for religious purposes. Last year they filed a lawsuit when they were refused such a permit because they felt their religious freedom was being violated.
This story brings up a lot of issues regarding both civil liberties and rights – shouldn’t there be little issue respecting this tribe’s liberties under the free exercise clause of the 1st amendment in the Constitution? And what’s with the seemingly racist backlash seen already from people commenting on news articles about this issue? Well of course it is justified for Americans to feel upset over the killing of a national symbol. Conservationists have been working so hard on bringing the once endangered bald eagle’s population back to healthy numbers. So yes, I can see why there is some outrage over this. However, most opinions I’ve seen on this in the past couple hours suggest the basis for the granting of this permit being religious exercise—and not for food or other purposes—is wrong. I feel that such an opinion is baseless if people don’t understand the spirituality of tribal religions.
I also learned that many other tribes have chosen to apply for eagle feathers and carcasses from a federal repository, which makes the granting of this permit very rare. Before our Gov class’s unit on civil liberties/rights I would’ve jumped to questioning why the Northern Arapaho can’t just go along with what all other tribes have been doing and play it safe. But now that I am more enlightened on the history and current standing of American Indians, I support the kind of stand the Northern Arapaho are taking – they are a sovereign, separate tribe with their own unique cultural background and don’t deserve to be thrown in with “every other tribe”.
This story really spoke to me because I realize that although most Americans have learned about our country’s harsh treatment of native tribes in the past, we actually don’t know enough about how they are faring now. The fact that treaty after treaty between our government and American Indian tribes has been broken shows that we still have a long way to go before we show true respect for these approximately 2.5 million people. Here’s a TED presentation that I really, really, really encourage you to watch.
The Native Americans in our country have long been subjected to discrimination and now seem to have been forgotten or at least hidden on their reservations. I didn’t REALLY know what these people have gone through and I’m happy that Aaron Huey from the TED talk showed the experiences of a particular group, the Lakota living on the Pine Ridge reservation, who live in extreme poverty.
Well, overall I have to say that I support the government’s move to grant this permit. I may not understand the whole background to all opinions on this story, but I do think our government is right to show more respect for this discriminated group.