July 13, 2009

Dismembered eagles in Native religion

Native Americans Defend Eagle Decapitation

Tribe Dismembered Bird For Religious Ceremony

By Russell Haythorn
A few weeks ago a hiker found a bald eagle that had been decapitated and dismembered near a trail in Boulder County.

The discovery set off a firestorm of controversy.

It turns out, the eagle was used in a ceremony by a Native American tribe.

Now, some Native American groups are troubled because people are questioning the use of bald eagles in ceremonies. The groups are calling for understanding and acceptance of the practice from other religious groups.

This particular eagle was used in three separate ceremonies. It was obtained legally through the federal repository and it was already dead when the tribe received it.
Ruined rite with bald eagle upsets Native Americans

A Navajo man said he labored for permission to use bird

By Electa Draper
A hiker reportedly found the eagle carcass on the ground in Legion Park near Boulder around June 4. The state Division of Wildlife investigated the report. Some officials and news reports speculated the eagle might have been poached and its parts sold on the black market.

"It caused a lot of people a lot of upset. Why wasn't anyone from the Native American community asked?" said Don Ragona, counsel for the Native American Rights Fund.

"It was alleged the person who had possession of this eagle was doing something wrong, dark and illegal," Ragona said.

Pino performed a series of ceremonies over months honoring the eagle and preserving tail feathers and talons for other ritual uses. He then wrapped the eagle's body in red cloth and placed it in a sacred tree in a ceremony held in May with Lakota elder Lee Plenty Wolf.

"When it first came out, it saddened my heart," Pino said. "It's only an animal to you, but to us it's a relative . . . a direct link to our ancestors—a message to the Creator. This relative was brought down from the tree in a very bad way. I hope that at some point in time, our religion will be respected."
Comment:  The article is a little unclear about which religion it's talking. Pino, the man who performed the ceremony, is Navajo but the practice is Oglala Sioux?

So Pino put an eagle carcass in a tree in a public park and someone found it on the ground. Is that really surprising? Maybe the wind or an animal or a bird knocked it down. Maybe a kid knocked it down because kids get curious and climb trees in public parks.

Have Pino and company ruled these possibilities out? Until they do, they probably shouldn't imply that someone was disrespecting their religion. I don't see the evidence of that in the articles I read.

A related debate

As for others being upset...again, the eagle was already dead. So there doesn't seem to be anything real for them to complain about. I.e., no reason for the so-called "firestorm of controversy."

A better debate is over the Hopi practice of smothering golden eaglets as part of their religion. As far as I know, they still do this.

The short version of the debate goes like this. Americans slaughter countless barnyard animals for food. They put countless unwanted pets "to sleep." They hunt countless wild animals for sport and food. They call Animal Control to round up and euthanize countless critters who wander into suburbia. Etc.

Is there any difference between these unnecessary animal deaths and the Hopi smothering of eaglets? None that I can see. Either they're all right or they're all wrong, morally speaking.

Below:  An eagle crying over 9/11, not its own fate.


dmarks said...

After they used it, they discarded it like roadkill, basically.

Anonymous said...

This is a sick and brutal practice. I don't see anything "sacred" about decapitating an already dead(or live) eagle. It hurts our image as Natives that have always viewed and respected bald eagles.

What a shame.

dmarks said...

I find it very hard to be so judgmental or even use the word "brutal" over something done to an already dead eagle. But discarding the supposedly sacred/revered eagle carcass like they did seems rather unseemly.

Stephen said...

"This is a sick and brutal practice. I don't see anything "sacred" about decapitating an already dead(or live) eagle. It hurts our image as Natives that have always viewed and respected bald eagles."

In my opinion they should be allowed to practice it, preserving culture and religion is far more important than the life of animal.

Rob said...

If the Indians were discarding the bodies, DMarks, why would they wrap them in special blankets and place them in special trees? That doesn't make sense.

No, I'm pretty sure they aren't discarding the bodies. Rather, I think they're sending prayers aloft.

As the article indicates, these Indians think eagles are messengers to the Creator. The article doesn't say exactly what the ceremony means, but I have an idea.

Placed high in the tree, the eagle's spirit is free to leave the body and fly to the Creator. The spirit then intercedes on behalf of the supplicants. If the Creator is obliging, the Indians receive good hunting and farming, good health and prosperity, etc.

Rob said...

I think the Indians are reusing the eagle feathers and sending the bodies aloft with prayers, Anonymous. I don't know why they decapitate the dead bodies, but that seems like a detail. If they didn't cut off the heads, would you still think the practice was "sick and brutal"?

As I said, Indians and non-Indians alike kill millions of animals a year. Is this any different from slaughtering cows and pigs for food or dogs and cats because we have too many? If so, how?

Stephen said...

This post also reminds me of the bigoted dreck PETA spews about the rich traditions of Santeria and vodou, for example check out this link:


Let's analyze it shall we?

”Although the right to hold faith in any religion is protected under the First Amendment, whether this includes the right to conduct religious slaughter of animals is unclear and therefore problematic.”

Santero and Houngans have consistantly won court cases to practice their beliefs, PETA wouldn’t want you to know that of course.

“These rituals often take place in secluded areas or at secret meeting places, and most of these groups do not have rosters or membership listings, so they are difficult to track.”

A few words that stand out ‘difficult to track’ in other words PETA would like their followers to spy on Santeros and Hougans because to them the life of a chicken matters more than freedom of religion or privacy.

“Meanwhile, countless animals are tortured and killed in the name of religion.”

According these idiots the life of a chicken is more important than freedom of religion.

“The goat’s blood was mixed with that of a chicken and drunk by all of the participants.”

An attempt to demonize santeros; I’m no expert on Santeria or Vodou but I wouldn’t be surprised if PETA actually made that up. Also note how they include a ‘human sacrifice’ link.

“If you discover evidence or have knowledge of any case of animal sacrifice or mutilation, contact the police.”

Translation: pester the police about law abiding people practicing their religion freely and ask them to harrass people are guilty of nothing but practicing a religion you don’t like.

“To protect your own animal companions from theft for animal sacrifices, keep them indoors, on leashes, or closely supervised. Black cats are especially vulnerable around Halloween, when people look for them to use in their “festivities.”

Watch out everybody those savage brown people will kidnap frufru and sacrifice him to satan! In other words they’re encouraging their followers to fear Hispanic and Black people.

“Unfortunately, ordinances that prohibit the killing or maiming of animals for ritualistic purposes can be ineffective.”

Translation: “sadly we can’t make it illegal for people to practice their religion freely and do what they like in the privacy of their own homes.” I think this shows the totalitarian viewpoint of animal rights nuts.

“If all else fails, you can visit or call your local newspapers or television stations and try to interest reporters in the story. A news story might force officials to act or might scare the person causing the abuse into stopping.”

Here PETA shows their lack of respect for a person’s privacy; they encourage intimidating people with the media to get them to stop practicing a religion they hate; puritanism is back and it wears a ‘fur is murder’ shirt. Of course all of this goes to show just how bigoted animal rights activists and people who whine about such practices are.

Anonymous said...

PETA is a joke, and always have been. It was just a few weeks ago that they threw a fit over seeing President Obama swat a fly - the most recent example in a long line of incidents of their stupidity.

dmarks said...

Rob: They did not place it very well (so it fell out), and left it by a trail in a park. Rather careless. Couldn't they have found a better place to do this?