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"But we understand," Rutledge said, "that there are religious decisions that are made here that may not be understandable to all, but are well within the rights of the people acting on them."
Matt Hogan, assistant regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver, said no other applications to kill bald eagles are pending. And Harjo emphasized the Northern Arapaho permit isn’t likely to unleash a flood of applications from other tribes.
"This isn’t a wholesale run on the bald eagle that would drive them back into an endangered or threatened position," Harjo said. She emphasized that only a few tribes have intact ceremonies involving eagles and said that only a few individuals within those tribes have a religious need to kill wild birds.
On the Wind River Indian Reservation, the Northern Arapaho are preparing for spring. Nelson White, a tribal elder, said his people are listening for this year’s first clap of thunder.
"That thunder represents the eagle hollering," White said. "And when that happens, that’s when everything is waking up. The grass is coming back up, the birds are coming back, the plants and animals that were in hibernation are coming out. It’s a new beginning.
"So in essence, with this decision," White said, "with this you might say victory, we say ‘ho’hou,’ — ‘thank you.’ "
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