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Shoshones join federal agency in opposing Arapahos on eagle kills

Dec 19, 2012 - By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

A federal agency and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe are urging a federal judge not to reconsider his recent ruling banning Northern Arapahos from killing bald eagles on the central Wyoming reservation the two tribes share.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted properly in prohibiting the Northern Arapaho Tribe from killing the birds on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Johnson's ruling in November said the Northern Arapahos could pursue further legal action by claiming the restriction against killing eagles violates their religious rights.

Earlier this year, the Fish and Wildlife Service granted the Northern Arapahos the nation's first permit allowing the killing of up to two mature bald eagles a year for use in the tribe's annual Sun Dance.

However, the tribe was stung by the federal agency's prohibition on using the permits on the reservation because of the Eastern Shoshones' concerns.

Noting that the state of Wyoming prohibits killing eagles off the reservation, the Northern Arapaho Tribe called the permits a sham and keeps pressing legal action against the federal agency.

In asking Johnson to reconsider his ruling, the tribe said he erred when he ruled that allowing the killing of eagles would burden the religious practices of the Shoshone.

The Northern Arapahos also argued that some Eastern Shoshones participate in Northern Arapaho religious practices in which eagles are used. It argued that opposition to using eagles "appears to represent only one religious faction within the Shoshone Tribe."

Andy Baldwin, a lawyer for the Northern Arapaho Tribe, declined comment.

Kimberly Varilek, attorney general of the Eastern Shoshones, stated in her brief to Johnson that the Northern Arapahos have mischaracterized her tribe's position, "as if USFWS conducted a random polling method of 'some' Eastern Shoshone Tribe members at the local gas station."

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Wind River Indian Reservation