UC Law Constitutional Quarterly


The use of eagles and eagle parts, such as feathers and bones, are essential to Native American religious practices. The federal government has sought to protect American eagles through various mechanisms due to their endangered status. Under one such mechanism, Native Americans must undergo a lengthy and intricate permit process to receive eagles and eagle parts for use in religious ceremonies. Oftentimes, eagles and eagle parts are only released after periods and long as five years. Furthermore, when the needed eagles and eagle parts do arrive, they are often unfit for ceremonial use.

This Article addresses current problems with the federal eagle permit system, exploring various challenges to the federal scheme. Such challenges include relying on the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and the Federal Indian Trust Doctrine. The author concludes by arguing that Congress should revise the current eagle permit system or pass new legislation so that Native American religious practices are protected.