Native Americans say grizzly bear decision violates religion

Source: Associated Press

By MATT VOLZ

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Native American tribes, clans and leaders from seven states and Canada say the U.S. government’s recent decision to lift protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park area violates their religious freedom.

They are suing to block the government from removing Yellowstone grizzlies from the endangered and threatened species list, which would allow Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to hold grizzly bear hunts.

The Native American plaintiffs argue that trophy hunting for grizzly bears goes against their religious and spiritual beliefs. The lawsuit filed June 30 asks a federal judge to rule that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must consider the Native Americans’ beliefs and consult adequately with them before removing grizzly protections that have been in place since 1975.

“He is our relative. For us Bear Clan members, he is our uncle,” Ben Nuvamsa, a former chairman of the Hopi Tribe in Arizona, said Wednesday. “If that bear is removed, that does impact our ceremonies in that there would not be a being, a religious icon that we would know and recognize.”

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