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 allowing Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to hold grizzly bear hunts.

Government officials did not consult with them adequately and should have considered their religious and spiritual beliefs when making the decision, the tribes said

The tribes consider the grizzly sacred.

Ben Nuvamsa, a former chairman of Arizona's Hopi Tribe, said Thursday that the grizzly is both a deity and uncle to his clan.

He says he does not trust the states to prevent the bears' extinction through hunting.

U.S. Justice Department officials did not immediately respond to a phone message and email for comment.

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