The tribe is also setting aside 1,000 acres in Oklahoma for the Cherokee Nation Medicine Keepers Preserve.
The Cherokee Nation signed an agreement Wednesday with the National Park Service to allow Cherokee citizens to gather plants within the Buffalo National River Park in Arkansas for traditional use. The agreement is the first between the two entities and the first of its kind in the region between a tribe and the National Park Service, according to a press release.
“This area has a vibrant history of helping sustain our Cherokee people with food, the cane and bushes for our Cherokee crafts, and leaves and roots for traditional medicine,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “The Cherokee Nation has worked on this partnership agreement before COVID-19 to have these dedicated resources available again which allows the National Park Service to honor the U.S. trust responsibility to our tribes.”
Cherokee Nation citizens will be able to gather 76 different plants including river cane, bloodroot, sage and hickory for traditional purposes in certain areas of the Buffalo National park including the Lost Valley, Tyler Bend, Buffalo Point and Rush areas. Under the agreement, the tribe will create a process for citizens to register on the tribe’s Gadugi Portal, and will submit names to NPS, with Cherokee Nation keeping a report of the gathering.
“It is an honor for the National Park Service to enter into this agreement with the Cherokee Nation,” said Mark Foust, National Park Service Superintendent at Buffalo National River. “This is an important step in the continuing efforts to embrace our tribal partners in the management of public lands at Buffalo National River. The Cherokee Nation offers invaluable information, ecological knowledge and a unique perspective that will lead to a better understanding of the benefits of public land.”
The Cherokee Nation also announced Wednesday the tribe is dedicating nearly 1,000 acres of land inside the reservation to protect culturally significant plants. The executive order designates pristine deciduous forest located near the Bell community of Adair County as the Cherokee Nation Medicine Keepers Preserve.
The property is among the most botanically diverse tribal lands within the Cherokee Nation Reservation, according to officials. The order marks the land as protected conservation lands for traditional gathering and cultural activities as designated under the Cherokee Nation Park, Wildlands, Fishing and Hunting Preserve Act.
The Cherokee Medicine Keepers are a group of fluent, Cherokee-speaking elders whose mission is to protect and perpetuate traditional Cherokee knowledge within the Cherokee Nation Reservation, Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.
“Having dedicated acreage to protect Cherokee environmental knowledge for current and future generations is something we as a tribe must commit to, as our tribe and Medicine Keepers recognize that Cherokee traditions are uniquely tied to the land and natural resources,” he said. “This order signed today acknowledges that the current generation of Medicine Keepers hold important traditional knowledge and it needs to be revitalized, protected and shared with younger Cherokees.”