Members of the Cherokee Nation can now pick plants on national park lands | Smart News
Citizens of the Cherokee Nation will be able to harvest plants that have cultural and medicinal significance along the Buffalo National River in Arkansas under a new agreement with the National Park Service (NPS), reports Bill Bowden for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Under the agreement, signed Wednesday at a ceremony in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the NPS will issue the tribe an annual permit to collect 76 different plants within park boundaries. Cherokee Nation will in turn provide the NPS with the names of the citizens who will be picking the plants.
Wild indigo, river cane, wild onion, hickory, bloodroot and sage are among the species tribesmen can now pick at Buffalo National River, which was established in 1972 as a the country’s first national river. The Cherokee have long used these and other plants for food, crafts and traditional medicine, according to a statement from the tribe.
“Buffalo National Park is remarkably botanically diverse and contains a number of plants important to Cherokee culture,” Chad Harsha, the Cherokee Nation’s secretary of natural resources, told Molly Young, who covers Indigenous affairs. for the USA Today Network.
Although the plants are hard to find in Oklahoma, where the tribe is headquartered, they grow profusely along the Buffalo River just over 100 miles to the east, according to Chuck Hoskin Jr., senior chief of the Cherokee Nation, as reported by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
“Modern pressures such as climate change threaten medicinal plants on our reserve, as they do for indigenous peoples around the world,” Hoskin said during the signing ceremony. “It is important that the Cherokee Nation take steps to protect, in particular, medicinal plants, because knowledge of these plants is something rare these days.”
Removing plants from national parks is generally illegal, however, a rule created in 2016 allows park superintendents to enter into plant-gathering agreements with Native American tribes.
The Cherokee began arriving in the region along the Buffalo River in the Ozark Mountains in the early 18th century, when they began leaving their ancestral lands due to pressure from white settlers, according to Clint Carroll, an expert in ethnic studies at the University of Colorado. Boulder and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, who wrote about the agreement for the newspaper Park Stewardship Forum.
A group of Cherokee people known as “Old Settlers” chose to begin moving west of the Mississippi River in an effort to avoid conflict with white settlers and the federal government, per Carroll. Nevertheless, the federal government forcibly removed tens of thousands of Native Americans, including Cherokees, from their ancestral homeland in the southeastern United States in the early and mid-19th century.
In 1838 and 1839 federal soldiers wielding bayonets confined approximately 17,000 Cherokee to stockades, ransacked their homes, separated families and ultimately forced them to march more than 1,200 miles to what is today Oklahoma State today. Some 5,000 Cherokee died on the journey, which later became known as the Trail of Tears, from starvation, dysentery, typhus, whooping cough, cholera, and other causes.
Although federal officials initially promised Native Americans land they forced into Oklahoma Territory, they later went back on their word and opened the area up for settlement. In the early 1890s, tens of thousands of white settlers stormed into the territory to claim Cherokee lands.
Today, the Cherokee Nation is the largest Native American tribe in the United States, with over 390,000 citizens worldwide; approximately 141,000 Cherokee citizens live in northeastern Oklahoma within the tribe’s reservation boundaries.
Members of the Cherokee Nation began talks with Buffalo National River officials in 2014, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazetteand the two groups had planned to sign the deal in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic has delayed that progress.
Discussions first emerged from the 2008 formation of the Cherokee Nation Medicine Keepers, a group of elders who want to “revitalize earthly ways of life among young Cherokees with the hope that they will continue for generations to come. “, according to Carroll. For the same purpose, Cherokee Nation leaders also set aside nearly 1,000 acres of land in the reservation on Wednesday to help protect important plants. They named the strip of hardwood forest the “Medicine Keepers of the Cherokee Nation”.
“Many elders have pointed out that if people do not use the plants, the Creator will take them away,” Carroll wrote in the newspaper article.