The Cherokee Nation may collect sacred plants within the national park

For generations, the Cherokee have collected plants along the Buffalo River in Arkansas. Flora could be used to make a wide variety of things: blowguns, baskets, medicines, and even ganatsi, hickory nut soup.

Then, in 1972, the National Park Service captured the river and banned the export of plants without the permission of the authorities.

The move cut off valuable supplies of river cane, cinquefoil, sage, and other plants hard to find on the Cherokee reservation in northeast Oklahoma, on the Arkansas border.

Last week, about 50 years after the river became federal land, the Cherokee received official permission to collect these plants, as some of their ancestors did, thanks to an agreement between the tribe and the National Park Service.

The agreement, which was signed last week, allows Cherokee citizens to collect 76 plant species along the river that are important to the tribe. Cherokee Nation.

“This is an action that will continue for generations,” said Chad Harsha, tribal secretary of natural resources, on signing ceremony 20 April.

The agreement will be valid for five years and may be extended. A National Park Service employee came up with the idea for such an agreement around 2014 and worked with researchers at the University of Arizona to propose a Cherokee agreement, said Clint Carroll, a Cherokee citizen and professor of ethnic studies at the university. from Colorado Boulder.

Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, spokeswoman for the National Park Service, said the Cherokee agreement with the agency to collect plants along the current Buffalo River has been “in effect” since November 2019, but the signing ceremony only took place last week because of delays caused by the pandemic.

According to Jennifer Tolken-Spaulding, the agency’s cultural anthropologist, this is the third such agreement the agency has signed with the tribe.

The first one was between Tohono O’odham Nation and Saguaro National Park in Arizona in 2018 and the second was in 2019 with Eastern Cherokee Band and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The agreement undoes several centuries of mistreatment of the Cherokee by the United States, which Chuck Hoskin Jr., Chief Chief of the Cherokee Nation, said at the signing ceremony, threatens the tribe’s language and culture.

In the late 1830s, the Cherokee were forced, along with four other tribes in the southeast, to move west along what is now the Trail of Tears. National Park Service and Cherokee Nation.

Over 4,000 Cherokee members died during the move, according to the Cherokee Nation. But some of the survivors settled along the Buffalo River for a while before eventually ending up on the reservation, said Julie Hubbard, spokeswoman for the Cherokee Nation. The reservation is about three hours from the Buffalo National River in Arkansas, she said.

The Cherokee are one of the largest tribes in the country, numbering over 140,000 citizens living on the reservation.

Under the new agreement, Cherokee citizens can collect plants along the river if they register with the tribe, which then notifies the National Park Service, Mr. Harsha said.

According to Chief Hoskin, the plants are sacred to the Cherokee and allow the tribe to keep in touch with their land. According to Dr. Carroll, professor of ethnic studies in Colorado, they are harvested by city dwellers in small quantities that are sustainable for the land in which they grow.

National parks often have more plants than reserves, which are more susceptible to land development and rising temperatures, he says.

According to Dr. Carroll, the Cherokee closely guard the methods they use to turn plants into medicines, supplies, or food because these methods are used and ridiculed by outsiders.

According to Dr. Carroll, the Oklahoma reservation is not the original homeland of the Cherokee, but the tribe has developed a connection with the land over the past two centuries.

The agreement ensures that future generations can learn the secrets of sacred plants, which Dr. Carroll says is more important than ever because “with climate change, plants are not guaranteed.”