By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians may soon be able to legally gather ramps in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park again.
The National Park Service (NPS) is currently seeking comment on proposed regulations that would “allow members of federally recognized Indian tribes with traditional associations to areas within specific units of the National Park System to gather and remove plants or plant parts for traditional purposes.” The NPS comment period on the proposed changes to “36 CFR Part 2, Gathering of Certain Plants or Parts by Federally Recognized Indian Tribes for Traditional Purposes” will go until Monday, July 20.
The Tribal Council met with Cassius Cash, the new superintendent for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Council Chambers on Thursday, April 30. Chairperson Terri Henry said the meeting went very well and that the gathering of traditional plants was one of many topics discussed.
“We are encouraged with our first official meeting with new Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash and his new Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan to discuss issues of importance to the Tribe,” said Chairperson Henry. “On our list is gathering of plants, roads, uses of a field above the school, among other issues.”
She added, “Tribal leadership has been working on these issues for many years. One point of frustration for us has been the revolving door of Park leadership. Now that Superintendent Cash and his management team are in place, I look forward to a positive collaborative relationship with him. The EBCI will be submitting formal comments in response to the Federal Regulation recently issued.”
NPS director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a statement on Friday, April 17, “The proposed rule respects tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the tribes. It also supports the mission of the National Park Service and the continuation of unique cultural traditions of American Indians.”
Jarvis visited Cherokee in 2010 and spoke with various tribal leaders and community members to hear concerns on the issue. “It became a mission of mine to fix this,” he said in a tribal consultation meeting at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center on July 16, 2010. “Now, that I’m director, I’m in a position to fix it.”
He told the crowd at the 2010 meeting that it frustrated him that the process of fixing the regulation has taken in excess of 19 years (15 during the time of the meeting). “You (EBCI) should never have been subjected to that. That’s why we’re on the path to fix this so that the regulation will be changed.”
There are currently eight NPS units where Congress has officially authorized tribal plant gathering including: Everglades National Park, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Organ Pipe National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, El Malpais National Monument, and Death Valley National Park.
According to information from NPS, “Comments on the proposed rule should reference the National Park Service and Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1024-AD84, and can be submitted online through the Federal Rulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov, which provides instructions for submitting comments; or by mail to: National Park Service, Joe Watkins, Office of Tribal Relations and American Cultures, 1201 Eye Street NW, Washington, DC 20005.”