By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The National Park Service (NPS) is making a lot of ramp gatherers in Cherokee happy. Due to a change in NPS regulations, announced on Wednesday, June 29, members of federally-recognized American Indian tribes will be able to perform traditional gathering of plants in National Parks that encompass their traditional territory.
“We are pleased that the federal government recognizes the culturally-significant and sustainable methods of gathering pioneered by the Cherokee people for thousands of years,” said Principal Chief Patrick Lambert. “The gathering of native plants and medicines is an important piece of our culture and is still practiced by many Cherokee today. That is why this rule is so important to me and the people of the Eastern Band.”
Chief Lambert met with President Obama in February, and this rule was one of the topics discussed. “I want to give my appreciation to President Obama for his commitment to me that solving this problem would be done this year. Also, we are remembering that this was a team effort and was made possible by many folks advocating over the years. Tribal Council had an important role to play in all of this, and I am very thankful for their work.”
The Office of the Principal Chief related that the next step in the process locally will be for Chief Lambert to meet with Cassius Cash, Great Smoky Mountains National Park superintendent, “and discuss areas of harvest and methods of enforcement”. It was related to the One Feather that this meeting will occur in the very near future.
Cash told the One Feather, “We look forward to working with the Tribe to both honor Cherokee Indian traditions and also carry out our agency’s mission to protect these very special resources for future generations. I truly believe that we can achieve both of these goals by working together.”
He went on to say, “I cannot think of a better opportunity for our new administrations to move forward on than this new plant gathering regulation.”
Jonathan B. Jarvis, NPS director, said in a statement on June 29, “The changes to the gathering rule support continuation of unique cultural traditions of American Indians and support the mission of the National Park Service. This also respects tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the tribes.”
He visited Cherokee six years ago for a Tribal Consultation Meeting with EBCI tribal leaders. During the meeting, traditional gathering of plants was discussed and Director Jarvis expressed his support for changing the rule which he stated was “just wrong”.
The 55-page rule reads in part, “The National Park Service is establishing a management framework to allow the gathering and removal of plants or plant parts by enrolled members of federally-recognized Indian tribes for traditional purposes. The rule authorizes agreements between the National Park Service and federally-recognized tribes that will facilitate the continuation of tribal cultural practices on lands within areas of the National Park System where those practices traditionally occurred, without causing a significant adverse impact to park resources or values.”