TAHLEQUAH, Okla. —The Cherokee Nation announced today the tribe’s first hunting and fishing reserve areas dedicated to Cherokee citizens for controlled hunts to open later this year.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. introduced the Cherokee Nation Park and Wildlands, Fishing and Hunting Reserve Act of 2021 to the Council of the Cherokee Nation on Monday. It will be considered for approval by the Council's Rules Committee on Jan. 28.
The legislation establishes policy for the Cherokee Nation to acquire and manage lands for the beneficial use of Cherokee citizens, conservation of natural resources, and preservation of Cherokee culture and traditions.
Under the act, the tribe has allotted more than 4,000 acres of woodland in Sequoyah County, and acreage in Craig County as the first hunting and fishing preserves. In Adair County, space is also dedicated for cultural use.
“Providing the Cherokee people with hunting and fishing reserves is another way we can practice tradition as good stewards of our land by creating suitable, dedicated space for hunting food sources, utilizing the bountiful stock of fish in our waterways and providing more cultural use for our people,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.
Cherokee Nation Natural Resources will oversee the reserve areas. Future parcels of trust property are also being considered for hunting and fishing, cultural use or archery.
“Our citizens regularly ask where they can go to hunt and fish, and now these reserves will fill that void and put to use our citizens’ Cherokee Nation-issued hunting and fishing licenses,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “We envision some of this space can also serve for teaching workshops from time to time to those beginners or less-experienced hunters or fishermen.”
Tribal Councilors Daryl Legg and E.O. Smith of Sequoyah County joined Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha to tour some of the reserve lands on Monday.
“Providing more access to food sources and preserving our resources is extremely important,” Councilor Smith said.
“Anytime we can adopt land use for our tribe and provide more services and opportunities for our citizens is a win, and I’m glad to see a reserve area in my district,” said Councilor Legg of Sequoyah County.
Cherokee Nation will use the Sequoyah County property as a reserve and in part to mitigate COVID-19 by decreasing food insecurity through hunting and gathering opportunities, and providing opportunities to improve citizens’ wellbeing, including as an area for those who have been exposed to COVID-19 to self-quarantine, if necessary.
The Cherokee Nation already owned the Craig County and Adair County acreage. Chief Hoskin said Cherokee Nation will consult with the Shawnee tribe concerning the culturally appropriate use of the Craig County land because of the Shawnees' historic connection to the area.
Deer, squirrel, rabbit, turkey, dove, quail, waterfowl and fish are abundant in the reserve lands, along with mushrooms, wild onions, wild berries, hickory nuts, wild greens and more. The land is also abundant with resources vital to Cherokee cultural beliefs and practices.
Regulations for the reserve areas and a map of locations will be available online this spring under the Natural Resources tab on www.cherokee.org.