The right to be outdoors, to hunt and fish, and to enjoy the land and waters will be easier for Cherokees in the future. Through the Cherokee Nation Park and Wildlands, Fishing and Hunting Reserve Act of 2021, we will dedicate more than 6,100 acres in Sequoyah, Adair and Craig Counties as Cherokee Nation’s first hunting and fishing reserves.
The new legislation establishes policies for Cherokee Nation to acquire and manage lands within the reservation for the benefit of all Cherokees. These lands will be protected in perpetuity as thriving habitats for fish and wildlife, as well as providing hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife observation and other recreational uses.
Under the act, the tribe has designated four new reserves:
The Cherokee Nation Sequoyah Hunting Preserve is almost 4,400 acres of tribal fee property in Sequoyah County. This wilderness land will be accessible for hunting, fishing, and traditional outdoor activities. In this time when we are all struggling with the COVID-19 epidemic, the new preserve can help to reduce food insecurity through hunting and gathering opportunities. We also plan to create locations in the preserve where citizens can safely spend the day in nature, isolated and self-quarantined.
The Cherokee Nation Sallisaw Creek Park is about 800 acres of tribal trust land in Sequoyah County. It is a partially developed public park that can be used for hunting, fishing, camping and other recreational purposes.
The Cherokee Nation Shawnee Preserve is 155 acres in Craig County. This wilderness land is currently used for hunting and traditional outdoor activities. The Cherokee Nation will consult with the Shawnee Tribe concerning the culturally appropriate use of the Shawnee Preserve because of the Shawnees' historic connection to the area.
Cherokee Nation’s Medicine Keepers Preserve is 810 acres of tribal property in Adair County which will be used for traditional and medicinal plant gathering and Cherokee cultural activities. This property will be set aside for traditional cultural use by the Medicine Keepers program, with restricted access to the public.
Protecting these hunting and fishing reserves is a way to live out our values of responsible conservation of precious wildlands and natural resources. We can also introduce more citizens to Cherokee cultural traditions, including knowledge about and uses of wild medicinal plants. 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.
Cherokee Nation’s Secretary of Natural Resources will oversee the reserve areas, and additional parcels of trust property are being considered for reserves in the future. We anticipate opening the reserves to Cherokee citizens for controlled hunts later this year. Down the road, some of this space could host teaching workshops for beginning hunters and fishermen. This spring, official regulations for the reserve areas and a map of all locations will be available from Cherokee Nation’s Natural Resources Department.
Our citizens regularly ask where they can go to hunt and fish. We believe these reserves will fill that void and allow Cherokee Nation-issued hunting and fishing licenses to be used in full. As good stewards of these lands, we will preserve an essential part of the Cherokee way of life for those who come after us.
Chuck Hoskin Jr.