- BY CHAD HUNTER Reporter
- Mar 3, 2021 Updated Mar 3, 2021
The Cherokee Nation recently purchased more than 4,000 acres in Sequoyah County for its first hunting and fishing preserve, seen March 1.
- JOSH FOURKILLER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh, left, and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner talk March 1 at the site of the Cherokee Nation’s first hunting and fishing preserve in Sequoyah County.
- CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
As Cherokee Nation leaders look on, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. prepares to sign the Park and Wildlands, Fishing and Hunting Reserve Act of 2021 on March 1 in Sequoyah County.
- CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
SEQUOYAH COUNTY – On a breezy afternoon in Sequoyah County, tribal leaders gathered at a newly purchased swath of countryside as Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signed into law the Park and Wildlands, Fishing and Hunting Reserve Act of 2021.
The heavily wooded, 4,300-acre site is the tribe’s first preserve under the new act.https://www.youtube.com/embed/HjPZyFIIG4w?enablejsapi=1&origin=https://www.cherokeephoenix.org
“This is a big and beautiful place. This legislation is even bigger,” Hoskin said March 1. “This is the beginning of a new era in the Cherokee Nation of conservation of our lands, of setting aside lands to use for the Cherokee people for hunting, for fishing, for gathering. This is only the beginning, this 4,000-acre tract.”
Backed by the Tribal Council, the act establishes policy for preserve lands. The goal, Hoskin said, was “to do something more than just acquire land, but to manage it in a way that creates hunting preserves, fishing preserves and wildlands for gathering traditional medicines and engaging in traditional practices.”
“We also have an opportunity to construct some cabins here as we continue to deal with the pandemic,” he added. “So getting people a place to isolate in Sequoyah County – as we’re looking across the reservation to do – is important. But long term, this legislation is really about managing our lands in a way that can benefit the Cherokee people the most.”
The first tract of land in Sequoyah County should be available to CN citizens within a few months, said tribal officials.
“This property is around 4,300 acres of pristine hunting and fishing preserve land,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha, who will oversee the program.
CN leaders said the sprawling property is home to deer, squirrel, rabbit, turkey, dove, quail, waterfowl and fish, along with mushrooms, wild onions, wild berries, hickory nuts, wild greens and more.
“It’s been used for hunting for a number of years,” Hoskin said. “This body of water behind me is an impounded creek that’s created just a wonderful place for fishing and recreation.”
Regulations and a map are expected to be available this spring under the Natural Resources tab at cherokee.org.
“When we open this to our citizens, people will best be able to find it by going to Akins, to the Akins store off Highway 101,” Hoskin said. “It’s just a short drive off that highway. We’ll make sure on our website that information about accessing this park is made available.”https://cbc47685d864261b810bb9b4aa4af7b4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Future tracts of trust property are also being considered for hunting and fishing, cultural use or archery.
“We’ve actually identified some other parcels that we already owned that will be designated as hunting and fishing preserves under this act,” Hoskin said. “One is in Adair County. The other is in Craig County.”
Harsha sees the program as a way to “enhance and expand” outdoor activities and recreation for Cherokees.
“It also is a unique opportunity to provide conservation and protect traditional practices for Cherokee citizens,” he said. “This is the first step of many.”