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Ahead of Earth Day, Cherokee Nation announces actions meant to protect traditional plants

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Cherokee Nation
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The Cherokee Nation Medicine Keepers teach traditional Cherokee medicine in this undated photo posted by the Nation on Oct. 11, 2021.

Two days ahead of Earth Day, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signed two documents meant to protect dozens of culturally significant plants and ensure Tribal citizens' rights to gather them.

At a signing ceremony Wednesday, Hoskin announced an executive order setting aside just under 1,000 acres of land in Adair County to be known as the Cherokee Nation Medicine Keepers Preserve, where he said dozens of plant species used in Cherokee traditional medicine can be found.

"This will ensure that for generations to come, in that 1,000-acre area, that these plants will continue to thrive, and that means we can hand down that knowledge for generations to come," Hoskin said.

Hoskin also announced a partnership between the Nation and the U.S. National Park Service to ensure Cherokee citizens are allowed to gather "culturally significant plants" within the Buffalo National River Park in northern Arkansas.

"They share with us these objectives of protecting the environment, with a particular attention towards those sacred plants that are sacred to the Cherokee people and the environment in which they grow," Hoskin said.

"We know at the National Park Service that many came before us as stewards of this land," said Mark Foust, superintendent of the Buffalo National River. "So our ability to partner with the Cherokee Nation and steward the land that you cared for and the medicine keepers know so well is truly our honor."

Hoskin said preserving the natural environment is a challenge not exclusive to Cherokee Nation.

"Modern pressures such as climate change threaten medicinal plants across our reservation as they do for Native peoples around the world," Hoskin said.

Cherokee Nation said the partnership between the Tribe and the National Park Service is the first of its kind in this region of the United States.