GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, N.C. — Enrolled members of the Cherokee Tribe will soon be able to gather a traditional plant in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, WLOS reports.
It’s a historic agreement. “A first not only in Indian country, but also a first in the nation,” said Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Richard Sneed.
“Select members of the Tribe to harvest a plant that we call sochan,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash.
Sneed and Cash signed a pact Monday allowing sochan gathering for a select number of Tribal members, a food source much like spinach that the Cherokee have consumed for thousands of years.
Federal regulations prohibit removing plants from national parks for preservation and conservation reasons. But a Park Service modification a couple years ago, allows federally-recognized tribes to seek an agreement to gather plants from the parks for traditional purposes if an environment assessment finds no significant impacts. The Eastern Band completed that process for sochan.
“To connect our people to this landscape where you're going to have the freshest source of sochan, it means the world,” said Cherokee Secretary of Agriculture Joey Owle.