Lynne Harlan: Eastern Cherokees fight for culture
"This week, several members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians faced federal charges for poaching plants in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They were not the first tribal members to face such charges and most likely they won't be the last.

For several years now, tribal members have been prohibited from gathering natural resources in the National Park through an administrative decision made by park officials. Park officials believe their mandate is to protect the flora and fauna of the park supersede regardless of any other requests for use.

Our people joined other park communities in helping to create the National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our tribe gave lands, joined in the celebration of the creation of the park and through the years has worked with park on issues of importance to both our interests.

Our tribe has also worked to resolve the issue of prohibition of access to natural resources through consultation. These efforts have been met with resistance.

I believe our people have the right to exist as a distinct culture and nation. As a distinct culture, we have the responsibility to continue our cultural traditions through their practice.

The prohibition against gathering natural resources is contrary to the continuation of our cultural traditions. The disenfranchisement of our people from the land has been ongoing and has resulted in a tremendous loss of cultural knowledge."

Get the Story:
Lynne Harlan: Cultural rights as human rights (The Asheville Citizen-Times 11/27)

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