March 26, 2019
Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) finalized a gathering agreement that allows the gathering of sochan (Rudbeckia laciniata) for traditional purposes by 36 permitted tribal members. Park Superintendent Cassius Cash and Principal Chief Richard Sneed were joined by tribal council members as they signed the historic agreement at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Monday, March 25.
“The signing of this agreement allows both governments to strike a better balance in honoring the rich Cherokee Indian traditions and also continuing to protect these very special resources for future generations,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash.
The park contains a rich abundance of consumable botanicals and fungi that continue to be an important component of Cherokee traditional diet and culture. The Cherokee have a well-defined history of sustainably harvesting edible plants through the application of traditional ecological knowledge. Through the Environmental Assessment process, managers determined there would be no significant impact resulting from sochan gathering by a limited number of permitted tribal members utilizing traditional gathering techniques.
EBCI will select up to 36 enrolled tribal members annually to participate in sochan gathering who must complete an annual, mandatory training class. These permittees may then gather a maximum of 1 bushel of sochan leaves per week following the traditional gathering techniques process beginning March 29 through May 31.
The park will monitor populations in harvest zones and non-harvest zones to assess sochan abundance, sochan population health, and incidental impacts of harvesting such as trampling. The park and EBCI will meet frequently throughout the gathering period to discuss monitoring results and adjust the terms of the agreement if necessary to limit any unforeseen impacts.
For more information about the agreement or the EA, please visit the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsm by following the link titled “Sochan Gathering for Traditional Purposes.”