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Cherokee Nation to open hunting, fishing reserves for its tribal members in Oklahoma

Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha and Tribal Councilors Daryl Legg and E.O. Smith tour a new hunting and fishing reserve area for tribal members in Sequoyah County on Monday. [PHOTO PROVIDED]
Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha and Tribal Councilors Daryl Legg and E.O. Smith tour a new hunting and fishing reserve area for tribal members in Sequoyah County on Monday. [PHOTO PROVIDED]

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma will open the tribe’s first hunting and fishing reserves for its citizens later this year.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. introduced the Cherokee Nation Park and Wildlands, Fishing and Hunting Reserve Act of 2021 to the Council of the Cherokee Nation on Monday. It will be considered for approval by the Council's Rules Committee on Jan. 28, according to a news release from the Cherokee Nation.

The legislation establishes policy for the Cherokee Nation to acquire and manage lands for the beneficial use of Cherokee citizens, conservation of natural resources, and preservation of Cherokee culture and traditions.

The tribe has allotted more than 4,000 acres of woodland in Sequoyah County, and acreage in Craig County as the first hunting and fishing reserves. In Adair County, space is also dedicated for cultural use.

"Under the act, the reserves will be set aside for use by Cherokee citizens and families to engage in hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation," stated Chad Harsha, secretary of natural resources for the Cherokee Nation, in an email to The Oklahoman.

"We are also in the process of developing regulations for land management, which will include controlled hunts and likely a draw system to ensure conservation of wildlife on Tribal lands. As for now, hunting and fishing in the designated reserves will coincide with Oklahoma bag limits and season dates, in accordance with our existing hunting and fishing compact with the State of Oklahoma."

Future parcels of trust property are also being considered for hunting and fishing, cultural use or archery.

“Our citizens regularly ask where they can go to hunt and fish, and now these reserves will fill that void and put to use our citizens’ Cherokee Nation-issued hunting and fishing licenses,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “We envision some of this space can also serve for teaching workshops from time to time to those beginners or less-experienced hunters or fishermen.”

The Cherokee Nation and the state of Oklahoma renewed its hunting and fishing compact for 2021, which gives the the Cherokee Nation the right to issue hunting and fishing licenses free of charge to its citizens. In return, the tribe pays the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation $2 for each license.

Cherokee Nation citizens also will receive a single universal deer tag and a single turkey tag per calendar year. Under the compact, the Cherokee Nation will buy up to 150,000 licenses.

The Cherokee Nation also will use the Sequoyah County property as a reserve and in part to mitigate COVID-19 by decreasing food insecurity through hunting and gathering opportunities, including becoming an area for those who have been exposed to COVID-19 to self-quarantine, if necessary.

"Providing more access to food sources and preserving our resources is extremely important,” said E.O. Smith, Cherokee Tribal Councilor of Sequoyah County.

Deer, squirrel, rabbit, turkey, dove, quail, waterfowl and fish are abundant in the reserve lands, along with mushrooms, wild onions, wild berries, hickory nuts, wild greens and more. The land is also abundant with resources vital to Cherokee cultural beliefs and practices, according to the Cherokee Nation's news release.

Regulations for the reserve areas and a map of locations will be available online this spring under the Natural Resources tab on www.cherokee.org.

Reporter Ed Godfrey looks for stories that impact your life. Be it news, outdoors, sports — you name it, he wants to report it. Have a story idea? Contact him at egodfrey@oklahoman.com or on Twitter @EdGodfrey. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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