Forest ThreatNet

Volume 13, Issue 1 - spring 2020

Eastern Band of Cherokee begin plant gathering in national park based on Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Sochan_EBCIOn March 25th, 2019, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) signed a historic agreement with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, allowing community members to harvest the edible spring green, sochan (Rudbeckia laciniata), within the park.  The agreement is one of the first of its kind in the nation, and is supported by research demonstrating that traditionally harvesting the young leaves of sochan at moderate rates does not harm plants; instead it stimulates more vigorous growth and leads to increased flower and seed production. In order to communicate the traditional ecological knowledge and sustainability of plant gathering practices necessary for the agreement, the EBCI has been partnering with scientists, including Threat Center biologist Michelle Baumflek. Dr. Baumflek conducted interviews with community members about sochan harvesting, and contributed to the development and testing of a sochan monitoring protocol and to the identification of potential gathering sites within the park. Research conducted in partnership with tribes on the multiple dimensions of sustainable harvesting is integral as federal agencies begin to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) into management decisions. Related press coverage:  Great Smokies approves historic sochan collecting agreement with Eastern Band of Cherokee

Pictured: Green-headed coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), also known as sochan, is an important edible spring green for members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. A new agreement with Great Smoky Mountains National Park will allow permit-holding community members to harvest the plants. Photo by Stephanie Brundage, Courtesy of Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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