Tribal Relations

Lands now managed as national forests within the USDA Forest Service Eastern Region (9) are ancestral homelands for a large number of tribes removed to Oklahoma during the 19th century. The distance between the eastern region’s national forest and the tribes makes government-to-government relationships and fulfilling Forest Service (FS) trust responsibility a challenge.

However, since we do recognize the importance of trust responsibility and the value of collaborative land management, we made an investment over the past four years to build a solid foundation for truly meaningful and heart-felt interactions. The Workgroup of the Eastern Region tribal liaisons and tribal officials and leaders was created and is now sustained to build relationships between eastern forests and tribes that were removed from these ancestral homelands.

Through annual meetings in the east and quarterly conference calls, the workgroup has fostered communication and cooperation, and created a shared vision of the future. The meetings served as forums to explore such disparate topics as vandalism to heritage resources, theft of pre-contact human remains, usurpation of tribal culture and tribal sovereignty.

The group has an exemplary level of shared trust. We have become more than colleagues or partners- we have become friends. This relationship builds and fosters a solid foundation on which to work together, even as the composition of the workgroup changes.

Some of the benefits/products derived from the interactions include

  • Providing career and educational opportunities in the fields of cultural and natural resource management for tribal youth through camps and tribal conservation corps
  • Execution of three regional Memorandum of Understanding to address reburial of tribal ancestors on National Forest System lands within the region
  • Active participation in the annual To Bridge a Gap conference as planners, and paper and poster presenters
  • Paraprofessional heritage resource training for tribal members who work alongside FS employees and volunteers creating excelling opportunities for cultural exchange
  • Tribal partner assistance to design a public education exhibit
  • Enhancement projects related to the Cherokee Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
  • The renewal of tribal expression through use of forest products for manufacture of traditional lacrosse sticks.

Among the tribes of the Workgroup of the Eastern Region include: 

  • Delaware Nation
  • Delaware Tribe of Indiana
  • Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Miami Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Osage Nation
  • Ottawa
  • Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Seneca-Cayuga Nation
  • Shawnee Tribe