Assisting the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama
For hundreds of years, Cherokee Tribal members have had a presence in northern Alabama. However, starting in the 1700s, colonial settlers increasingly moved into their territory and competed with them for land and other resources. Eventually, an official national policy of forced relocation of Native Americans from their homelands in the southeastern United States pushed many Cherokee from their ancestral lands to the Midwest, primarily Oklahoma. Nevertheless, some Cherokee chose to remain, even though this meant being subjected to harassment and discrimination.
In 2000, the Echota Cherokee Tribe purchased land in the mountains of northern Alabama with donations from Tribal members and a $15,000 grant from United Airlines. The Echota then turned to the Alabama Mountains, Rivers, and Valleys RC&D Council to help them develop plans to reestablish their community education facilities and then turn those plans into reality. In 2001, the Echota opened a dialogue with the RC&D Council, which helped them visualize how they could make their dreams of deepening their connection to their heritage a reality.
Through a series of meetings, a multi‐point project developed. The key elements of the project included:
• Land purchase funded by the Echota Cherokee tribe and a United Airlines grant • Office trailer purchase funded by the Alabama Historical Commission and Echota Cherokee tribe • Cultural Trail developed by the RC&D Council and the Echota Cherokee
A bluff trail was mapped out featuring native plants and bluff shelters that identify native plants used by the Cherokee in everyday life for medicinal, cultural, ritual, spiritual, and nutritional uses. The RC&D Council and the tribe jointly funded the trail construction and provided technical assistance in plant identification.
• Teaching station design and construction Stations were strategically located to provide scenic vistas where Native American culture can be taught. The RC&D Council and Echota tribe funded the stations.
• Establishment of a Cherokee Maize Garden The RC&D Council located a source of Native American maize in Georgia that provided seed for the garden.
• 1800s Cherokee house purchase and reconstruction The tribe located an authentic Cherokee 1800’s log cabin, and the RC&D Council assisted the tribe with funding to move and reconstruct the cabin on the purchased land.
• Restroom Facilities As the land use on the Echota land increased, the need for sanitary restroom facilities grew. The RC&D Council provided a grant that facilitated the construction of facilities.
• Construction of a pavilion and tribal office For all‐weather Pow Wows and teaching and to allow for a headquarters building, the RC&D Council provided a grant to construct a pavilion.
Total Project Value:
The total cost of the improvements to date, including all sources: $105,700
Expenses were roughly shared between the Echota Cherokee and the RC&D Council.
With the involvement of the Alabama Mountains, Rivers, and Valleys RC&D Council, the Echota Cherokee have been able to redevelop their homeland in the mountains of northern Alabama. Tribal members now take greater pride in and ownership of their ancestral land, which features a Tribal office and headquarters, expanded restroom facilities, pavilion, nature teaching stations, and trails. This has enabled Tribal members and the general public to reconnect with the plants, rocks, wildlife, and folklore of the Echota Cherokee’s native land. The Tribe plans to hold Pow Wows and other ceremonial events on the land in the future.
One of the greatest accomplishments of the project is its use of land and facilities to teach Native American youth about their cultural heritage and their connection to the land. Youth were involved in all stages of the project, particularly trail construction and other infrastructure improvements.
Echota Cherokee Tribe Alabama Mountains, Rivers, and Valleys RC&D Council USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Field Office Personnel Cullman County Soil and Water Conservation District Cullman County Chamber of Commerce Alabama Indian Affairs Alabama Historical Commission
For more information about Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Councils and their work with Native American Tribes, contact the National Association of RC&D Councils: Phone: (202) 434‐4780 Fax: (202) 434‐4783
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org We are also on the internet at www.rcdnet.org