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Native American Lands - Great Treasures - East Coast?

I have had the privilege to be granted access to hike and camp on Native American lands, most recently prior to the pandemic in September 2019, to the Havasupai Indian Reservation in the western Grand Canyon.Havasu Falls (Supai)Havasu Falls (Supai)

Some of the most breathtaking landscapes can be found in this less traveled area. 

Mooney Falls (super)Mooney Falls (super)Beaver Falls (Supai)Beaver Falls (Supai)

I am interested in learning of other areas where hiking and camping is allowed. Any suggestions on the East Coast. Cherokee, NC?

12 Replies

I beelieve you will find Native American lands in the eastern US to be rather scarce, scenic or otherwise.  The displacement of the Cherokee to Oklahoma in the 19th century from their eastern territory is an unfortunate but typical example.

Western groups were generally more fortunate.  Monument Valley, within the holdings of the Navajo Nation, is a spectacular example of scenic beauty, as is Canyon de Chelly, both a National Monument and Navajo land, still used by the local population in accord with traditional practices.

Consider also the Black hills of South Dakota, given as part of a reservation to the Sioux in a treaty sign by the trie in 1868, but never ratified by the Senate.  Hence when gold was discovered therein in 1872, the Black Hills were opened to mining exploration and settlement.  The issue is still unsettled and the Sioux relatively recently rejected a multi million dollar settlement proffered by the US.  So you might consider the Black Hills to be quasi-Native American land.  Certainly scenic and beautiful.

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Thanks for the reply. I have been fortunate to travel in Monument Valley and interact with the Navajo people. A beautiful land.

Although you reference the displacement of Cherokee to Oklahoma in the 19th century, there is the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, a sovereign nation, with over 15,000 enrolled members in western North Carolina. Located to the eastern (NC) part of the Great Smokey Mountains NP. I plan to visit in the next month or two.

I Am the Grand Canyon, is a great book about the origins of the Havasupai people dating back 22,000 years ago, their history and their fight to reclaim their tribal lands. The Havasupai are a small, but proud tribe of 730 members.  

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Recall that tribal lands are sovereign, with different rules and customs than the rest of the United States. For example, many reservations and tribes do not allow recreation on their lands unless you are visiting with another tribal member.

If you have not traveled in foreign lands, it can take a bit to get used to accepting that things are just going to be different there. It can take a bit to show the respect deserved to people living in foreign lands with habits that are very different than ours.

Peoples from these ancient cultures can often be quite wary of folks based in our current culture. It can be very uncomfortable to be seen as an object of study or just someone's photograph of what they perceived a people and a place to be.

Please show caution and respect when traversing lands and cultures unfamiliar to yourself. Good luck.

Solace Easy's admonitions are very good, but there is immense variation  - some groups embrace tourism.   For instance, California is awash in Native American casinos.  Some years ago, members of one tribal grou = man, woman, and child, received a payment of $50,000 each as their share of the revenues.  This is not typical for all Native Americans, but there are pockets of prosperity.

I know andhave worked with one NA, enrolled at UCLA in their doctoral program in anthropology, speecializing in archaeology.  I am confident he will do well.

The nice thing about removal projects is that they are not perfect.  There are always those who, one way or another, evade.  The same thing happened with the Navajo on their long Walk in the 1860's, although the tribe later returned to their homeland

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Many tribes with casinos choose not to allow any recreation outside of the developed casino area.

Thanks for mentioning your one friend with a tribal alliance.

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I'm pretty sure I have more than one, but this is the only one in graduate school that I know of.  More and more Native Americans are securing decent educations and contributing significantly.

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Good thing they got off the res? I'm finding it very hard to read your tone correctly. Seems like there is a perspective difference.

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that's  good!  I am trying to be fairly objective and neutral, but my feelings about Native Americans are quite positive.  During my career, I worked in northern Arizona, primarily in Navajo and Hope country and latterin SoCal, principally dealing with Chumash.  For seven years, I and my Navajo crews stabilized pueblo ruins and conducted a major excavation in Canyon de Chelly.  These guys were conscientious workers, good craftsmen, resourceful, adaptable, and resilient.

One example:  In summer, 1968, we finished a project at Fort Bowie National historic Site and moved to Gila Cliff Dwelling NM to fix the ruins there.  on our arrival, we were informed that there were several fires burning in the Gila Wilderness - would our crew be availale?  That's a no-brainer- fire suppression is a higher priority than fixing ruins.  I just mentioned that my crew were paid a higher rate than the usual fire crew and we lined up, I and the crew foreman graciously taking the back of the line.  My guys got on the helicopter, two by two, and off they went - unknown destination, unknown duration, fire rations for survival.  When they got to Cecil and me, w were told that all the fires were manned and our services weren't necessary.

Later the next day or so, the firs were extinguished and the guys retuned, having earned generous OT.

The situation at Channel Ilands was quite different.   Only a small reeservation, contrasted with the sprawling lands held by the Navajo Nation, but a fairly large population holding to their heritage, living amidst the general population.  Different times and a different legal situation with legislation giving enhanced rights to native groups with respect to burials and ceremonial objects.

To make a long story short, I wound up testifying in court against a grave robber the NPS had nabbed.  Many Chumash ere present during my testimony and very appreciative of our work.  Later, in retirement, I accompanied thee Chumash grad student mentioned earlier and a tribal elder to look at a recently exposed burial.  Was it the one i had seen in 1982, insturmental in coming to the park?  As we finished, the elder wished to burn sage as an offering. Who had a light?  Just me, always the prepared Ranger!  We lit the sage and offered blessings...

I could go on and on.  Not every single contact with NAs is always positive - individuals are all different and situations vary, but my life time experiences are overwhelmingly positive.

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I have done a lot of research/hiking/exploring in the land of the Cherokee. We have located the Fort locations where they organized the “Trail of Tears”. The night before the trip out west the Cherokee Tribes hid all their treasures in caves that are booby trapped. This was organized by a Settler in NW Georgia. In one case the Chief was too old to travel out west and was buried alive in his Tribes cave. A lot of the Cherokee returned and reclaimed their treasure after the Settlers stole their land when gold was discovered. I have done extensive research in the Fontana area bushwacking. I have discovered 4 locations of glyphs and trail markers. A Friend that lives in the area has recently found an Indian gravesite! I have acquired very old hand drawn maps of the area with not only homestead locations but also their names. I have a very promising location of an Indian Cave but it is going to extremely difficult hike in, 2 days, then the last mile off trail up a creek into a ravine with 3k’ walls and a huge waterfall. The Cherokee loved their waterfalls. 2 locations of Gold Mines, found one, boy was that exciting! 5 cemeteries,  I have the lon and lat of the other mine but it is an extremely difficult hike. Over 75 locations of Homesteads marked on GAIA. Heading back in 6 weeks to hook up with my Buddy to explore.

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