Eastern Band of Cherokee
The white-tailed deer, a Cherokee cultural icon, has virtually disappeared on Eastern Band of Cherokee lands, but now it is being reintroduced.

Eastern Band of Cherokee Replenishes Iconic White-Tailed Deer on Its Lands


The Eastern Band of Cherokee, deprived for centuries of the white-tailed deer that symbolizes their culture, are in the process of getting their icon back.

Though deer are considered almost a pest in many parts, devouring gardens and proliferating, the Cherokee themselves, who have cherished the animal for 10,000 years or more, do not have them on their own lands in what is today western North Carolina.

A new program is taking deer from Morrow Mountain State Park in the Uwharrie Mountains in North Carolina, where their eating habits and numbers threaten plant species, and transplanting them into the Eastern Band’s 5,130-acre natural preserve on Cherokee tribal lands. The plan is to move up to 50 per year over the next three years in hopes of bringing deer in Cherokee territory back near their previous numbers. All are tagged, and 90 percent have been fitted with radio collars, according to the Eastern Band of Cherokee in a media release. This will tell biologists where they go—and don’t go—and how predators affect their numbers and behavior, the tribe said.

“We are tracking these deer and others released earlier to determine their movement patterns, whether they will form family groups, and if they will prosper in the years ahead,” said tribal member Caleb Hickman, the supervisory biologist on the project. “Like the successful elk reintroduction that took place twelve years ago, these deer represent a stock in the future of wildlife on the Qualla Boundary.”

In February, the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s Fisheries and Wildlife Management department released 28 young deer onto the tribal lands. They plan more releases over the next three years, according to the Smoky Mountain News.

“As we learn more about this area and the ecology of deer in this area, we’ll know more about what this area can support,” said Mike LaVoie, program manager for Fisheries and Wildlife, to the Smoky Mountain News.

The Cherokee used to rely on deer for clothing, meat and even glue, which they made from hooves, the newspaper said. The deer represented fleet-footed speed and was revered. Then came European settlers, and the deerskin trade. The animals’ numbers have been dwindling steadily since contact, and today white-tailed deer are almost nonexistent on Eastern Band of Cherokee lands, in a trend that also affected the very underpinnings of the tribe’s society and culture. 


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bwaikiki's picture
Submitted by bwaikiki on
awi usti

nonfedindian's picture
Submitted by nonfedindian on
This story undermines the stereotypical notion that Native Americans ALWAYS managed their environment with an eye to the future. Native Americans can be like any other population and will use up their natural resources for short term gain if they are able. Prior to European arrival it was simple population density that allowed the Cherokee to reach a balance with their environment. European demand for these resources and the payment offered lured the Cherokee into actions which later proved to upset that balance. The same would occur if the Cherokee population density were to have increased by putting a larger demand on the surrounding natural resources to meet their own needs versus meeting the needs/desires of the Europeans.

choctawgirl's picture
Submitted by choctawgirl on
"nonfedindian" is obviously a clueless Indian or maybe you are white pretending to be Indian. Anyway, this article doesn't prove anything that you are trying to claim. You have no clue about Native culture and their respect for nature. After the Europeans came they had no choice but to trade and sell with them. No one is claiming anyone is perfect but that seems to be your view. They probably viewed the trade as something that could be positive and a peaceful way of dealing with Europeans considering the circumstances of the time. They looked to the future because it is common sense and they did think about things 7 generations into the future for their survival. Their life revolved around hunting and survival and being in harmony with nature. You've done nothing to educate yourself in Indian ways. I don't know what you are trying to prove. You obviously aren't trying to help by making negative comments with no proof. They aren't like "any other population" if you understood anything about Native culture or tribal culture you would know that. You are going off of what the white people say as a result of their actions.

choctawgirl's picture
Submitted by choctawgirl on
and another thing, would it make more sense "nonfedindian" to trade for supplies with the Europeans to get something to eat and supplies or to risk vital energy, time and your life in a survival situation? It seems you wouldn't make it in a survival situation. People like you try to bring these situations into the present day as if things were the same and people just sat down and had conversations before doing anything or trading with someone. Often times Natives would meet on horseback somewhere to trade supplies in a hurry or if there was a battle going on there wasn't much time for talk and making decisions. We're talking life and death situations and survival. Things weren't like they are today.

choctawgirl's picture
Submitted by choctawgirl on
"nonfedindian" People like you act like everything is like in the movies or they could just go down to Wal-mart and pick up some furs. Or that some organization banded together and made up some papers for them to sign or something. We're talking about Natives going to a trading post and the fur trade being integrated over a long period of time. Natives traded with each other long before the Europeans arrived and they had to protect themselves against other tribes stealing. They traded with Mexicans. Just go look it up. The fur trade declined due to their decreasing numbers because of the European settlers and they lie about the Natives killing off the Buffalo and everything else so you have to take everything white people say with a grain of salt.