200 trees planted on Arbor Day

Principal Chief Chad Smith and Jeannine Hale, administrator of environmental programs, look at a sign that will be displayed by the trees that were planted on the Cherokee Nation Complex.
Principal Chief Chad Smith and Jeannine Hale, administrator of environmental programs, look at a sign that will be displayed by the trees that were planted on the Cherokee Nation Complex.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - On Arbor Day, Cherokee Nation employees planted more than 200 trees and plants in a recreation area on the north side of the complex.

Principal Chief Chad Smith launched festivities by planting an apple tree at the tribe’s Memorial Garden. The tree, a Junaluska Apple, was a gift to the CN. It was grafted from a tree that was native to North Carolina and believed to be named after a former chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokees.

"This is one tree that really needs to be given special care when it is planted," said Wendell Cochran, special projects coordinator with the CN.

The tribe took nearly two years to decide on just the right spot and occasion to plant the tree, which was kept in cool storage. In addition to planting trees, the CN also gave trees to employees and community members. The CN has given away free trees on Arbor Day since 1981 and has given away around 50,000 saplings.

Arbor Day, first celebrated in Nebraska in 1872, began when homesteaders planted more than 1 million trees to provide shade, shelter, fruit, fuel and beauty for their land. Wayne Isaacs, environmental specialist with the tribe, said that concept is still used.

"These plants will help provide habitat for wildlife and help filter the impurities out of the groundwater," Isaacs said.

The CN’s long-term goal is to restore habitat on tribal lands using native plants and to incorporate Cherokee language into interpretive signs for various plants traditionally used by Cherokees. The signs will be placed along trails or other areas to further environmental education, encourage healthy exercise, promote use of the Cherokee language and provide tourists with a glimpse of Cherokee culture.

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