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Northwest News Network

Park Service Rule Change Helps Preserve Traditional Culture

File photo of Urtica dioica, commonly called stinging nettle
File photo of Urtica dioica, commonly called stinging nettle

The National Park Service Wednesday announced it will allow Native Americans to gather plants on federal land managed by the agency.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the rule change during a speech to the National Congress of American Indians. She pointed to an agreement between Washington’s Nisqually and Tulalip tribes and Mt. Rainier National Park that allows tribal members to collect bear grass and prairie pine for traditional handicrafts.

Mel Sheldon chairs the Tulalip tribes. He said the new rules helps preserve traditional knowledge.

“Whether there be root gathering, picking blackberries, or getting cedar off the trees for making hats and such things, this is who we are, this is our culture,” he said.

Sheldon uses nettles and other plants for medicinal and naturopathic purposes.

The Park Service first proposed the rule change in April 2015. Commercial gathering of plants on Park Service lands is still prohibited.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network