The Cherokee Nation Medicine Keepers are an incorporated group of fluent-speaking Cherokee elders in Oklahoma whose mission is to preserve and perpetuate Cherokee knowledge of flora, fauna, and sacred places within the Cherokee Nation. They work closely with the office of the Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources in advancing this mission.
The Medicine Keepers originated informally in October 2008 during a meeting with Cherokee Nation Natural Resources Department staff regarding the current and future state of Cherokee environmental knowledge. During this initial meeting, they discussed how plants and Cherokee ancestral knowledge are mutually dependent: when plants are threatened by development or other activities, so is the knowledge of those plants; conversely, when Cherokee knowledge fades through lack of transmission, so does the significance of wild plants in Cherokee culture and therefore their continued protection. They also acknowledged that their generation is perhaps the last to hold a significant amount of this knowledge, and agreed that now is the time to make a concerted effort to revitalize it. The overall goal of the group is to find ways to share this knowledge with younger Cherokees with the hope that the practice and transmission of this knowledge will be continued for generations to come.
The video below displays their most recent project on tribal land conservation and community health. See also the recent article in Langscape Magazine that fully describes the project.