National Forest Foundation

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Youth Conservation Corps

Supported by REI

The Trail of Tears is a tragic saga in America’s history. Betrayed by the American government and forced from their homeland in Georgia, thousands of Cherokees died on the trek to Oklahoma where their descendants still reside. Today, much of their original home land is part of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia. 

Through an innovative partnership with the NFF, the Forest Service and Young Harris College, eight youth from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees (UKB) got an opportunity to spend several weeks on the Chattahoochee-Oconee working with Forest Service staff on recreation improvements, wildlife habitat restoration and other projects. Additionally, the crews spent one week with the forest’s archeologist exploring their ancestral home sites and helping protect and preserve these important cultural treasures. 

While spending a few weeks on the Chattahoochee-Oconee can't erase the past, it offered a new generation of Cherokees the opportunity to reconnect with their ancestral lands in a meaningful and real way. It also improved the Forest’s resources and provided the youth with real world work skills and connected them with the natural world. The NFF is excited to continue this program with the support of REI in 2018.

Read a blog post about this project here.


  • 2 partners included in project
  • 5 miles of trail built or maintained
  • 8 youth engaged in project
  • 2 miles of trail inventoried

Project Updates

June 19, 2017

UKB youth working with U.S. Forest Service at an archaeological dig on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.