University of Alabama to return Muscogee artifacts to tribe

Isabel Hope, Assistant News Editor

A federal committee ordered The University of Alabama to return all remains and funerary objects of the Muscogee Nation found in Moundville Archaeological Park to the tribe. 

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee made this decision after the Muscogee Nation and six other tribes petitioned for the return of about 6,000 remains of Muscogee ancestors and other sacred objects. 

The petition was filed in accordance with the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act, a federal law passed in 1990 mandating that any institutions receiving federal funding must give found remains and artifacts back to tribes.

The other tribes involved in the claim are the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Chickasaw Nation, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town.

“We have requested the return of our ancestors for years, and the excuses for delay are over,” said Muscogee Nation Principal Chief David Hill in a press statement. “With the finding that the remains and funerary objects discovered in Moundville are culturally affiliated with the seven tribes that have petitioned for their return, there is no reason to wait any longer. The time has come for our ancestors to rest in peace.”

“The Review Committee finds, based on the evidence before it, that there is a preponderance of the evidence for cultural affiliation between the human remains and funerary items, originating from, and adjacent to, Moundville and the Muskogean-Speaking Tribes,” the committee’s official ruling said. 

The United States Department of Interior is authorized to issue fines between $1,000 and $3,000 to any agency or institution that does not comply with the federal law. 

The University oversees the Moundville Archaeological Park and Museum which commemorates Native American history in the region.

“As part of the University’s intensive and respectful preservation efforts of Moundville over the last century, we have worked with several tribes to return ancestral remains,” UA spokesperson Deidre Stalnaker said. “Consistent with these ongoing efforts, the University made Muscogee Nation leaders aware in a meeting this morning of our desire to further collaborate on their most recent joint request related to Moundville.”

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