FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 30, 2017
CONTACT Neely Tsoodle
P.O. Box 580
Okmulgee, OK 74447
Muscogee (Creek) Nation, National Parks Service bring ancestors home
MACON, Ga. — The Muscogee (Creek) Nation took part in a repatriation ceremony on Aug. 30 to return more than one hundred ancestors to their homeland at the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, GA. This is the largest repatriation the tribe and the National Park Service at the Ocmulgee National Monument have ever seen.
The remains of 113 people and more than 42-thousand funerary objects were returned to what historians, tribal and cultural leaders called “sacred ground” during a private ceremony at an undisclosed and secured area at the park.
NPS along with tribal cultural leaders from Muskogean tribes from Oklahoma and Florida have worked on the repatriation for more than 15 years. In 2005, the MCN requested the return of the remains and funerary objects from the Smithsonian.
Many of the remains were separated after archeologists removed them from the site around 1930 during one of the largest archeological digs in U.S. History. In 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) passed and allowed tribes to reclaim ancestral human remains and objects.
NPS Superintendent Jim David has worked at the Ocmulgee National Monument for 20 years and it has been one of his largest goals to see the remains, along with their possessions, placed back in their rightful place.
“To see something that I’ve been dreaming of that I’ve been hoping for this long? It got to me, I got very emotional,” said David. “I am not an archeologist, but to me having these human beings sitting in museum drawers, museum boxes, to me makes no sense whatsoever. These people need to be back in the earth where they came from, probably never should have been removed to begin with.”
MCN Historic and Cultural Preservation Manager RaeLynn Butler echoed David’s sentiment.
“There’s so many of our ancestors on shelves. It’s important that in a respectful way we put them back where they belong,” Butler said.
Butler said the repatriation was about reuniting ancestors with their possessions as they complete their journey.
“Loved ones are buried with some of their favorite possessions that were important to them, “ said Butler. “It’s not necessarily to bring them back to Oklahoma, but to put them back from where they were taken from. As tribes, we feel it is our job of historic preservation to make sure we are protecting our resources and our sacred ground and artifacts. We felt the tribes should be the lead on how this would happen,” said Butler.
Members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council, Second Chief Louis Hicks, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and Florida, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town and Kialegee Tribal Town representatives were all present for the ceremony.