Indian tribes demand return of Alabama remains and artifacts

In this July 18, 2002 file photo, Eugene Futato, senior archaeologist and curator of archaeological collections at the Office of Archaeological Services, pulls out a drawer of Mississippi Indian ceramic vases from Moundville, Moundville, Alabama.  Chiefs of several Native American tribes are asking the University of Alabama to return nearly 6,000 human remains and artifacts from the school's archaeological park and museum.  (Mike Kittrell / Mobile check-in via AP)

In this July 18, 2002 file photo, Eugene Futato, senior archaeologist and curator of archaeological collections at the Office of Archaeological Services, pulls out a drawer of Mississippi Indian ceramic vases from Moundville, Moundville, Alabama. Chiefs of several Native American tribes are asking the University of Alabama to return nearly 6,000 human remains and artifacts from the school’s archaeological park and museum. (Mike Kittrell / Mobile check-in via AP)

PA

Leaders of several Native American tribes are asking the University of Alabama to return nearly 6,000 human remains and artifacts from the school’s archaeological park and museum.

The Oklahoma-based Muscogee Nation has tried for six years to recover the remains, but red tape has slowed the effort, said RaeLynn Butler, responsible for historical and cultural preservation of the Muscogee Nation.

The situation is no different than if someone digs up a family cemetery and takes the remains for study, said Del Beaver, second chief of the Muscogee Nation.

“And then if someone asks to pick up their grandmother and we say ‘No, there is too much paperwork,'” Beaver told the Al.com news site. “Just give us back our people. “

Communications with the university have slowed during the pandemic, frustrating tribal leaders who believe the remains and artifacts from the university’s Moundville Archaeological Park should be re-buried, Butler said.

Next week, a federal review panel is due to examine the evidence linking the Seven Tribes to Moundville and will decide whether they can claim the remains as their own. However, the committee cannot force the university to turn over the remains and artifacts, Butler said.

“The University of Alabama is honored to be the steward of Moundville Archaeological Park, one of the nation’s most important and best-preserved cultural heritage sites,” according to a statement provided by the spokesperson from Diedre Stalnaker University.

University officials this week informed Muscogee Nation leaders of the school’s “desire to collaborate more on their most recent joint request related to Moundville,” the statement said.

The Muscogee Nation and a half-dozen other tribes sent a joint request to the university under federal law on the protection and repatriation of Native American graves. The 1990 law obliges institutions that receive federal funding to return remains and artifacts buried with them to the tribes to which they belong.

The Muscogee Nation was evicted from Alabama in the 1830s during the Trail of Tears. The loss of the remains in Moundville compounds the tragedy, said Muscogee Nation Senior Chief David Hill.

“We haven’t even had the opportunity to do proper burials for those lost in the Trail of Tears,” Hill said.

“Why do they need all these items in the museum? Hill added. “It’s never too late to do the right thing. That’s all we want. Just send them back.

Other tribes involved in the effort include the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Chickasaw Nation, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, and the Tribal City of Alabama-Quassarte. .


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