Designation of Cultural Affiliation Leaves No Barriers to Repatriation
For Immediate Release
November 23, 2021
Media Contact: Jason Salsman
(Okmulgee, OK) – Leaders of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation are applauding the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee’s recent determination that human remains and funerary objects currently in possession of the University of Alabama are “culturally affiliated” with the seven tribes that have petitioned for their return. Questions over cultural affiliation have been used to delay repatriation for years.
David Hill, Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, who led a delegation that visited Alabama officials last week to expedite the University’s decision-making process, said, “We have requested the return of our ancestors for years, and the excuses for delay are over. 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 seven tribes that have requested the return of the ancestors and belongings – the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Chickasaw Nation, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Muscogee (Creek) Nation – had their demands put in bureaucratic limbo by the University of Alabama. This finding by the Federal Review Committee now makes clear that the University will be in clear violation of federal law if it does not return the funerary objects and sacred items to these tribes.
“5,892 of our ancestors deserve a proper burial. They don’t deserve to be in a box in the basement of the University of Alabama,” Chief Hill said. “The school recently expressed a general, unspecific desire to work towards repatriation. But with today’s finding, there are no more questions, so we expect a concrete plan and timetable from the University for the return of our ancestors and sacred objects.”
The Review board’s findings:
“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 (1Tu500), and the Muskogean-Speaking Tribes. The requesting, affected parties making a request for this finding are the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, The Chickasaw Nation, Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Muscogee Creek Nation, Seminole Tribe of Florida, and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, with support from the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.”