Alabama returning Native American artifacts to tribes

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – Remains and adorned objects from the 18th century will no longer be displayed in the state’s exhibition “The First Alabamians.”

Thirty-seven sets of human remains and 380 objects were discovered by archeology enthusiasts from the Alabama Anthropologic Society. The society dug up graves of Native Americans in central Alabama. In the early 1900s. They turned their findings over to the department.

Alabama Department of Archives and History Director Steve Murray says the department has taken good care the artifacts, but he says the origins of how they came to Alabama was problematic.

“The truth is these were the graves of individuals who are ancestors of Native American people today that were opened and disturbed,” said Murray.

Those artifacts will be returned to their tribes as part of the the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a federal law the Alabama Department of Archives and History has been compliant with since 2018.

The department began phase one of repatriating items in May and plans to be complete next spring.

“This is a long-term project that will result in a large amount of material. Those will ultimately go back to federally recognized tribes for final disposition,” said Murray.

Murray says their purpose of having these artifacts displayed was to educate the public about Native American culture.

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