Perspectives

Buchanan and Newell receive grant from Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

Meghan Buchanan, left, with Savannah NewellFusihatchee is a well-known Creek settlement located on the Tallapoosa River in Elmore County, Alabama. Fusihatchee was first occupied by the Creeks in the 1600s and grew into one of the major Creek settlements in Alabama. According to a news release from 1995, the town was burned during the Creek Indian War of 1814 by Gen. Andrew Jackson’s army, following the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Residents of Fusihatchee fled the site just ahead of the advancing army and many artifacts were left behind, creating one of the largest collections of Creek Indian artifacts in the country. Over the past few decades, archeologists have excavated the large site for Creek artifacts and the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work recently received a grant to host a consultation event with the ultimate goal of repatriating human remains and burial objects. 

Meghan Buchanan, assistant professor of Anthropology (pictured above, on left), and Savannah Newell, a Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Coordinator (pictured above), worked together to secure the funds from NAGPRA in the amount of $83,070 to continue work on the Fusihatchee site. 

“This site represents one of the largest single site excavations in the state, and includes hundreds of burials and tens of thousands of associated funerary objects,” said Newell, who works on organizing the archaeological artifacts to identify their origin, and to repatriate them to the tribe from which they belong. Working with descendant communities of the Creek, Buchanan and Newell will create a strategic plan for culturally-appropriate curation and preparation of the human remains until their return and reburial. 

“This project will determine right of possession so a final decision of disposition and reburial can be agreed upon,” Buchanan said. 

The proposed project centers on a single consultation event, which will bring tribes to Auburn University to meet and consult over the course of several days. Time will be allocated to include viewing curation space and any items of interest, meetings covering cultural affiliation, culturally appropriate storage and treatment, and discussions regarding plans for disposition and reburial. 

“We very much appreciate the hard work and dedication by Dr. Meghan Buchanan and Savannah Newell,” said Joseph Aistrup, College of Liberal Arts Dean. “Their research is pivotal to the state of Alabama and the Creek descendants. I am incredibly pleased NAGPRA recognized the value of the work being done on the Fusihatchee site.”

Enacted in 1990, NAGPRA requires museums and federal agencies to inventory and identify Native American human remains and cultural items in their collections, and to consult with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations regarding repatriation. Section 10 of the Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to award grants to assist in implementing provisions of the Act. The National NAGPRA Program is administered by the National Park Service.

The NAGPRA grant secured by Buchanan and Newell is one of only 12 awarded by the national organization. The combined 12 awards will go toward the transportation and return of 58 cultural items, more than 32,000 funerary objects, and human remains representing 1,601 ancestors.

“The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act grants are critical to the longevity of Native American cultural heritage,” National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith said. “Increasing awareness and respect of all Americans’ stories is a core mission of the National Park Service, and we are honored to be stewards of such an important grant program.”

To learn more about NAGPRA, visit their website.  
 

Last Updated: September 04, 2019