How The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Affects Archaeology at Ocmulgee

Michael Williams


The excavation of Native American sites has generated significant controversy in recent decades, especially regarding sites involving ceremonial and burial activity. The persistent mistrust between Native American Nations and scholars has produced disagreements trying to reconcile the demands of historical research while maintaining respect for the preservation of Native American rights and culture. The Native Graves Protection and Reparations Act (NAGPRA), currently one of the most influential statutes to limit the destruction of Native burial sites, has molded much of the current scholarly practice in this regard. This essay explores how these guidelines shape archaeological practices at the Ocmulgee complex in Macon, Georgia. It also examines how NAGPRA informs the interactions between the modern Creek Nation and archaeologists working at the Ocmulgee complex. The research concludes with an explanation of the Muscogee Creek Nation’s connection to the site, and how NAGPRA has influenced their response to scholarly work at the site. While NAGPRA does not offer a perfect solution for the damages of past exploration, and exploitation, of Native American sites, it has allowed the people of the Muscogee Nation to maintain substantial connections with and influence over their heritage in Middle Georgia.


NAGPRA; Muscogee Nation; Creek Nation; Ocmulgee National Monument;

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