Seven tribes have filed a claim asking the University of Alabama to return 5,892 human remains and artifacts buried at Moundville, a current Alabama archaeological park that was once a major center of Native American life from 1020 to 1650, reports Alabama Live.
Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, federally funded institutions, such as the University of Alabama, must document and return remains to tribes. However, that process can become complicated when remains predate modern tribes, explained Kathy Fine-Dare, an expert on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, to Alabama Live. She said that more than half of documented human remains in the U.S. have been marked as "culturally unidentifiable," though efforts are being made to revise the law so tribes can more easily claim them.
The seven tribes that have filed the Moundville claim — Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Chickasaw Nation, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and the Seminole Tribe of Florida — say they share a common ancestry and culture with the people who lived at Moundville
“The evidence presented in this claim establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the Muskogean-speaking Tribes are culturally affiliated with the Moundville archaeological site,” reads the claim sent to the university earlier this year. “Moundville is at least as closely affiliated with the Muskogean-speaking Tribes as Plymouth Colony is to the United States.”
While the current claim is still under review, The University of Alabama has previously returned remains and says it "looks forward to working with the Tribes on this matter."