The Executive Committee of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference (SEAC) acknowledges the centrality of research on Indigenous cultures to the founding and perpetuation of our organization and discipline. Aspects of this history, in particular the treatment of ancestral human remains, have caused harm. We acknowledge this problematic history and seek to move forward in mutually respectful and productive partnerships with tribal nations.
We have been following the recent Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) issue regarding Moundville ancestors currently housed at the University of Alabama. We support the National NAGPRA Review Committee finding of fact that these ancestors are culturally affiliated with and should be repatriated to Muskogean-speaking tribes (Claimants: Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, The Chickasaw Nation, Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Muscogee Creek Nation, Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, 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 and other tribes that may have ancestral connections to Moundville). We are heartened by the increased communication and consultation among all parties since the decision of November 23, 2021, and we hope for a satisfactory and timely repatriation.
More broadly, The Committee wishes to express their full-fledged support of NAGPRA as a legal and ethical imperative for archaeologists working in the Southeastern US and the United States. NAGPRA consultations present opportunities to develop and build on relationships with tribal members, resulting in a more collaborative model of archaeological research. More than a regulation, such collaborative models create robust and meaningful interpretations and understandings of the cultures and materials with which we engage. We urge all institutions, including museums and universities, to abide by NAGPRA and continue to seek mutually beneficial relations with Indigenous stakeholders.