Join us for a family-friendly archaeology expo in celebration of Historic Preservation Month on the Old Capitol Museum Lawn featuring a hands-on digging and excavation site, atlatl and flint knapping demonstrations presented by archaeologists, artifact washing workshops, and craft stations. Face masks and social distancing guidelines are required. For more information, visit the MDAH Facebook page.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) has created a new website that prioritizes the repatriation of human remains and cultural items in the department’s archaeological collection. The website will inform the public about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and serve as a virtual platform for consultation with the department’s federally-recognized Tribal partners.
The website features NAGPRA collections updates, policies and procedures, and links to more information about the department’s Tribal partners. An interactive map shows the status of ongoing repatriations in Mississippi counties across the state. MDAH completed its first repatriation earlier this year.
The Choctaw Nation, Chickasaw Nation, and Muscogee (Creek) Nation generously provided images featured on the website. The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana provided additional content.
“Our goal is to engage the public in NAGPRA and to provide information about our collections in a way that hasn’t been done before,” says Meg Cook, director of archaeology collections. “The most important part is remembering that these remains are people, and their families want to see that they are reburied.”
The website will feature internship opportunities, Tribal stories, collections updates, and repatriation progress. For more information visit the website at http://nagpra.mdah.ms.gov/.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) has transferred the remains of 403 Native Americans and eighty-three lots of burial objects to the Chickasaw Nation. This is the largest return of human remains in Mississippi history, and the first for MDAH.
"This repatriation is a huge milestone for our institution and our Tribal partners," said MDAH director Katie Blount. "We are committed to the repatriation of human remains and cultural objects in the department’s archaeological collections."
Since the nineteenth century, archaeological excavations have unearthed hundreds of the ancestral remains of people who once inhabited the state and whose cultures continue today. The passage of the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) gave Native populations the right to claim ancestors and cultural objects in the care of institutions receiving federal funds.
Working closely with Tribal representatives and the National NAGPRA Program, the transfer of these human remains took place over the course of more than two years. MDAH sought guidance in preparing the remains for reburial, which will take place this year.
"The Chickasaw Nation has developed a strong working relationship with MDAH as a result of this repatriation," said Amber Hood, Director of Historic Preservation & Repatriation, The Chickasaw Nation. "Caring for our ancestors is extremely important to us, and we appreciate the dedication and transparency their staff has shown throughout the consultation process."
"It is important to remember that these are people, buried with items with strong cultural ties to their communities, the same way that people today might be laid to rest wearing a wedding band," said Meg Cook, MDAH director of archaeology collections. "While these artifacts inform the archaeological record, it is our ethical and legal obligation to see that they are returned."
MDAH is thankful for its volunteers, who hand sewed muslin bags that were used to carefully wrap each individual with their belongings. This material was purchased partly with funds from a National NAGRA Program grant.
Join us at the Two Mississippi Museums on Sunday, November 15, for a day of interactive, hands-on archaeological fun! Work with MDAH Archaeology Collections staff as they clean artifacts excavated in Mississippi. See demonstrations including Atlatl throwing, flint knapping, deer hide shaving, and stickball. Explore Mississippi's earliest stories in a flash tour of archaeological exhibits in the Museum of Mississippi History. Take home a pre-packaged activity bag and create your own handmade pottery and beaded jewelry. This event is free and open to all ages.
The National Park Service has awarded $88,822 to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) to support efforts to return the Native American human remains in its archaeological collections to present-day Tribes. MDAH will use the money to hire a new collections manager, provide paid internships for Tribal partners, purchase equipment, and provide staff training.
The Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma supported the grant and will provide guidance as MDAH staff document the human remains and ceremonial objects from graves in northeast Mississippi. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) requires consultation with Tribes whose ancestors lived on the land where graves were located.
“One of the department’s highest priorities is the proper care of its significant archaeological collection,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “In keeping with our standards of excellence, we are embarking on this project with renewed dedication to collaborating with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Chickasaw Nation while becoming fully compliant with NAGPRA.”
MDAH sought the grant after discovering that some of its collection had not been appropriately inventoried. “With this funding, we will properly catalog NAGPRA collections while strengthening our relationships with Tribal partners though a transparent dialogue,” said Meg Cook, director of MDAH archaeology collections. “The project allows us to honor and best care for these individuals through the purchase of culturally appropriate curation material. We do not lose sight of the fact that we are working with people—mothers, fathers, and children.”
“The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Historic Preservation Department congratulates the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as NAGPRA grant recipients,” said Deanna Byrd, NAGPRA liaison for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “Our THPO and NAGPRA liaison look forward to working with all of our Tribal partners and MDAH’s compassionate professionals to help facilitate the return of our ancestors. We are committed to supporting MDAH in this collaborative process and know it will be rewarding. Our ancestors will finally know the peace we envisioned for them."
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.