KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Tennessee Valley Authority is preparing to return the remains of more than 4,800 native people and 1,300 funerary objects from across East Tennessee and counties in Kentucky and Alabama, according to a notice filed by the National Park Service.
The notice details that there are remains of a minimum of 4,871 individuals of Native American ancestry and 1,386 associated funerary objects that may be repatriated beginning on April 28, 2023. The repatriation of the remains is done after requests from culturally affiliated tribes or lineal descendants.
TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler told News 19 getting the remains back to their respective tribes is their top priority.
“We recognize that they are sovereign nations and we have an obligation to return these items as quickly as possible.”
The funerary objects listed include lithics, ceramics, bone tools, minerals, botanical remains, shells, personal adornments such as beads, gorgets and hairpins, canine remains and copper.
The remains that were removed are in the physical care of the TVA and partner repositories, including the University of Alabama, the University of Kentucky, Mississippi State University, Southern Illinois University and the University of Tennessee, the notice says. According to the lists in the notice, the human remains were removed as a result of TVA action in the states.
According to the notice, the remains were found in the following counties:
- Alabama – Human remains representing at least 722 individuals were removed from Colbert, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marshall, and Morgan Counties.
- Kentucky – Human remains representing at least eight individuals were removed from Livingston, Lyon, Marshall, McCracken, and Trigg Counties.
- The east Half of Tennessee – Human remains representing at least 3,676 individuals were removed from Anderson, Bedford, Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Campbell, Cannon, Carter, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Coffee, Cumberland, De Kalb, Fentress, Franklin, Grainger, Greene, Grundy, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hawkins, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Lincoln, Loudon, Macon, Marion, Marshall, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Moore, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Polk, Putnam, Rhea, Roane, Rutherford, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Smith, Sullivan, Trousdale, Unicoi, Union, Van Buren, Warren, Washington, White, and Wilson Counties.
- The west half of Tennessee – Human remains representing at least 465 individuals were removed from Benton, Carroll, Cheatham, Chester, Crockett, Davidson, Decatur, Dickson, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Giles, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lake, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lewis, Madison, Maury, McNairy, Montgomery, Obion, Perry, Robertson, Shelby, Stewart, Sumner, Tipton, Wayne, Weakley, and Williamson Counties.
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The TVA determined the cultural affiliation of the remains based on the state or region in which they were found, the notice says. According to the notice, TVA determined that the remains may belong to people associated with 21 American Indian tribes, including:
- Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma;
- Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas;
- Cherokee Nation;
- Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana;
- Delaware Nation, Oklahoma;
- Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians;
- Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma;
- Jena Band of Choctaw Indians;
- Kialegee Tribal Town;
- Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians;
- Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma;
- Poarch Band of Creek Indians;
- Quapaw Nation;
- Shawnee Tribe;
- The Chickasaw Nation;
- The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma;
- The Muscogee (Creek) Nation;
- The Osage Nation;
- The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma;
- The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma.
- Thlopthlocco Tribal Town;
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only federally recognized tribe in Alabama. Vice Chairman Robert McGhee, says this process is long overdue.
“It’s unfortunate that its taken this long,” said McGhee. “But I think its one of those things that I’m sure everybody that’s involved is just very happy that they’re finally following federal law to do what they can to make sure they get these remains back to where they belong.”
With 23 federally recognized tribes partnered with the TVA, Fiedler expects the repatriation process to run smoothly.
“With the new process we’re able to work directly with the tribes to make things available and let the tribes identify what items they believe are their ancestors and their ancestors remains.
The notice says that requests for repatriation can be submitted by American Indian Tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations mentioned above or by any lineal descendant. Requests can also be submitted by any American Indian Tribe, or Native Hawaiian organization that shows that they are a descendant or culturally affiliated American Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian organization, according to the release.
In August, a reimagined McClung Museum exhibit opened, showcasing the legal and ethical principles of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The exhibit was created through collaboration with the Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, and the University of Tennessee Office of Repatriation. Read the full story here.