The Alabama Department of Records and History begins the process of transferring human remains and Native American artifacts from burial sites to federally recognized Indian tribes with historical ties to Alabama, a process called repatriation that is required by federal law.
ADAH’s board of directors on Wednesday voted to officially remove from its permanent collections 37 sets of human remains, as well as 349 grave goods from burial sites containing human remains. Human remains and artifacts were excavated from two sites in Montgomery and Lowndes counties in the early 1900s.
ADAH will transfer legal custody to tribal nations after a public notice period through the US Department of the Interior.
ADAH on Wednesday closed its exhibit on Native Americans from prehistory to 1700, titled “The First Alabamians.” The exhibit contained grave goods excavated from burial sites where no human remains were found. ADAH also removed burial materials from “Alabama Voices,” the centerpiece of the museum’s exhibit. All exhibits except “The First Alabamians” remain open to visitors and school groups.
ADAH announced that it planned to modify the exhibits with artifacts that were not part of the burials. The agency said it will incorporate significant advances made over the past decade in the study of Indigenous cultures. The exhibits will include perspectives from many tribal groups and highlight the continued vibrancy of native cultures native to Alabama, ADAH said. Preliminary plans call for the revised exhibits to be open by 2026.
ADAH is holding a press conference this morning to provide more information on its plans. This story will be updated.