|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||December 12, 2002|
|Contact:||Jill Stephens, NPCA, Southeastern Regional Office, 865-329-2424
Alicia Seyler, NPCA, American Indian Liaison 800-628-7275 ext. 232
Tribal Resolution Calls for Protection of Ocmulgee Old Fields
"More than two dozen tribes have expressed concern for this road project through formal resolutions, and NPCA is among a number of conservation and historic preservation organizations joining them in their concern," said Jill Stephens, program coordinator for the National Parks Conservation Association's (NPCA) Southeast regional office. "The routes proposed by the Georgia Department of Transportation fail to protect the first traditional cultural property east of the Mississippi River."
Located in Macon, Georgia, the Ocmulgee Old Fields received this designation in 1999, placing it on the National Register of Historic Places. The cultural property includes floodplains along the Ocmulgee River as well as several earthen mounds built by the Mississippians atop the Macon plateau. Artifacts found at the site include pottery, copper covered puma jaws, and even spear points dating back 12,000 years to Ice Age hunters.
"Ocmulgee and the Old Fields are, most importantly, places of tribal significance," says Alicia Seyler, NPCA's American Indian Liaison. "For Muskogean people, the mounds are the birthplace of our culture, and our reverence for these special places shall not cease."
A number of tribes have both historic and ancestral ties to the land. The ancestors of the Muscogee people first "sat down," or developed an agrarian lifestyle there, creating the cradle of the Muscogee Confederacy. Known as the Reserve Tract, it was one of the last parcels the Muscogee (Creek) ceded before being forcibly removed on the Trail of Tears. Chief McIntosh, who finalized this transaction, was subsequently executed according to tribal law.
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation has passed two tribal resolutions in opposition to building the road through the area. Today, the Intertribal Council of Five Civilized Tribes-comprised of the Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Cherokee Nations in Oklahoma-delivered a similar resolution to the Federal Highway Administration, which oversees the study and selection of such routes. In October, the United South and Eastern Tribes, comprised of 24 federally recognized tribes, passed a resolution of their own seeking to protect the Old Fields.
The Ocmulgee Old Fields consist of privately owned lands between Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and Ocmulgee National Monument. Designated in 1934, Ocmulgee National Monument preserves earthen mounds, ceremonial buildings, and numerous artifacts. Congress originally authorized up to 2,000 acres for the monument that presently contains only 702 acres. The relatively undeveloped, forested lowlands adjacent to the park provide habitat for woodstorks, alligators, bobcats, and other species. Earlier this year, the National Parks Conservation Association listed Ocmulgee National Monument as one of America's Ten Most Endangered National Parks.
"These resolutions reaffirm that a number of tribes are concerned about the traditional cultural property and are closely watching the road development," said Stephens. "It is the responsibility of both the Georgia Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration to make sure Ocmulgee National Monument and the Old Fields are protected."