• 66°

Sacred ground

By By SHERRY DIGMON
Advance Staff Writer
Poarch Creek Tribal Chairman Fred Lee McGhee recently took part in negotiations to protect a Native American burial ground in the area around Fort Benning, Ga., and Columbus, Ga.
Eleven tribes lived in the area before removal, when the Indians were forced to leave their land and relocate in Oklahoma. They left their homes and their family members who were buried there.
Under the terms of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990, the graves on the military base were protected, causing this burial ground to become a factor in a recent land swap between the Army post and the city.
All 11 tribes were represented at the negotiations.
Under the terms of the agreement, if any remains are found, they're identified by tribe. That tribe has the option of removing them and relocating them to their reservation or to a piece of land given by Fort Benning.
McGhee said a similar agreement has been signed with the Louisiana National Guard, and the Corps of Engineers in Mobile wants to start consultation. In addition, the Florida Department of Transportation is meeting with the Poarch Creeks regarding burial sites.
Under NAGPRA, Native American remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and communally-owned objects are protected on tribal and federal lands.