MACON, Go. — A national historical park in central Georgia is more than doubling in size with a recent property acquisition that will help protect “some of the most significant prehistoric Indigenous mounds in North America.”
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation, National Park Service, Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative, National Park Foundation and the Open Space Institute announced the addition to Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, noting the land had been in danger of development before being protected using the Land and Water Conservation Fund and private funding.
The new 951-acre property is located within the “Ocmulgee Old Fields,” also known as the Macon Reserve, which are made up of land retained by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation from 1805 until the Treaty of Washington in 1826, which, along with other treaties, resulted in the removal of the Muskogean people to Oklahoma, according to a National Park Service news release.
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“This additional property includes some of our most important unprotected ancestral lands,” David Hill, principal chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said in the release. “The Muscogee (Creek) Nation have a long-standing history of preserving the Ocmulgee Old Fields-Macon Reserve. We have never forgotten where we came from and the lands around the Ocmulgee River will always and forever be our ancestral homeland, a place we consider sacred and a place with rich cultural history.”
Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park was established in 1936. Artifacts from every major period of American history in the Southeast have been found there, the release says. Visitors can explore earthen mounds, a restored ceremonial earth lodge, an early colonial trading post and Civil War earthworks.
Most of the land will be immediately transferred to the National Park Service as an addition to the park, but the Ocmulgee Land Trust will hold the other 45 acres during wetlands restoration and then donate them to the park service.
“It is our solemn duty and honor to protect our nation’s most significant lands,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said. “It’s even more critical that we work collaboratively with Tribal nations to ensure proper conservation and access. The National Park Service will continue to work with willing sellers to preserve the culturally significant land associated with the Ocmulgee Old Fields.”
The property will initially be closed to the public while the park service, with public input, identifies “effective ways to preserve the integrity and interpret the site, while also providing access to it.”
Contributing: Eve Chen, USA TODAY