A national park in Georgia dedicated to protecting a site sacred to the Muskogee (Creek) people and significant to archeology, has doubled in size thanks to an effort to save it from encroaching development.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, in Macon, Georgia, one of the most significant archeological sites in the US, recently received an addition of 906 acres of land, bringing the total size of the park to more than double its original allotment.

The land was purchased by the Open Space Institute as part of a major project that will ultimately expand the boundaries from 701 acres to more than 3,000 acres.

Protecting sacred land

The purpose of the expansion was to help preserve an area known as the “Ocmulgee Old Fields,” which is sacred to the Muskogean (Creek)  people. They originally lived in the area before being forcibly removed by the US government in the early 1800s. The site was recently under threat of industrial development before the purchase was negotiated by the Open Space Institute.

“It is our solemn duty and honor to protect our nation’s most significant lands,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “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,” 

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Earth Lodge Interior.jpg
Though Earth Lodge at Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is a reconstruction of a council chamber, the floor is original and over 1000 years old  © Mac Stone / Open Space Institute

History of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park

The park itself is home to seven prehistoric mounds once used for ceremony, housing and burials by the Muskogean (Creek) people in around 900 CE, as well as protected wetlands and forest. The site is considered one of the most archeologically significant Native American mound sites in North America because of evidence that people have lived here continuously for approximately 17,000 years. 

The park was originally created in 1936 after a massive archeological dig (part of Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration and later the Civilian Conservation Corps) that unearthed artifacts in the hundreds of thousands, many of which are on display in the park’s museum today. The land had previously been seized by the US government, as part of the 1826 Treaty of Washington. This treaty, among others, ultimately culminated in the removal of the Muskogean (Creek) people from their ancestral home to reservations in Oklahoma.   

“This additional property includes some of our most important unprotected ancestral lands,”  said David Hill, principal chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. “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.”

NPS is in the process of developing a management plan for the newly added Ocmulgee Old Fields, in order to identify effective ways to properly preserve the integrity and interpret the site. It will initially be closed to the public until this development is completed. 

Other mounds sites in the southeastern US

The mounds at Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park are only one of such sites in the southeastern US. Mound building architecture is typical of the prehistoric indigenous people in this region and similar sites can be found in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana

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