Cassie Disharoon, Terell Wright, Stephany Gaona-Perez
When Congress approved an expansion of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park earlier this year, it represented a significant shift of American’s perception of the Native American culture in the right direction. That’s according to Eric Klingelhofer, an archaeologist and retired history professor at Mercer University.
“I think America, perhaps, is at a turning point in reviewing the role of the Native Americans,” Klingelhofer said. “Instead of labeling them as different and foreign and even primitive.”
Klingelhofer was involved in the expansion effort, leading an archaeological study of the park. The site is the former homeland of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and has hosted residents for up to 17,000 years, according to the National Park Service. Located in Macon, Georgia, the park features stunning landscapes and rich cultural history across approximately 700 acres.
“I’m very glad that it’s been saved not bulldozed, not turned into a parking lot,” he said.
Visitors can see the mounds created by the Muscogee people and tour a museum with artifacts on display. This museum gives a look into the technologies that Native Americans created. These technologies were improved over time and have evolved into many of the things we use today.
“I think Americans and these [younger] generations now come to appreciate that they’ve [Native Americans] retained their culture…as far as they could and they have lived lives of dignity,” he said.
Being the only national historical park east of the Mississippi River, the Ocmulgee Mounds attracts about 150,000 visitors of all ages, according to the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Klingelhofer sees the recent promotion from a national monument to a national historical park as proof of how Americans have grown to appreciate and accept Native Americans, their culture, and their history.