Part 1: An archival excavation

Occasionally, we get a call or e-mail from someone, or we read something in the newspaper, which leads us out of the office to explore a community, visit a humanities-related organization, or meet an Alabamian who shares our interest in the humanities. But sometimes we are contacted about a project that leads us to explore the humanities resources within our office rather than beyond our front door.

Such an incident happened recently, when we were contacted by an archivist for the Poarch Creek Indians in Atmore. She was trying to locate a film, funded by the Alabama Committee on Humanities and Public Policy (predecessor of AHF) in the late 1970s, about the Muskogee Creeks. The Poarch Creeks, Alabama’s only federally recognized tribe, are currently developing a new museum at their Escambia County reservation.

Although most of our archival files are housed at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, we were surprised to find on an office shelf a yellowed copy of our “catalog of projects” submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1980. Among the dozens of projects ACHPP had funded in the previous few years was a script development grant to the Creek Nation East of the Mississippi, entitled “Take It or Leave It,” whose purpose was to “examine the effects of archeological laws on the values of a culture.” The two-page form gave no indication that a film was ever produced. So we directed the archivist to a Birmingham archaeologist, who worked briefly on the project, for more information.

I hope she finds that the film was indeed produced—maybe even broadcast on public television. It belongs in the new museum. Alabamians know very little about the state’s native American heritage, except perhaps Moundville and its Mississippian period culture, or the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

Certainly the Poarch Creeks should be known for more than their “21st-century council rotunda” rising prominently alongside I-65—a.k.a. Wind Creek Casino. (If you want to know more about the historical Creeks, including their authentic 18th-century architecture, visit the EOA article “Upper Creek Towns of the Historic Period,” here.

Come back Thursday for “Part 2: An archival excavation.”

Written by: Bob S.