OCMULGEE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK LEGISLATION PASSES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) and Congressman Austin Scott (GA-08) welcomed today’s passage of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act (H.R. 538) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill was approved by the full House of Representatives by vote of 396 to 8. It now awaits further action in the U.S. Senate. The legislation would expand the Ocmulgee National Monument into Georgia’s first national historical park. The bill, which was reintroduced for the 115th Congress on January 13, 2017, was previously approved by the House by voice vote during the 114th Congress, but was not considered by the full U.S. Senate prior to adjournment last year.
“The Ocmulgee Mounds are truly a cultural and archeological treasure,” said Congressman Bishop. “The site of these historic mounds has been inhabited continuously for over 17,000 years, and the ceremonial mounds and earth-lodges that exist today were built over 1,000 years ago. House passage of this legislation is a win for historic preservation and a win for Middle Georgia. I thank all those that have helped push this bill across the finish line here in the House, and I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to follow suit by enacting this legislation into law as swiftly as possible.”
“Today’s vote marks an important milestone in many years of effort to bring about increased recognition and enhanced cultural preservation of the Ocmulgee National Monument,” said Congressman Austin Scott. “Our legislation is a welcomed example of what can be achieved when a local community, state leaders, and Members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, collaborate towards a worthy goal. It was an honor to work with Congressman Bishop on legislation that will provide significant economic, educational, and cultural benefits to Middle Georgia.”
The legislation would expand the current Ocmulgee National Monument from 702 acres to 2,800 acres, change the name of the park from “Ocmulgee National Monument” to “Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park” to increase name recognition, and authorize a resources study to include recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, and camping.
This expansion and improvement will be a fitting tribute to the Native Americans who first came to this historic site during the Paleo-Indian period. The park also will generate tourist revenue for Macon, Georgia and the surrounding areas while educating visitors on the little known fact that different cultures have occupied this land for thousands of years. The mounds and earth-lodges that the Mississippians built to serve as formal council chambers when they arrived in Macon around 900 A.D. remain intact for all to see and appreciate.
Ocmulgee National Monument was originally authorized by Congress in 1934 to protect a fraction of the lands commonly known as the 'Old Ocmulgee Fields,' upon which certain Indian mounds of great historical importance are located. The legislation envisioned a large park of approximately 2,000 acres but local citizens could finance the acquisition of only 678 acres by the time it opened in 1936. Today, the Ocmulgee National Monument contains 702 acres. The role of the Ocmulgee National Monument is to "present a story of many stages of prehistoric cultural development, emphasizing the influences of agriculture, the Mound Builder period, and the relationship of these various cultures to each other and to life today."
The Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act enjoys support from the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee [Creek], and Seminole Nations), which represent over 500,000 Native Americans throughout the United States. The measure is also supported by Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, the Macon Chamber of Commerce, the Macon-Bibb Visitors Bureau, the Macon-Bibb Commission, the Macon-Bibb Economic Development Commission, and the Ocmulgee National Park & Preserve Initiative.
Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) have introduced Senate companion legislation for the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act (S. 135). The Senate legislation is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.