The land that is now Fort Campbell was acquired by the federal government in 1942, but the rich history of the area and the peoples who lived there stretches back centuries.
To preserve and protect this history and honor, repatriate and rebury those whose remains were excavated – many from the 1930s through the 1960s that remained in curation with the Army -- the Fort Campbell team took a comprehensive approach.
The team worked with 12 federally recognized Native American tribes, and as part of that determined the primary affiliation in that area from the past was with citizens of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes. Further, the team then partnered with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) who took the lead in the repatriation and reburial processes on behalf of the Cherokee Tribes.
“The majority of the remains and burial items were reburied in accordance with Cherokee ceremony and customs,” said Russell Townsend, Tribal Historic Preservation Office for the EBCI Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO). “We, as a team, have worked hard to use our resources to understand the historical and human significance of these archaeological areas, and to put in place the best ways we can to preserve and protect these assets, while also making sure we, as a team, support our vital training mission at Fort Campbell.”
The team also worked with the EBCI THPO to preserve important historical artifacts, while respecting and honoring tribal customs using innovative technology. For example, some items that are found in graves from the Mississippian period (800-1500 A.D.), such as pendants, small ceremonial pots, beads and hair pins, are not normally photographed due to cultural sensitivities of the tribe. The EBCI granted the team permission to scan a limited amount of these items, using an advanced 3D scanner process in collaboration with Colorado State University. This will allow these images to be printed and used for educational content.
The success of the team’s work has even driven the creation of a book and study guides for schools, using the lessons and work on the installation. The book, Before Fort Campbell: History, Landscape, and Communities is available for public distribution and is specifically written for a general audience, instead of a technical one. Specific teaching guides were prepared to meet Department of Defense Education Activity and state guidelines for 5th and 11th grades, and the book and guide have been distributed to all local schools and libraries.
“To date, this is the most complete history of the Pre-WWII communities and history of the area available,” Ronald Grayson, Fort Campbell Cultural Resources Program Manager said. The book has been accepted into the Library of Congress Call Number: 2020446089. The PDF version is available online at: https://home.army.mil/campbell/application/files/6816/2160/7548/Before_Fort_Campbell_Optimized.pdf
One of the key community outreach efforts at Fort Campbell are tours of the 130 family cemeteries that contain graves of those who lived on the land before the installation was established. Living relatives of those in the cemeteries frequently seek genealogical and other information, as well as requesting to visit the gravesites. The team also created digital programs using table computers and database technology to allow the tracking of any maintenance needs of the cemeteries and archaeological sites on the installation.