Bunky Echo-Hawk
Actor Adam Beach, artist Bunky Echo-Hawk and activist Wayland Gray at a Save Hickory Ground rally outside the National Indian Gaming Association’s conference in San Diego.

Save Hickory Ground Rally Shut Down at NIGA

Gale Courey Toensing

“The funny thing is we won’t discuss [Hickory Ground] among ourselves as tribal nations and leaders but we’ll go to court and discuss it in front of strangers.” — Dennis Welch, Colorado River Indian Tribes’ tribal council member and NCAI treasurer

Save Hickory Ground activists tried to hold a rally on the sidewalk outside the San Diego Convention Center during the National Indian Gaming Association’s Annual Tradeshow & Conference, but security guards quickly ran them off the public space, and it’s not clear who ordered their removal.

The attempted rally took place May 13. Wayland Gray, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, who leads the Save Hickory Ground movement, and a group of indigenous sacred place activists, including other Muscogee citizens and Yakama-Pawnee painter and performance artist Bunky Echo-Hawk, traveled from Oklahoma to San Diego to the NIGA conference to rally for the protection of Hickory Ground.

Hickory Ground is a historic Muscogee Nation tribal town in Wetumpka, Alabama, with an established archaeological site that includes a ceremonial ground, individual graves and a sacred burial ground. The current day Muscogee Nation’s ancestors lived and were buried at Hickory Ground before the tribe was forced from its Alabama homeland to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears as a result of President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830—America’s legalization of ethnic cleansing.

The current Poarch Band of Creek Indians, whose ancestors partnered with Jackson and remained in Alabama, purchased Hickory Ground with a federal grant and dug up the remains of almost 60 sets of Muscogee ancestors during the ground preparation for a $246 million casino expansion project. Poarch Band says it reburied the remains and restored the site, but the Muscogee Nation says the sacred site was desecrated. The Nation filed a pending lawsuit against the Band citing among other things, violations of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the National Historic Preservation Act; and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

RELATED: The Battle for Hickory Ground

RELATED: Muscogee Nation Sues Poarch Band over Hickory Ground Desecration


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