Photo courtesy Save Hickory Ground
Photo shows members of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and Hickory Ground Tribal Town at Hickory Ground in Alabama.

Traditional Creeks Ask Poarch Band to Stop Hickory Ground Casino Construction During Ceremony

Gale Courey Toensing
2/13/13

 

A group of traditional Creek Indians has asked the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to stop construction of its controversial $246 million casino at Hickory Ground tomorrow, February 14, while they hold a ceremony to honor the ancestors who were buried there, but the Poarch Band says it has the right to stop people from accessing the construction site.

The request from Save Hickory Ground, the traditional Creek Indians group, to the Poarch Band’s tribal council is the latest move in an ongoing struggle between the Poarch Band and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation over Hickory Ground in Wetumpka, Alabama, an historic Muscogee (Creek) Nation Tribal Town that includes a ceremonial ground, a tribal burial ground and individual graves.

In December, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, Hickory Ground Tribal Town, and Muscogee traditional chief Mekko George Thompson filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Poarch Band and others to stop the construction of the casino. A crucial claim is that the Poarch Band excavated 57 sets of human remains of Muscogee ancestors from Hickory Ground in violation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

Save Hickory Ground announced its plans for the ceremony tomorrow in a press release on February 12. The group includes traditional members of the Poarch Band who oppose the casino construction on the sacred site and plan to participate in the ceremony.

“We are planning to pray at the ceremonial ground,” said William Bailey, a traditional chief of the Hvsosv Tallahassee ceremonial ground of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who formerly served on its tribal council. “We are concerned about our ancestors who were excavated for the casino development.”

The group is likely to run into opposition from the Poarch Band, however. Responding to an email request asking if the Poarch tribal council will stop the casino construction during the prayer ceremony, the tribe’s public relations liaison Sharon Delmar wrote, "The tribe reserves our right to restrict access to a construction site for safety reasons and in consideration of pending litigation. The Muscogee Nation and Hickory Ground Town of Oklahoma filed legal action against the development in December of last year. When re-interment took place last year, a ceremony and prayer was conducted by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians' Tribal Historic Preservation Officer."

But the Muscogee lawsuit says that the Poarch Band reburied the excavated 57 sets of human remains at a different location in violation of a number of federal laws in addition to NAGPRA. The lawsuit asks the court to order the Poarch Band to provide an inventory and location of all of the human remains, “to cooperate” with the nation to reinter the remains and the funerary objects in the places where they were originally buried and to preserve Hickory Ground “in accordance with Muscogee Creek religious customs and tradition.”

The nation is not seeking monetary damages, the lawsuit says. “From the beginning, it has been our stance that the remains should be put back where they were excavated,” Mekko Thompson said in a press release. “The ceremonial ground is sacred so it is not a proper place for a casino.”

The Muscogee Nation also says in its lawsuit that its citizens are experiencing severe emotional distress because of the violation of their religious and cultural beliefs, “including but not limited to their inability to respect their ancestors, pray on the ceremonial ground, and keep Hickory Ground sacred.” The nation asks the court for a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the desecration of Hickory Ground “along with a declaration of their rights under the laws of the United States.”

Several Muscogee Nation citizens have traveled to Hickory Ground to participate in the ceremony on February 14. “We traveled here from Oklahoma to perform a peaceful ceremony for our ancestors,” Wayland Gray, a member of Hickory Ground Tribal Town, said in the Save Hickory Ground press release. “Their remains may have been excavated, but their spirits remain.”

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Hickory Ground's picture
Hickory Ground
Submitted by Hickory Ground on
Join us at facebook.com/SaveHickoryGround and @Hickory_Ground

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
This is exactly what I'm talking about! Greed! So many think gambling houses are the way to generate income. It may be so for a while, but over time the glamore & excitement will fade. There are so many of our people here & there who are betting a whole tribe's money with these places. Over the long haul this is not the answer for our people. Use those tribal funds to educate those who want a job skill, use that money to fix things on the reservations. Use those funds to drive out the negative elements we have: Drug abuse, alcoholism, family violence, etc. For these Poarch Creek brethern, Shame on you for disturbing the graves of the ancestors all because of greed! Shame on you for having a waschichu spirit of evil dwelling in you! Shame on you for having a spirit of hatefulness, trouble-making & arrogance in your attitudes towards your fellow branches of Creek brothers & sisters. Shame! Let's pray to the Creator to open these bretherns eyes to see the harm they have caused & to have the good heart to stop the foolishness & repent for their evil ways that have filled them of the washichus. Two Bears Growling

Cynthia Long's picture
Cynthia Long
Submitted by Cynthia Long on
I wish I could be there today with you. Unfortunately, I traveled back to Oklahoma to bury my cousin yesterday. To even think of someone building a casino where my relative lay in rest is the most unholy action anyone can take!!!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
may your tribal ancestors spirits come haunt the Poarch Band! Desecration and no respect just for greed!

Mary Helen Deer's picture
Mary Helen Deer
Submitted by Mary Helen Deer on
How white have they become to put financial gain over respect for our ancestors? There is absolutely no excuse for these actions. The federal law NAGPRA prohibits just this very thing. Poarch Band Creeks, listen to the hearts of your people and your ancestors.
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