Creek ancestors in Oklahoma that consider the beautiful land along the banks of the Coosa River in Wetumpka to be sacred are demanding that construction of an expanded casino stop and are ready to take legal action if it does not.
- This is a rendering of the expansion of the casino that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are building in Wetumpka. (Courtesy of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians)
Leadership of the Muscogee Nation of Creek Indians demanded on Monday that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians stop expansion of Creek Casino Wetumpka.
Brendan Ludwick, a lawyer for the Muscogee Creeks in Oklahoma, indicated in an email to the Montgomery Advertiser that if construction did not stop, his clients would file legal action soon to stop what they believe is desecration of what they know as Hickory Ground, which includes a ceremonial ground, a tribal burial ground and individual graves.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which operate casinos in Montgomery, Atmore and Wetumpka, announced in July that they were expanding the casino in Wetumpka, spending $246 million to create a 20-story hotel and casino on the banks of the Coosa River. Tribal officials said construction started in July and is expected to be complete by January 2014.
“The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is committed to protecting the burial and ceremonial grounds of our ancestors,” Principal Chief George Tiger said in a statement released by Ludwick. “We have attempted to convey to the Poarch Band why it is wrong to disturb the peace of our ancestors and burial grounds. However, the Poarch Band does not seem to share our cultural values and respect our traditional ways.”
Robert McGhee, member of the Poarch Band tribal council, said they “value our heritage and respect our ancestors.”
“We have taken great care to honor history and preserve the past while ensuring the future for our tribe,” he wrote in a response e-mailed to the Advertiser. “It is unfortunate that neither the issue nor our response to it was portrayed accurately, but we understand that these centuries-old wounds are deep and the hurt that resulted from tribes being forcibly removed from the Southeast still remains.”
The Muscogee Creeks of Oklahoma claim that the Poarch Band excavated approximately 60 human remains to build the current casino and that the expansion will cause further desecration to the sacred land, which includes a ceremonial ground, a tribal burial ground and individual graves.
“Our ancestors and their burial objects, and our cultural items need to be returned where they were taken from, and the whole place needs to go back to nature,” said Mekko George Thompson, who has served as a traditional chief of the Oce Vpofa Muscogee Creeks in Oklahoma for 42 years, in the tribe’s release.
Hickory Ground, according to the Muscogee Nation, is known as “Oce Vpofa” in the Muscogee language and was the last capital of the National Council of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation prior to the tribe being forcibly moved to Indian Territory in the 1830s.
The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, according to the Muscogee Nation, while the federal government did not officially recognize the Poarch Band of Creek Indians until 1984. The Poarch Creeks are descendants of the Muscogee Creeks who were not removed from the land and did not live in Alabama as Muscogee Creeks, according to the Muscogee Creeks.
The Muscogee Creeks claim that the “Alabama Historical Commission transferred Hickory Ground to the Poarch Band, even though they had no direct ancestral or cultural connection to the ceremonial ground,” according to the statement from the Muscogee Creeks.
“Although the Poarch Band promised to preserve the Hickory Ground for the benefit of all Creek Indians, the Poarch Band exhumed Muscogee human remains and ceremonial objects to build the Creek Casino Wetumpka, with assistance from researchers at Auburn University. The excavated human remains belong to the lineal ancestors of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma, who hold Hickory Ground as sacred and oppose development on the ceremonial ground.”
“The desecration of a tribal grave, burial or ceremonial place is a human rights violation,” Ludwick said.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen