Creeks to attempt ceremony at casino construction site


The feud among Creek tribes over the future of historic land in Wetumpka could boil over Thursday when some Creeks plan to go to the site, where the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are in the midst of a $246 million hotel and casino expansion, for a religious ceremony.

This is a rendering of Creek Casino Wetumpka planned for the banks of the Coosa River in Wetumpka.

A coalition of traditional members of the Poarch Band and members of the Hickory Ground Tribal Town announced on Tuesday that they plan to go to the site at 9 a.m. Thursday to pray and participate in a ceremony to honor the ancestors buried there.

Those planning to pray said they have alerted the Poarch Creek Tribal Council and asked the council to cease construction during the ceremony.

But a spokeswoman for the Poarch Band Tribal Council said Tuesday that 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,” spokeswoman Sharon Delmar said. “When reinterment took place last year, a ceremony and prayer was conducted by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ tribal historic preservation officer.”

William Bailey, who formerly served on the Poarch Creek Tribal Council and who is a traditional chief of the Hvsosv Tallahassee ceremonial ground of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, said “we are concerned about our ancestors who were excavated for the casino development.”

The Poarch Creeks, with the assistance of archaeologists from Auburn University, excavated about 57 remains and funerary items during work at the site to build the original casino. Poarch Creek officials have said the remains have been reinterred and that no more remains would need to be disturbed for the expansion, which was announced in July and was expected to be complete by January 2014.

“We traveled here from Oklahoma to perform a peaceful ceremony for our ancestors,”

Wayland Gray, a member of Hickory Ground Tribal Town, said in a statement. “Their remains may have been excavated, but their spirits remain.”

The Muscogee Creek of Oklahoma and some Poarch Creek believe the site, known as Hickory Ground and the last known capital of the Creek Nation before they were forced west by the federal government, is sacred. The site includes a ceremonial ground, a tribal burial ground, and individual graves.

The Muscogee Creek Nation and Hickory Ground Tribal Town sued the Poarch Creeks, some of its officials, the contractors and others involved in federal court in December seeking to stop the construction. They claim the Poarch Creeks are violating federal laws and are desecrating the land, and they vowed for months to file suit if the Poarch Creeks did not cease construction.

The Poarch Creeks are building the 20-story hotel and casino on the banks of the Coosa River. The Poarch Band, the only federally recognized tribe in Alabama, operates casinos in Montgomery, Atmore and Wetumpka.

– posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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