Charges against Muscogee men droppedPublished 5:42pm Friday, June 21, 2013
Criminal trespassing charges against four Muscogee Indian men from Oklahoma who made a protest march on the construction site of Wind Creek Casino Wetumpka were dropped this week in an Elmore County Court.
In January, Wayland Gray, Michael Deo, Mike Harjo and an Alabama man named George Mead, who referred to himself as “Maggot,” were arrested after attempting to pray for their ancestors who are interred on the site of the new PCI casino project.
Now, the men will only be responsible for paying court costs on the charges; however, Gray still faces an Aug. 29 trial on another misdemeanor charge.
Gray was also charged with making a terrorist threat in relation to the January incident, but an Elmore County Court did not return an indictment on that charge.
“These charges are a smokescreen to divert attention away from the desecration of Hickory Ground,” Gray said. “The issue is respect for ancestors, and the precedent this case sets for all Native people trying to protect sacred land and burials.”
More than 40 men, woman and children rode a chartered bus from Oklahoma to witness the brief hearing. Wednesday, Poarch Creek officials responded to their presence.
“Members of the Muskogee Nation in Oklahoma are once again making a very public visit to Alabama as part of an orchestrated campaign to control the use of our tribal land in Wetumpka,” the PCI press release says. “This is land for which they have no ownership claim, yet their actions concerning our property continue to overstep boundaries of reason and principles of tribal government sovereignty.”
The Muscogees – the Poarch Creek’s ancestral relatives who were driven from the state in the early 19th century on the infamous Trail of Tears – are fervently opposed to casino construction on the land they consider a sacred burial and ceremonial site.
“While we share ancestral ties, these individuals live in another state on their own tribal lands,” the PCI statement reads, accusing the Oklahomans of “hubris and hypocrisy.”
A federal lawsuit is ongoing in which the Muscogees claim the PCI construction violates various U.S. laws protecting heritage sites and burial grounds.