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Poarch airs in national spotlight

By By Janet Little Cooper
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians are taking to the airwaves in a statewide advertising campaign aimed at educating Alabama residents about the tribe, its history and its business enterprises.
The TV commercials, which began airing Jan. 15, are being broadcast in four Alabama cities: Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery.
Birmingham resident, Sandra Hicks, who visits Atmore, has seen the commercials for Poarch being broadcast in her area.
"We are having news promos for the Poarch Creek Indians up here now," Hicks said. "I started seeing them this week. They are very good commercials."
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians initiated the "Alabama Natives, Alabama Neighbors" campaign primarily because it believes the tribe is a valuable resource in the state, culturally, historically, and economically.
"For years, our tribe has been relatively unknown to many Alabama residents," said Tribal Chairman Buford L. Rolin. "We played a very important role in settling the state. "And we would like for more people to know about us and what we try to do as citizens and neighbors. This is an awareness campaign. We feel the tribe is one of the best kept secrets in Alabama. We believe we are good neighbors, and our tribal community wants the people in Alabama to know who we are and what we do, and to appreciate us as a resource."
According to a statement released by the tribe, the idea of a statewide media campaign has been in planning stages for several years. Former Tribal Chairman Fred L. McGhee had a vision of telling the tribe's story statewide and initiated the project development. His successor, current chairman Buford L. Rolin, fervently shared this vision and made it a top priority of his administration. The Poarch Tribal Council unanimously approved support for the project in late 2006.
With an undertaking of this size, the tribe chose to hire a professional production company in the northeast and they began filming the day after the tribe's Thanksgiving Day Pow Wow.
According to the tribe's statement, the Pow Wow offered a prime opportunity to capture footage of both tribal members and important celebrations.
In an effort to involve as many tribal members as possible an ad was placed in the local papers inviting tribal members who attended the Poarch Indian Schools to meet at the Poarch Consolidated Indian School for filming. The ad also invited tribal members to share old photographs, and several people volunteered their treasured photos. The Indian School reunion footage and several old photos were featured in the education spot.
Tribal officials said that the film crew collected footage of tribal enterprises and several tribal Government departments. They filmed employees at the Health Clinic, the Emergency Response Center, the Senior Citizen's SAIL center, the Chairman and several representatives of the tribe's history and culture. The crew also visited a local school and the Atmore Chamber of Commerce. They filmed historical landmarks such as the St. Anna's Episcopal Church, and simple scenes of beauty in the tribal community.
No actors or television professional were used in the spots. Instead, tribal members and community leaders are the spokespeople. Even the voiceovers are tribal.
The daunting task of selecting what footage to use and who to feature was ultimately left to the production crew.
"We are pleased to now have the resources to tell our story in what we believe is an accurate and authentic way," Rolin said. "This is a vision we've chosen to honor. We are proud of our heritage and the beauty of our culture. We are also proud of our contributions in the state and we want our neighbors to get to know us better. This is our story, our vision."
"Many people know us only from our gaming operations," said James T. Martin, President of Creek Indian Enterprises. "We hope that viewers will see a much more complete picture of who we are and how we have worked for centuries to be good neighbors."
The commercials began airing statewide this week on network television stations and are scheduled to run through mid-March 2007