Protest of PCI casino planned

Published 11:31 am Saturday, January 26, 2013

Plans have been made by several organizations, and a former tribal council member, to protest the continuing construction of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Wetumpka today due to claims the building is located on a sacred burial ground.

William Bailey, who once served on the PCI Tribal Council, has had a hand in organizing the demonstration. Bailey said he has been opposed to developing the land since he was on the council in the late 1990s.

“I’ve been against it ever since we got the land,” he said. “I’ve been fighting them to preserve it as a historic site.”

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And Bailey said he is not the only Poarch tribal member against the developing of the land once occupied by the Muscogee Creeks and known as Hickory Ground.

“There’s a lot of them that’s against it,” he said. “We had a meeting not too long ago and there was probably about 300 people there and I imagine 85 to 90 percent of them were against it.”

Edwin Marshall, public relations manager for the Muscogee Creek Indians of Oklahoma, who are currently suing PCI over the land, said the planned demonstration is in no way affiliated with their tribe.

“That is a grass roots movement effort by a group called Save Hickory Ground,” Marshall said. “The Muscogee Creek Nation is involved in some litigation with (PCI). We are not involved in that activity.”

The group, Save Hickory Ground, along with Idle No More, an organization based in Canada, has announced plans for protests in Wetumpka, as well as Tulsa, Okla.

Bailey said the protests will be peaceful and are scheduled to take place today from noon until 4 p.m.

“It’s going to be a lot of drumming, singing, prayers and people talking about how we can preserve historical sites,” he said. “It’s all going to be a peaceful demonstration. We’ve got permits to do it.”

The dispute over the land began nearly a decade ago when PCI officials began exhuming human remains and other artifacts in order to begin developing the property that Muscogee officials have said they promised to preserve.

In October, construction of the new casino was halted by PCI officials in order to meet with the Muscogees, but work had resumed by November with tribal council members saying the two tribes could not come to an agreement.

At that time, Tribal Council Chairman Buford Rolin said the lack of a compromise was unfortunate, but work on the land would continue.

“We are indeed saddened by the outcome of this recent trip to Oklahoma made by representatives of our Tribal Council,” Rolin said in November. “Since 2006, we have reached out to the Muscogee Nation with the hope that they would be open to understanding the facts about the 21st century conditions of what was once Hickory Ground Town and would recognize that our development in Wetumpka does not alter that. Unfortunately we have reached an impasse.”

PCI officials have continued to insist all excavated remains were re-interred with as much care as possible and by observing traditional Muscogee customs.

Bailey said anyone is welcome at today’s protest.