‘Traditional Creeks’ plan visit to PCI construction site

Published 2:22 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A group of Traditional Creek Indians plan to visit the Wind Creek Wetumpka project in Wetumpka tomorrow morning.

A group of Traditional Creek Indians plan to visit the Wind Creek Wetumpka project in Wetumpka tomorrow morning.

WETUMPKA — Traditional Creek Indians have notified the Tribal Council of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians that they are planning to access the Hickory Ground ceremonial ground located in Wetumpka Thursday, Feb. 14 at 9 a.m.

According to reports by the Wetumpka Herald, the group includes traditional members of the Poarch Band and members of the Hickory Ground Tribal Town who plan to participate in a ceremony to respect ancestors who were buried there.  The group has requested the Poarch Band Tribal Council to cease construction activity at Hickory Ground during the prayer ceremony.

“We are planning to pray at the ceremonial ground,” said William Bailey, a Traditional Chief of the Hvsosv Tallahassee ceremonial ground of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians who formerly served on its Tribal Council. “We are concerned about our ancestors who were excavated for the casino development.”

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In a response, Poarch Creek spokesperson Sharon Delmar said “the tribe reserves our right to restrict access to a construction site for safety reasons and in consideration of pending litigation.”

“The Muskogee Nation and Hickory Ground Town of Oklahoma filed legal action against the development in December of last year,” she wrote in an email Tuesday night. “When re-interment took place last year, a ceremony and prayer was conducted by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.”

Hickory Ground, known as “Ocevpofv” in the Muscogee language, was the capitol of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation prior to removal to Indian Territory in the 1830s.  The sacred place includes a ceremonial ground, a tribal burial ground and individual graves.

On December 12, 2012, Hickory Ground Tribal Town and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama to stop the construction of a $246 million casino at Hickory Ground.  The plaintiffs claim that 57 sets of human remains of their ancestors were excavated from Hickory Ground in violation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

“We traveled here from Oklahoma to perform a peaceful ceremony for our ancestors,” said Wayland Gray, a member of Hickory Ground Tribal Town.  Their remains may have been excavated, but their spirits remain,” added Gray.

The Native American group is working together with local church leaders, including Pastor Dr. James Troglen of the First Baptist Church of Wetumpka, to bring awareness to the moral issue of excavating ancestors from a sacred place for casino development.

The Tribal Council of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians has not yet indicated whether they will attempt to prevent the group requesting permission to access the ceremonial ground.