January 17, 2017

Oklahoma Creeks file suit against Alabama Poarch Band

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Muscogee (Creek) Nation filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in an attempt to stop the potential desecration of a pre-removal sacred site.

Filed in the Middle District of Alabama, the civil suit names the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Auburn University, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn and several of the tribe’s vendors and contractors as defendants for their role in the expansion of a casino in Wetumpka, Ala.

Due to its location, the $246 million construction project could potentially desecrate Hickory Ground, a burial site, ceremonial ground and the last pre-removal capitol of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. To date, 57 sets of human remains have been unearthed during the expansion process, which was temporarily suspended in October while leaders from the two tribes met to discuss the situation. Construction resumed Oct. 31, despite objections from the Oklahoma tribe, prompting the Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council to authorize the suit during a Nov. 29 emergency meeting.

"From the beginning, it has been our stance that the remains should be put back where they were excavated,” said George Thompson, who has served as the traditional leader of the Hickory Ground ceremonial grounds for 42 years. “The ceremonial ground is sacred, so it is not a proper place for a casino.”

Poarch Band officials have maintained that the expansion is in compliance with all applicable federal laws, including the Native American Graves and Protection and Repatriation Act.