Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

As Legal Battle Drags on, Muscogee Chief Writes to Ala. Governor

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

As Legal Battle Drags on, Muscogee Chief Writes to Ala. Governor

Article excerpt

OKMULGEE - It has been nearly three years since the Muscogee (Creek) Nation filed a lawsuit against the Alabama-based Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

The federal lawsuit is still pending. In the meantime, the Poarch Band has built a $246 million gaming operation on the land that once belonged to the Muscogee tribe.

It's not just any patch of property that the Poarch Band has used for the venue. Hickory Creek in Wetumpka, Alabama, was the Muscogee Creek original capital, with burial grounds that hold the remains of the tribe's ancestors. Hickory Creek was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 for its importance to the tribe.

In its lawsuit, the Muscogee tribe claims the Poarch Band obtained the land using federal funds with plans to preserve the area. Then, in 2013, the tribe built the Wind Creek Casino and Hotel on the property. The Muscogee tribe alleges that the Poarch Creeks excavated 57 sets of human remains from the land, which is in violation of many federal acts created to preserve Indian remains and relics.

"(The Muscogee Creek tribal members) are experiencing severe emotional distress because of the violation of the burial sites of their ancestors and the violation of their religious and cultural beliefs, including but not limited to their inability to respect their ancestors, pray on the ceremonial ground, and keep Hickory Ground sacred," wrote Alabama-based Bill Baxley, the tribe's attorney, in his original complaint.

In its response, the Poarch Band said the Muscogee tribe's claims have no legal merit and there is no viable cause of action against it, including the removal of bodies.

"During it's nearly three decades of ownership of the Wetumpka property, (Poarch Band) excavated human remains and funerary objects from the property," said David C. Smith, the tribe's attorney. "The (Muscogee Creeks) do not allege that any of the remains recovered from the Wetumpka property (or any remains as yet unrecovered) belong to any identifiable individual."

The Poarch Band is the only federally recognized tribe in Alabama. During the 2015 session, the state considered legalizing gambling machines and a state lottery. …

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