Poarch Creek leaders respond to visiting MuscogeesPublished 11:57am Thursday, June 20, 2013
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians responded Wednesday night to the group of more than 40 Muskogee Creek Indians who rode a bus from Oklahoma this week to attend the district court hearings of four men arrested for trespassing at Creek Casino Wetumpka in February.
The four Native American men — Wayland Gray, Michael Deo, Mike Harjo and George Mead — had their criminal trespassing charges dismissed by Judge Glenn Goggans Tuesday morning. Gray, who was initially charged with making a terrorist threat, though the grand jury declined to indict on the charge, still faces an Aug. 29 trial on another misdemeanor charge.
“Members of the Muskogee Nation in Oklahoma are once again making a very public visit to Alabama as part of an orchestrated campaign to control the use of our tribal land in Wetumpka,” the PCI press release says. “This is land for which they have no ownership claim, yet their actions concerning our property continue to overstep boundaries of reason and principles of tribal governmental sovereignty.”
Claiming a desire to pray on the sacred burial ground of their ancestors — dubbed Hickory Ground — the four men in February approached the current casino and the construction site where the massive Wind Creek Wetumpka Casino and Resort is taking shape. Tribal Security requested they stop, even drawing their weapons, as the four men played ceremonial instruments and chanted. The tribal police eventually handcuffed the four men and took them to the Elmore County Jail charged with criminal trespass.
The Muskogees – the Poarch Creek’s ancestral relatives who were driven from the state in the early 19th century on the infamous Trail of Tears — are fervently opposed to casino construction on land they consider sacred burial and ceremonial trial.
“While we share ancestral ties, these individuals live in another state on their own tribal lands,” the PCI statement reads, accusing the Oklahomans of “hubris and hypocrisy.”
A federal lawsuit is ongoing in which the Muskogees claim the PCI construction violates various U.S. laws protecting heritage sites and burial grounds.
The full PCI statement follows:
Members of the Muskogee Nation in Oklahoma are once again making a very public visit to Alabama as part of an orchestrated campaign to control the use of our tribal land in Wetumpka. This is land for which they have no ownership claim, yet their actions concerning our property continue to overstep boundaries of reason and principles of tribal governmental sovereignty.
While we share ancestral ties, these individuals live in another state on their own tribal lands. Our tribal leadership, more than 20 years ago, offered the Muskogee Nation an opportunity to jointly purchase the land in question, but the Oklahoma tribe did not avail itself of that opportunity.
Despite their orchestrated campaign of disinformation to the contrary, our Hickory Ceremonial Ground land has been preserved and the remains found years earlier were respectfully reinterred. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Council is the locally elected body responsible for protecting our culture and making decisions to build for our future. These decisions should be respected.
The four men facing charges on Tuesday trespassed on Poarch tribal land and made threats against our property, our Tribal members, our employees and our patrons. It is unfortunate for our Tribe that the videotape showing one of these individuals threatening to burn down our casino was not shown to the Grand Jury involved in this case. At least one of these individuals has prior felony convictions, and another felony conviction could have resulted in a life sentence. Additionally, while publicly promoting himself as an “activist”, the individual who made the most serious threats was begging our Tribal leadership to drop charges against him.
This is a case marked with hubris and hypocrisy, and the men who are still facing charges should consider themselves fortunate to have escaped being held responsible for their most serious criminal actions.