Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
WETUMKA, ALABAMA Shortly after noon on Friday, three traditional Creeks from Oklahoma were arrested, along with a member of the American Indian Movement - Alabama Chapter, for trespassing while attempting to gain access the Hickory Ground ceremonial ground in Wetumpka.
Wayland Gray, second from left, still remains jailed.
The three Oklahomans are members of the Muskogee Tribe of Oklahoma and were in Alabama to fight the construction of a casino being built by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians on Hickory Ground ancestral ceremonial grounds. They feel the construction site desecrates the graves of their ancestors.
Arrested were Wayland Gray, Mike Harjo, Michael Deo and the Alabama AIM member, who identifies himself as “Maggot.” Gray, Harjo and Deo are part of Hickory Ground Tribal Town.
The four were arrested for trespassing and were set to be freed late Friday afternoon. However, Wayland Gray still remains jailed in the Elmore County Jail because the Poarch Creek Tribal Police arrived shortly before he was to be released and charged him with making a "terrorist threat." The other three are free on bond.
Gray remains jailed on a $30,000 cash bond.
“It is mind boggling that they are alleging these charges against someone who was praying for his excavated ancestors at a ceremonial ground. They are attempting to use their influence over the local government to punish Wayland, but they are only going to bring greater awareness to the sacred lands and religious freedom issues there,”
commented Brendan Ludwick, an attorney from San Francisco who has been doing work on the behalf of the Muskogee Tribe of Oklahoma.
“We believe this charge is unsupported by evidence.”
“We asked them, wasn't this charge extreme,”
stated Steve Musgrove to the Native News Network. Musgrove was at the jail arranging to have the four released.
“They said 'not since 9/11' and denied Wayland's release.”
Late Friday the Poarch Band of Creek Indians issued this statement:
"The individuals were advised to leave. These individuals made threatening comments and were repeatedly warned that they were trespassing and facing imminent arrest. These individuals continued to challenge tribal police and were arrested."
The Oklahoma Creeks are unhappy with the Poarch Creeks decision to expand their casino onto an area where some 57 human remains were dug up to make room for the $246 million expansion that will include a 20 story hotel.
On December 12, 2012, Hickory Ground Tribal Town and the Muscogee, Creek, Nation of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit in the US 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.
The protestors are descendants of the Creek who were removed to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears. Last year the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma, which includes the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations, issued a resolution urging the Poarch Band of Creek to halt the casino expansion.
posted February 16, 2013 10:20 am est