Oklahoma Creek Indians may sue Alabama band to protect site
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON World Correspondent
Saturday, December 01, 2012
12/01/12 at 5:50 AM
OKMULGEE - The Muscogee (Creek) Nation may be heading to court in an attempt to protect a sacred site in Alabama that belonged to them before their removal to Indian Territory in the early 1800s.
In an emergency session, the tribe's National Council voted unanimously Thursday night to authorize attorney Brendan Ludwick and the law firm of Baxley, Dillard, McKnight and James to pursue civil action on behalf of the tribe against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, headquartered in Atmore, Ala.
The two tribes have been at odds over the proposed expansion of a casino in Wetumpka, Ala. Fifty-seven sets of human remains have been unearthed from the Hickory Ground, a burial ground and the last capital of the Creek Nation before removal, during expansion efforts.
The expansion 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.
If completed, the expanded casino is scheduled to open in January 2014 with 2,500 gaming machines and will include a 20-story hotel with 285 rooms. It is expected to create an additional 1,000 jobs for the Wetumpka area.
The 3,000-citizen Poarch Band of Creek Indians also operates casinos in Montgomery, Ala., and Atmore, Ala.
The resolution's author, Muskogee District Rep. Eddie LaGrone, said a decision had not been made as to where the proposed civil action will be filed, but he said the tribe is considering filing it in federal district court in either Alabama or the District of Columbia.
The decision comes after representatives from Hickory Ground and the Creek Nation met earlier this week with Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn about the situation.
"He (Washburn) committed to try to facilitate a meeting with us and the Poarch Band in early 2013," Principal Chief George Tiger said. "Something needs to be done. Somewhere along the line, the federal government failed us again.
"His commitment is a positive step, and I'm encouraged, but I'm also a little cautious. We're all in this together."
Original Print Headline: Creek Nation may sue to save Alabama sacred site