Creek Nation member jailed for prayer service at Alabama casino site is freed
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON World Correspondent
Thursday, February 21, 2013
2/21/13 at 8:15 AM
A Muscogee (Creek) Nation member was released from jail this week after trying to conduct a prayer service at a controversial Alabama casino construction site.
Along with three other men, Wayland Gray was arrested Friday afternoon for trespassing after attempting to pray for his ancestors who were once buried at the Wind Creek Casino construction site near Wetumpka, Ala., which overlaps with Hickory Ground, a burial ground and sacred site.
Gray and his group had asked that the construction be halted for a day to allow the group to conduct the prayer ceremony without interruption, but officials with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians refused, citing safety concerns and a pending federal lawsuit filed in December by the Creek Nation.
Gray was released after Creek Nation Principal Chief George Tiger and other tribal officials traveled to Alabama and negotiated his cash-only bond from $30,000 to $15,000.
"I came because the families of Wayland Gray and our tribal members felt that this is something the nation needed to do," Tiger said at a news conference Tuesday in Montgomery, Ala. "I want to be able to take Mr. Gray home this evening to his parents and loved ones. It is our hope that one day our relatives in this state ... can work together with us."
Despite the excavation of 57 sets of human remains, Poarch Band officials maintain that the $246 million casino expansion project does not violate any potentially applicable federal laws, including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
The land, which has been held in trust since 1984, is part of the Alabama tribe's reservation and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The casino, along with the tribe's two other gaming facilities in Montgomery and Atmore, Ala., is also the subject of a lawsuit filed Tuesday by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.
Citing state laws that prohibit slot machine gaming, Strange filed suit in Elmore County Circuit Court against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians' gaming authority and individual members of the gaming authority and tribal council in their official capacity. The three casinos have a combined 2,500 electronic games.
Original Print Headline: Creek Nation member jailed in Alabama freed