For Immediate ReleaseFebruary 16, 2013
Native American Protesters Jailed After Attempting to Access Ceremonial Ground
(Wetumpka, Alabama) Four Native American protesters were arrested for trespassing yesterday after attempting to access a ceremonial ground known as “Hickory Ground” in Wetumpka, Alabama. Three of the four men were released on bond for trespassing charges yesterday afternoon.
An additional charge was filed against the leader of the group, Hickory Ground Tribal Town member Wayland Gray. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians tribal law enforcement accused Gray of making “terroristic threats.” Based on the tribal police report, Gray is being held on a $30,000 cash-only bond at the Elmore County jail in Wetumpka, Alabama.
“The Mvskoke people regard Hickory Ground as a sacred place, and should be allowed access under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act,” said tribal attorney Brendan Ludwick. “They have the right to express their disapproval of the excavation under the First Amendment,” he added.
On December 12, 2012, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Hickory Ground Tribal Town filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the Poarch Band of Creek Indians from engaging in ground disturbing activity at the ceremonial ground, where the Poarch Band is constructing a $246 million casino expansion. According to that lawsuit, the Poarch Band excavated 57 sets of human remains of the plaintiff’s ancestors in violation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and other federal laws.
Last week, a coalition of approximately a dozen Creek Indians, including protesters who traveled from Oklahoma and members of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, requested the Poarch Band to halt construction and allow them to honor the ancestors excavated there.
“The individuals asked for access to the construction site, which was denied,” said Poarch Band spokesperson Sharon Delmar, according an article in the Wetumpka Herald. “At no time was there any threat of violence or any physical altercation,” Delmar said in the article.
Mike Harjo, who traveled from Oklahoma to pray at Hickory Ground said, “They pulled their tasers and threatened to shoot us with the taser and they said they was going to arrest us and they arrested us right here on the spot.”
Supporters of the movement to preserve Hickory Ground are raising funds to help Wayland Gray post bond, calling him a “political prisoner” for sacred lands and Native religious freedom on its facebook page: facebook.com/SaveHickoryGround.
For more information contact us on Twitter @Hickory_Ground.