OKMULGEE — The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is publicly balking at another tribe’s gaming compact negotiations.
In a letter dated June 2, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief George Tiger asked Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to not sign a Class III gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, headquartered in Atmore, Alabama, near the Florida border.
The two tribes have been at odds for more than three years stemming from a $246 million expansion project at the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ Wind Creek Casino in Wetumpka, Alabama.
The Oklahoma tribe maintains that the construction project desecrates Hickory Ground, a pre-removal Creek burial ground and ceremonial site that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. During the excavation process, 57 sets of human remains were unearthed and reburied.
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation filed a federal lawsuit in December 2012 to stop construction and strip the property of its federal trust status. However, the casino addition opened in 2013 and the litigation is still pending.
“The Poarch Band’s desecration of Hickory Ground is inconsistent with our values and likewise should be admonished by the people of Alabama,” Tiger wrote. “A gaming compact with the Poarch Band would implicitly ratify that desecration and fraud, because the revenues paid to your state would come from a casino built on our historical site, ceremonial grounds and ancestors’ burial grounds.”
Officials with the Poarch Creek Band of Indians have maintained that the expansion is in compliance with all applicable federal laws, including the Native American Graves and Protection and Repatriation Act and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.
The state’s only federally recognized tribe, the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, also operates casinos in Montgomery, Alabama, and Atmore, Alabama. Earlier this year, the tribe announced its interest in opening a casino in the Florida Panhandle on tribally owned land that is currently not in trust.