Idle No More Activists Will Rally to Save Hickory Ground

Native American activists with the Idle No More movement of Canada will rally to save Hickory Ground, a sacred site to the Muscogee Creek Nation.

The Idle No More movement will rally in Oklahoma and Alabama to protest the desecration of a sacred site.

Idle No More activists will hold simultaneous demonstrations in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Wetumpka, Alabama, to protest the Poarch Band of Creek Indians construction of a $246 million casino expansion at Hickory Ground—a sacred ceremonial site and burial ground of Muscogee Creek Nation ancestors, Save Hickory Ground announced on its Facebook page.

The demonstrations will take place on Saturday, January 26, from 3-6 p.m. at the Creek Indian Community Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and will feature Native speakers, dancers and free food. A pow wow featuring the Southern Singers drum group will begin at 3:30 p.m., and a press conference will begin at 4:30. Everyone is welcome to attend and participate.

At the same time, Native American Idle No More activists and members of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians who oppose their tribal government’s casino development will demonstrate at Wetumpka, Alabama, where the land known as Hickory Ground is located.

Hickory Ground Tribal Town, known as Oce Vpofa in the Muscogee language, was the last capitol of the National Council of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation from 1802-1814. The sacred place includes a ceremonial ground, a tribal burial ground and individual graves. The current day Muscogee Creek Nation’s ancestors lived and were buried at Hickory Ground before the tribe was forced from its Alabama homeland on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma as a result of U.S. President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830—America’s legalization of ethnic cleansing.

There is widespread opposition to the Poarch Band’s casino expansion plan. Last October, the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, including the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations, unanimously adopted a resolution supporting efforts to halt the desecration of Hickory Ground. Two months later, on December 12, 2012, the Muscogee Creek Nation and the Hickory Ground Tribal Town filed a federal lawsuit against the Poarch Band and its officials, construction contractors Flintco LLC and Martin Construction Inc., Auburn University and the U.S. Department of the Interior. The lawsuit alleges that the excavation of Muscogee Creek human remains and funerary objects from Hickory Ground violated the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and other federal laws.

The lawsuit cites violations of NAGPRA, which requires consent by the lineal descendants to exhume the buried ancestors; the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, which protects ceremonial and burial grounds and requires consultation with traditional religious leaders before such sites can be disturbed; the National Historic Preservation Act; the Archeological Resources Protection Act, and others. In justifying the inclusion of the Interior Department as a defendant, the Muscogee lawsuit says that the U.S. “owes a fiduciary duty to Indian tribes, and at a minimum this means agencies must comply with general regulations and statutes.”

Idle No More is a grassroots indigenous rights movement that originated in Canada in opposition to a bill passed by the legislature that abrogates First Nations’ treaties, potentially devastates their territories and the environment by making it easier for extractive corporations to buy indigenous land and relaxes regulations that protect land and waterways, and violates the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada endorsed in 2010, by ignoring the requirements for consultation and free, prior and informed consent, among other things. Activists supporting the preservation of Hickory Ground recently have participated in Idle No More demonstrations in Shawnee and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Creek Indian Community Center is located at 8611 S. Union Ave., in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For more information visit SaveHickoryGround.org. Updates will be posted on Facebook and on Twitter.