Muscogee Indians of Oklahoma Speak Out About Arrests at Wind Creek Casino

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By Brittany Bivins

It started out as a peaceful prayer service, and ended in handcuffs. Four members of the Muskogee Indians of Oklahoma tribe were arrested in Wetumpka for trespassing on Wind Creek Casino property.

 

Now two of the men are speaking out to Alabama News Network about what happened. Mike Harjo and Michael Deo say they traveled from Oklahoma to hold a prayer ceremony for their ancestors this week.

The land, known as Hickory Ground, is considered sacred by the Muscogee people. They say their ancestors' bodies were once buried there, but removed from Wetumpka's Wind Creek Casino to make way for the building.

On Thursday,

the group of twelve men, which included two local pastors, was turned away by Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Police. On Friday, four of the men returned to try to hold the prayer service on the site, which is currently under construction for an expansion of the casino.

"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," said Mike Harjo.

"We were asking them, you know, do you get to see your grandparents, you know, go visit their graves? Do you get to say a prayer without having to go through all this?" said Michael Deo.

Neither the

Elmore County Sheriff nor casino officials would speak on-camera about the arrests. but PCI gaming officials sent a statement, saying "Today four individuals were arrested at Creek Casino Wetumpka. The individuals were stopped by property management and advised to leave. These individuals refused to leave, made threatening comments, and were repeatedly warned that they were trespassing and facing imminent arrest. These individuals continued to challenge Tribal police and were arrested. The men had been warned yesterday that no one other than the professionals involved with the project would be allowed at the construction site. At least one of them men repeatedly made threats to property management and security during these encounters. While some many see these individuals simply as celebrity seekers, Poarch Band of Creek Indians and PCI Gaming must take these threats seriously, especially in light of the security climate in America today."

T

hree of the men spent two hours at the Elmore County Jail for trespassing, but a fourth, Wayland Gray, is still behind bars. Harjo and Deo say he's being held on a $30,000 bond on charges of making a terrorist threat, something they say didn't happen.

"

Neither Poarch Creek officials nor Elmore County Sheriff's officials would say exactly what the alleged threats were. The men's attorney, Brendan Ludwick, says all four men will fight the charges against them, based on the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, which he says guarantees the Muscogee people the right to access the ancestral land.

I was with Wayland Gray all day, and I never heard any kind of threat or terrorism or nothing like that," said Harjo.

Harjo and Deo say they don't regret making the trip or trying to hold the prayer service at Hickory Ground."I feel good that we actually opened some minds out there, woke people up, you know, a lot of people scared to make a move like what we done, but this is what it takes," said Deo.

The Muscogee Indians of Oklahoma have also filed a lawsuit to stop the expansion of the Wind Creek Casino onto the ancient burial grounds. In a statement on Thursday, PCI spokesperson Sharon Delmar said the men would not be allowed onto the property because of the ongoing litigation and safety concerns.

 

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John red said on Wednesday, Feb 20 at 10:33 PM

These poarch creeks are so white ..they only be indian when it comes to benefits, real natives would not of arrested another federal tribe members but come to an agreement first,the poarch are greedy whites in disguise !

Standingalone said on Tuesday, Feb 19 at 6:42 PM

There are spirits that are taking away our country greed and the hunger of obtaining it. Most of the people that visit that place do not have the money but decide to go there anyway. I feel for the true Indians who still stand on the firm belief keep praying stand strong.

Adolphus Bailey said on Monday, Feb 18 at 7:12 PM

My g-g-grandfather may have been there, during the removal he said he wasn't going. It is written in history books that he layed down and died. He was Menawa also called Big Warrior a true Indian warrior. I resent the removal of graves from this sacrided ground for the joy of making money. You Alabama Creeks sound like Wal Mart.

Lynlue said on Monday, Feb 18 at 12:41 PM

This is sad, because just think about it if you or white or black and go into a cemetary and detroy grave sites you will be arrested and punished for the crime. So why are they allowing the casino owners to disturb a burial ground. Same situation no matter what race. I feel that all they looking at is money.

Save Hickory Ground said on Monday, Feb 18 at 12:20 AM

Stop the desecration and free Wayland Gray join us @Hickory_Ground and Facebook.com/SaveHickoryGround

RED EAGLE WOMAN said on Sunday, Feb 17 at 8:35 PM

MY HEART GOES OUT TO YOU AND YOUR PEOPLE, THATS RIGHT WATCH OUT FOR WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW EVEN MORE SO WHEN IT COME TO OUR ANCESTORS! DON'T SAY YOU WEREN'T TOLD WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS...

Adam Haynes said on Sunday, Feb 17 at 6:06 AM

Makes me sad. These are my ancestress too. I am proud of these Prayer Warriors. What harm would it be to just let them hold a Prayer Ceremony?

Sarah (Muscogee Creek) said on Saturday, Feb 16 at 9:21 PM

Its time for the truth about the Poarch Creek to come out! They obtained sovernty by claiming to be related to us. Having hid during removal. However, they do not hold anything sacred true Muscogee people do. They host PowWows. Well sorry but Creek's don't PowWow, we stomp dance. And now they dig up OUR people to make more money. How dare you! Their parking garage is being built over the graves of 7 cheifs! Have you ever watched Poltergeist? I know they know nothing of our medicine either. Careful what graves you mess with PCI, never know what you might wake up! But we don't care if you continue on with your pretend tribe, just leave our ancestors alone!

Becky McCrary said on Saturday, Feb 16 at 8:40 PM

What would it hurt for these men to have had their prayer meeting where their ancestors were buried? How heartless can you be? Haven't the Indians been treated bad enough?? It is time for this to stop. We deserve respect.

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