Press Release: Native Americans Rally to Save Hickory Ground at NIGA Conference



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(Phoenix, Arizona) On Tuesday, March 26, 2013, Native American sacred lands activists from throughout the country, including O’odham, Navajo and Havasupai and Muscogee Creeks, demonstrated at the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) conference to support the preservation of Hickory Ground in Wetumpka, Alabama.  The Poarch Band of Creek Indians excavated approximately 57 sets of Muscogee Creek human remains from the ceremonial ground at Hickory Ground as part of its $246 million casino expansion project.

“What’s another developer going to say who is not Native when they look at indigenous people desecrating their own sacred lands,” asked Navajo activist Klee Benally of Indigenous Action Media.  “NIGA is one of the largest most powerful lobbying entities for indigenous interests, so it’s about time that they stand up and they lobby to ensure guaranteed protection for our sacred places,” said Benally.

Poarch Band Tribal Council members Eddie Tullis and Keith Martin were present at the beginning of the rally, but left shortly after the rally began.

American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis Banks stated, “Underneath that ground are bones and a lot of evidence of it being a very sacred site.”  Banks implored: “Please, anything that you can do to support, to stop that casino from being built.”

Last December, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation filed a federal lawsuit to enjoin ground-disturbing activity at Hickory Ground.  The lawsuit claims that the burials excavated from Hickory Ground are the lineal ancestors of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Hickory Ground Tribal Town.  The plaintiffs request the court to order the remains and funerary objects to be reburied where they were excavated, and to restore the ceremonial ground to a nature.

Demonstrators also spoke about threatened destruction to other sacred places, including the San Francisco Peaks and the South Mountain in Arizona.

Rex Tilousi traveled from Havasupai Reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to attend the rally.  “What is inside our mother earth, not only the surface but underneath our mother earth, the waters, the springs that give us life, we need to save and protect these things,” said Tilousi.

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Klee Benally:

Photo attached: Actor Adam Beach speaks to Hickory Ground Warrior Wayland Gray at the Sacred Lands Rally in Phoenix.  Activist Klee Benally is seen at the left of the photo.

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