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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief George Tiger held a press conference at the Montgomery Federal Courthouse to discuss the situation surrounding a man who was arrested while protesting the construction of the new Creek casino in Wetumpka.
Four Native American protesters including three members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation were arrested for trespassing last Friday, after attempting to access a ceremonial ground known as "Hickory Ground" in Wetumpka.
Three of the four men were released on bond for trespassing charges. An additional charge was filed against Muscogee (Creek) Nation 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 has been held on a $30,000 cash-only bond at the Elmore County.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation's Principal Chief, George Tiger, came to Montgomery to work on getting Gray released on bond. Chief Tiger is a member of Hickory Ground Tribal Town, which traces its lineage ancestors from Wetumpka. They continue to say the graves of their ancestors have been disturbed by the casino construction.
"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 also have the right to express their disapproval of the excavation under the First Amendment, and these charges raise serious free speech and civil rights issues." 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 what they contend was a 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.
Leaders with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians say the remains were properly handled and re-buried with a prayer ceremony elsewhere.
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, traveled to Wetumpka to protest the construction.
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.
INFORMATION SOURCE: Hickory Ground Attorney, Chief George Tiger of the Muscogee Creek Nation.