Indianz.Com > News > George Thompson: The plight of our sacred Hickory Ground
Mvskoke Media: Hickory Ground Mekko George Thompson on Poarch issue
Protecting Sacred Sites
The Plight of Hickory Ground Tribal Town 
Monday, August 7, 2023
Mekko of Hickory Ground

Like most Americans, I know where my people, and my family, are buried. And like most Americans, my religion and moral decency requires that I protect and preserve their final resting place.

My family is from Hickory Ground. Hickory Ground is where we lived, died and carried out our Mvskoke religion for thousands of years. It was the capital of our Muscogee (Creek) Nation. And it is where we buried our most important political and cultural leaders. And my family.

But then the Trail of Tears separated us from our home. We didn’t want to leave. We were forced to go. We had no choice. That’s when the trauma began; and it continues today.

Recently, a group of people (claiming to be Native) came to Hickory Ground and dug up my family, placed them in trash bags and plastic bins, and stored them at a university to be studied. The federal agencies responsible for Hickory Ground’s protection sat back and did nothing. They allowed the desecration to happen.

After exhausting all other options, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has filed a lawsuit that seeks accountability for all parties who caused or allowed this tragedy to happen.

George Thompson
George Thompson is the Mekko of Hickory Ground, a lifetime position that he has held for over 47 years. Photo © Mvskoke Media, Courtesy Muscogee (Creek) Nation

I’m a plaintiff in the Hickory Ground litigation because it is my duty to do everything I can to protect the legacy of Hickory Ground and all of our relatives buried there. I will not stop fighting until my family rests in peace.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s story is one of resilience. Over the years, we’ve had our land seized by speculators, squatters, federal agents, and even the U.S. government itself. By the 1830s, the federal government went so far as to relocate all Creeks by force. On that forced march, our ancestors physically walked our sacred fire, given to us by Creator, for over 800 miles until they got to Indian Territory, where they re-established our ceremonial ground here on the Reservation.  

Since that time, Hickory Ground has continued to be located south of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Capital in the heart of the Muscogee Reservation, Indian Territory.

I am the Mekko (Chief) of Hickory Ground. As Mekko of this sacred ceremonial ground, it is my life-long responsibility to protect and preserve the past, present, and future of our Muscogee (Creek) ways and culture. Our culture values respect (vrakkueckv), integrity (fvtcetv), responsibility (mecvlke), humility (eyasketv), wisdom (hoporenkv), and love (vnokeckv).    

These virtues have carried us through countless wars, the outright removal from our ancestral homelands, and policies aimed at obliterating our people and erasing our identity. However, I am deeply concerned about the current state of the historic Hickory Ground site in Alabama and the challenges we face in protecting our sacred site.   

Hickory Ground has been desecrated by people claiming to be Creek. In their application for the federal preservation funds they used to purchase Hickory Ground, they said they would “prevent development on the property” and preserve Hickory Ground “without excavation.” They emphasized that the preservation funds were crucial to protecting Hickory Ground because it “is of major importance in the history of The Muscogee (Creek) Nation,” who “will be pleased to know their home in Alabama is being preserved.” This group of people has refused to honor its promise. And that has been heartbreaking. We should never have had to leave Hickory Ground for someone else to look after it in the first place.    

In our Muscogee culture, once a body is at rest, it is supposed to remain there forever and complete its lifecycle, returning to earth. The group of people that received federal historic preservation funds to purchase Hickory Ground proceeded to dig up over 57 human remains, our ancestors, to make way for a $246 million casino that now sits over our most sacred site. To this day, many of our relatives’ remains continue to sit in a simple garden shed on the property, or in a box at Auburn University.    

We traveled to Alabama to see for ourselves whether what we heard could possibly be true. Our children wept at the sight of bulldozers and dirt piles where our ancestors once laid in peace. We were overwhelmed by a sense of irreparable loss and hopelessness. Our religion commands us to protect our ancestors and keep them at peace. We feel unbearable sadness knowing we failed in this duty.    

While others may have forgotten their duty to protect the most sacred of sacred, as a human being, I cannot sit by and do the same. 

We desire closure, but reconciliation demands restoration. I joined the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in the lawsuit the Nation filed to protect Hickory Ground. This lawsuit defends sovereignty and lays bare the federal government’s failure to protect it.

Tribal culture is the reason we have tribal sovereignty. As a traditional, ceremonial leader, I have a deep, abiding respect for the ways in which our Mvskoke culture sustains our Nation’s sovereignty. If we lose our ceremonial grounds, if we lose our language, if we lose our culture—as others have done — we will lose our sovereignty and cease to exist as a People.

Anyone willing to use the sword of tribal sovereignty to destroy tribal culture threatens the tribal sovereignty of all tribes. Tribal sovereignty should be used to protect our culture and sacred sites — not generate corporate profits.  

As Mekko, I am committed to fight for the restoration and protection of our sacred sites, and the preservation of our Mvskoke culture. This struggle is not just about the past; it is about the present and the future. This is a universal human struggle. We stand united in our righteous determination to ensure that all sacred sites are respected and preserved. Decency demands it.  

George Thompson is the Mekko of Hickory Ground, a lifetime position that he has held for over 47 years, and he currently serves as a Justice in the Muscogee (Creek) Supreme Court. He is a fluent speaker of the Muscogee (Creek) language and has been designated as a Living Legend within the Nation.