Hickory Ground

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Hickory Ground
Hickory Ground is located in Alabama
Hickory Ground
Hickory Ground is located in the United States
Hickory Ground
Nearest cityWetumpka, Alabama
Coordinates32°31′36″N 86°12′33″W / 32.52667°N 86.20917°W / 32.52667; -86.20917Coordinates: 32°31′36″N 86°12′33″W / 32.52667°N 86.20917°W / 32.52667; -86.20917
Area33.1 acres (13.4 ha)
NRHP reference #80000685[1]
Added to NRHPMarch 10, 1980

Hickory Ground, also known as Otciapofa (or Odshiapofa, Ocheopofau, and Ocheubofau)[2][3] is an historic Upper Muscogee Creek tribal town and an archaeological site in Elmore County, Alabama near Wetumpka.[1][4][5] It is known as Oce Vpofa in the Muscogee language;[6] the name derives from oche-ub,"hickory" and po-fau, "among".[3] It is best known for serving as the last capital of the National Council of the Creek Nation, prior to the tribe being moved to the Indian Territory in the 1830s.[6][7] It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 10, 1980.[1][1][8][9]

Archaeological site[edit]

The 33-acre archaeological site, numbered 1Ee89, is outside Wetumpka on the lower Coosa River, north of where it joins the Tallapoosa River. It is a former village with a ceremonial ground, burial grounds, and refuse sites.[3][10]


Hickory Ground, or Otciapofa, was established by Muscogee Creeks from Little Tulsa, located on the Coosa River. The site was documented during historic times by William Bartram in the 1770s and Benjamin Hawkins in 1799.[11] The town was home to several thousand Muscogee and served as the last capital of the National Council of the Creek Nation from 1802 until 1814. During the Creek War, the inhabitants who were not fighting in the war were confined at nearby Fort Jackson. After the end of the war, they were allowed to resettle the site and remained there until 1832, when they were forcibly removed to the Indian Territory.[12]

The site was rediscovered in 1968 by archaeologist David Chase of Auburn University. The rediscovery was not made public until much later, when plans to build apartments on the site were announced.[8][13] Through the efforts of the Alabama Historical Commission and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the site was acquired in early 1980 through matching funds of $165,000 from the United States Department of the Interior and tax break incentives for the previous owner. Excavations in 1988 and 1991 found evidence of occupation at the site during five distinct cultural periods, ranging from the Early Archaic (8000–6000 B.C.) to the historic Muscogee occupation.[12]

The members of Otciapofa tribal town formed part of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy in Alabama, prior to their forced removal to Indian Territory during the 1830s.[14] After resettling in Indian Territory, the members of Hickory Ground established another town of that name near Henryetta, Oklahoma. Chitto Harjo belonged to new Hickory Ground, where the Crazy Snake Uprising of 1901 was launched.[15]


In August 1980, the property was granted to the Poarch Band.[12] It was placed under a 20-year easement that limited development of the property. The site became part of the Poarch Band's reservation lands in 1984, when they became a federally recognized tribe.[16] Following the expiration of the easement, the Poarch built a Native American bingo hall at the site from 2001–02, which required the excavation of the bingo hall site and exhumation of Muscogee graves found there.[10] The Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma called construction at the site "deplorable" and claimed that many burials were disturbed during the initial building phase.[6][10] This commercial development of the site for a bingo hall was also opposed by other tribes, from both inside and outside the state; the Alabama Historical Commission; Alabama's delegation in the House of Representatives, which introduced legislation in a failed attempt to stop it;[17] and roughly 50 Poarch members, who wrote letters to the Alabama Historical Commission.[12]

The July 2012 announcement of a $246 million expansion to create a 20-story hotel and casino at the site caused further outcry from the Muscogee Creek Nation and the threat of legal action.[10] The Poarch denied that the historic site itself was affected by their development, stating in a news release that it was "protected land that is not part of a casino expansion."[18] The dispute over the development of Hickory Ground is part of a wider disagreement between the Poarch Band and the Oklahoma Muscogee; some in the Oklahoma tribe view themselves as 'traditionalists' and see the Poarch Band, who stayed behind in Alabama when the rest of the Muscogee were removed during the Trail of Tears, as being "questionable Indians".[13]

The Montgomery Advertiser's article of August 21, 2012, stated: Robert McGhee, a member of the Poarch Band tribal council gave no indication that the group planned to halt construction and disagreed with Tiger's charge that the group lacked respect for cultural values. "We have taken great care to honor history and preserve the past while ensuring the future for our tribe," he responded by email to the Advertiser. "It is unfortunate that neither the issue nor our response to it was portrayed accurately, but we understand that these centuries-old wounds are deep and the hurt that resulted from tribes being forcibly removed from the Southeast still remains."[19]

On October 12, 2012, 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.

On December 12, 2012, the Muscogee Creek Nation and the Hickory Ground Tribal Town filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama to stop the casino development. 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 multi-story hotel is now open on the site.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ Etheridge, Robbie Franklyn (2004). Creek Country: The Creek Indians and Their World, 1796-1816. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807861553.
  3. ^ a b c Wesson, Cameron B. (2008-05-01). "Changing Creek Households". Households and Hegemony: Early Creek Prestige Goods, Symbolic Capital, and Social Power. University of Nebraska Press. p. 99. ISBN 0803247958.
  4. ^ Swanton 200
  5. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Odshiapofa (historical)
  6. ^ a b c David Goodwin (August 16, 2012). "Muscogee Creeks try to halt Poarch casino project". The Wetumpka Herald. Archived from the original on August 18, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  7. ^ "Tallapoosa: History". Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Creek Indians regain site of headquarters". Associated Press. 1980-08-18.
  9. ^ Swanson, John Reed (1922). Early history of the Creek Indians and their neighbors. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. pp. 242–243. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d Sebastian Kitchen (August 13, 2012). "Oklahoma tribe opposes Creek casino in Alabama". Montgomery Advertiser. Archived from the original on August 18, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  11. ^ Swanton 242
  12. ^ a b c d Samantha Earnest (2009). "Constructions of Place, Culture, and Identity in Historic Preservation: A Case Study of Hickory Ground, Alabama" (PDF). Florida State University. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 12, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  13. ^ a b Wesson, Cameron B. (2010-02-15). "When moral economies and capitalism meet: Creek factionalism and the colonial southeastern frontier". In K. G Tregonning; Laura L. Scheiber; Mark D. Mitchell (eds.). Across a Great Divide: Continuity and Change in Native North American Societies, 1400-1900. Amerind Studies in Archaeology. 4. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0816528713.
  14. ^ "Creek Research". Alabama Indian Affairs Commission. State of Alabama. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  15. ^ McIntosh, Kenneth W. "Crazy Snake Uprising." Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  16. ^ Sebastian Kitchen (August 26, 2012). "Creek Indians Fight Over Sacred Site Where Casino Located". Montgomery Advertiser. Archived from the original on August 28, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
  17. ^ "H.R. 240 (107th)". Govtrack. 2001. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  18. ^ "Cultural Landmark Unaffected by Poarch Band of Creek Indians Economic Development Initiative". WFSB Channel 3. August 16, 2012. Archived from the original on February 9, 2013. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  19. ^ Sebastian Kitchen (August 21, 2012). "Wetumpka casino plan under attack". Montgomery Advertiser. Archived from the original on September 2, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2012.


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