Poarch Band of Creek Indians

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Poarch Band of Creek Indians
Flag of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.svg
Flag of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians
Total population
2,340 (2006)[1]
Regions with significant populations
United States United States (Alabama Alabama)
English, Muscogee
Protestant, traditional beliefs
Related ethnic groups
Other Muscogee Creek tribes,[2] Alabama Creole people

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians (/pɔːr/ PORCH;[3]) are a federally recognized tribe of Native Americans in Alabama. Speaking the Muscogee language, they were formerly known as the Creek Nation East of the Mississippi.

They are located mostly in Escambia County. Since the late twentieth century, they have operated three gaming casinos and a hotel on their reservation. This has enabled them to generate revenues for education and welfare.


The Poarch Band members descend from Muscogee Creek Indians of the Lower Towns who sided with the United States against the rebelling Northern Creek "Red Sticks" in the Creek War of 1813–1814. Prior to this event, Band ancestors intermarried with whites to a high degree. Descendants primarily were the product of unions between British traders and Creek Indian women. Predominant surnames in the group included the names Weatherford, McGillivray, Durant, McGhee, Moniac, Cornell, Gibson, Colbert, and Rolin. These ancestors adopted more European-American practices than many other Creek families stemming from their closer working relationships with whites. Because of conflicts with other Creeks, ancestors of the Poarch Band petitioned the Creek Nation to migrate to lands in the southwest of Creek Nation territory in the early 1800s near the Tensaw River and the headwaters of the Perdido River. Many of these Creek families remained in Alabama despite the Indian Removal Act of 1830, by which the majority of the tribe ceded their land and were forcibly moved to Indian Territory, west of the Mississippi River. Under provisions of the Treaty of Fort Jackson, Poarch Creek ancestors selected four sections of land that would serve as the nucleus of the modern Poarch Band of Creek Indian community. These Indian reserves were held subject to federal trust restrictions. The "McGhee Reserve," a 240 acre tract taken by Lynn McGhee became a center of the Creek community. After the Civil War, other Creeks established homesteads on lands near the McGhee Reserve. They formed a tight-knit Indian community near Poarch, Alabama, with a high degree of endogamy within the Creek group.[4]

The Poarch Band struggled to survive throughout the nineteenth century. Most were small subsistence level farmers and sharecroppers in the latter decades of the century. They supplemented their diet with game and fish largely taken from neighboring public lands. With the coming of the railroad in the late nineteenth century, the lumber and turpentine industries arrived. Large corporations bought public lands, closing access to Creek subsistence practices. Many Creeks became migrant or day laborers to make ends meet. They also took jobs in the lumber and turpentine industries. Jim Crow segregation and other forms of overt racism limited opportunities for economic advancement for group members. Because they had stayed behind and not removed with the main body of the Creek Nation after the 1830s, members of the Poarch Band received no federal aid or recognition of their indigenous status at the tribal level. [5]

In the first decades of the twentieth century, local governments established segregated schools for Creek Indian children in southwest Alabama. Because of Jim Crow segregation, Creek Indians were denied admittance to area businesses or forced to use segregated facilities in theaters and medical offices. In the 1930s, the Episcopal Church sent missionaries to aid the Creek community. They established a school and worked to secure federal aid for the people. During the Indian New Deal of the 1930s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, at the urging of the missionaries, sent an investigator to southern Alabama in 1938. Finding that the Poarch Band was clearly a surviving Creek enclave with a high degree of racial intermarriage with whites, the Bureau agent recommended educational aid for the community. The federal Indian Reorganization Act, the cornerstone of the Indian New Deal, required non-recognized groups that did not live on a federal reservation to prove at least one-half Indian blood to fall under the act. Because the investigator felt the Poarch Band would have difficulty proving its blood degree, he recommended not establishing a federal Indian reservation for the group. Because of federal funding shortages, no federal Indian aid was provided for the Poarch Band during the 1930s and early 1940s.[6] The lack of federal aid resulted from the fact the Creek who remained in Alabama had to give up their tribal membership, and were considered United States and state citizens, as a condition of remaining. The people maintained their community ties and culture, living in Alabama as an identifiable, distinct community for the last two centuries.[7]

After World War II, Calvin McGhee, a descendant of Band founder Lynn McGhee, began organizing the Creeks of southern Alabama and northern Florida to pursue land claims and other rights denied them as indigenous Americans. Under McGhee, the group filed a lawsuit for equal education and won their case, several years before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954. Also in the late 1940s, McGhee spearheaded an effort to file a lands claim case with the Indian Claims Commission. He formed a group that became the Creek Nation East of the Mississippi that pursued a case for compensation for lands lost by the Creeks in the nineteenth century. The group received a favorable judgment; members received modest sums beginning in 1972.[8]

Through the lands claims litigation, Bufford Rollins and Eddie Tullis emerged as leaders of the Poarch Creek community. Along with Calvin McGhee, they took part in major events of the Indian renaissance of the Southeast in the 1960s and early 1970s. Calvin McGhee attended the landmark Chicago Indian Conference of 1961, an event that galvanized unrecognized tribes to pursue their rights as indigenous peoples. McGhee was among the delegation that presented the Conference's "Declaration of Indian Purpose" to President John F. Kennedy at the White House in 1961. The Conference, along with other pan-Indian activism, prompted Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, to establish Indian programs outside the Bureau of Indian Affairs as part of his War on Poverty after 1963. Poarch Creeks secured federal grants during this era. They established federal job training, Headstart, and Department of Education Title IV Indian Education programs for area Creeks. The Band pursued cultural revival efforts as well. In 1971, it created the annual Thanksgiving powwow that proved central to Creek and other pan-Indian cultural revival efforts. The group also worked to formalize its government structures. Growing out of the Indian Claims Commission petitioner, the Creeks East of the Mississippi, in the first years of the 1970s McGhee, Tullis, and Rollins established the modern Poarch Band of Creek Indians government centered near Poarch, Alabama. After the death of Calvin McGhee in the early 1970s, Eddie Tullis was elected as McGhee's hand-picked successor. The Band joined the National Congress of American Indians and was active in pan-tribal eastern Indian organizations at the time. With a federal Administration for Native Americans grant, the Band secured funding to research and to write a petition for federal tribal recognition during the 1970s.[9]

With the help of anthropologist Tony Paredes, the Band utilized federal land records, censuses, court records, and school documents to prove they were a surviving Creek enclave, eligible for federal tribal status under the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Federal Acknowledgment Process regulations created in 1978. The Band was successful in this effort, being one of the first tribes to secure federal status through the federal process in 1984. Afterward, the Band was able to have a 229 acre tract taken into trust as a federal Indian Reservation and to re-establish their own government under a written constitution. The Poarch Band represents only some of the Creek descendants that were not removed.[10]

Over the decades, many Indians in the Southeast have intermarried with African-American or European-American neighbors. Some of their descendants assimilated into those social and cultural groups.[11] Others identified as Creek, particularly if born to Creek women. The Creek kinship system was historically matrilineal, with children considered born to the mother's clan and taking their social status from her. Descent and property passed through the maternal line. Such mixed-race children of Creek women are full members of the tribe.

Tribal membership requirements[edit]

To be eligible to enroll in the Poarch Band tribe, people must be descended from one or more American Indians listed on one of three rolls: the 1870 U.S. Census of Escambia County, Alabama; 1900 U.S. Census of Escambia County, Alabama; or 1900 U.S. Special Indian Census of Monroe County, Alabama. Besides being of direct Muscogee Creek heritage, they must have a minimum blood quantum of 1/4 American Indian blood (equivalent to one full-blooded Creek grandparent) and not be enrolled in any other tribe. Each federally recognized tribe has the right to make its own rules of citizenship.[12]

Current status[edit]

The Poarch Creek Indian Reservation is located in southern Alabama near the city of Atmore, Alabama.[7] Their current tribal chairwoman is Stephanie Bryan.[13]

Gaming and racing[edit]

The Poarch Band has several casinos and racetracks, operating under Wind Creek Hospitality, a tribe-owned company.[14] Three of its casinos are located on sovereign tribal land in Alabama: Wind Creek Atmore, Wind Creek Montgomery, and Wind Creek Wetumpka.[15][16] They have gradually expanded their gaming, resort and entertainment businesses beyond those on their reservation.

Beyond its reservation, the tribe owns majority stakes in Mobile Greyhound Park in Alabama, and Pensacola Greyhound Park and Creek Entertainment Gretna in Florida.[17][18] In the Caribbean, the tribe owns two hotel casinos operating under the Renaissance Hotels brand in Aruba and Curacao, which it purchased in October 2017.[19]

In Gardnerville, Nevada, the tribe financed and manages the Wa She Shu Casino, owned by the Washoe Tribe. The casino opened in May 2016.[20] In D'Iberville, Mississippi, Wind Creek purchased land for a planned casino development in March 2016.[21]

In Pennsylvania, the tribe agreed in March 2018 to purchase Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem for $1.3 billion.[22] The sale was approved in May 2019 and the casino was renamed to Wind Creek Bethlehem.[23]

In 2012 the tribe announced plans to expand their gaming operations at Hickory Ground in Wetumpka, Alabama. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma filed suit to prevent this, arguing that the expansion would require excavation and reinterment of remains from an historic Creek burial ground at the site.[24]

The tribe made a deal in 2016 to purchase the Margaritaville Resort Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana, which would have been rebranded as a Wind Creek casino.[25] The sale was canceled, however, because of a dispute over licensing payments for the Margaritaville name.[26]

In late 2019, The Poarch Band of Creek Indians presented the state of Alabama with a grand bargain that would afford the tribe exclusive rights on casino gambling in exchange for $1 billion.[27]

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians opened the Park at OWA, an amusement park in Foley, Alabama, on July 20, 2017.[28][29] The 520-acre (2.1 km2) site was a joint venture between the City of Foley and the Foley Sports Tourism Complex, developed in conjunction with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians as part of a city-wide sports tourism push.[30] An indoor water park known as Tropic Falls[31] was announced in 2021;[32] the first of the water park's two phases opened in June 2022.[33][34]



  1. ^ "Culture." Archived 2010-07-27 at the Wayback Machine Poarch Band of Creek Indians. (retrieved 16 July 2010)
  2. ^ Littlefield and Parins (2011), Encyclopedia, p. 174
  3. ^ "Alabama's Only Federally Recognized Tribe: The Poarch Creek Indians". YouTube. November 1, 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2022.
  4. ^ Mark Edwin Miller, "Vetted Tribes: The Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians," in Mark Edwin Miller Claiming Tribal Identity: The Five Tribes and the Politics of Federal Acknowledgment (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013), 151-154.
  5. ^ Miller (2013), 154.
  6. ^ Miller (2013), 156-158.
  7. ^ a b "Welcome", Poarch Band of Creek Indians Website, 2005, retrieved 23 Feb 2009
  8. ^ Miller (2013), 159-161.
  9. ^ Miller (2013), 161-166.
  10. ^ Miller (2013), 162-172.
  11. ^ Paredes, J. Anthony. "Federal Recognition and the Poarch Creek Indians" in Paredes, J. Anthony, ed. Indians of the Southeastern United States in the Late 20th Century (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1992) pp. 120–121
  12. ^ "Constitution of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians" Archived 2008-11-28 at the Wayback Machine, Native American Rights Fund. 1 June 1985 (retrieved 25 Nov 2010)
  13. ^ "Loading Website".
  14. ^ "History". Wind Creek Hospitality. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  15. ^ George Altman (June 7, 2012). "Alabama Indian casinos are on federal land, Interior Department says". AL.com. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  16. ^ "Properties". Wind Creek Hospitality. Retrieved 2017-10-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Confirmed: Poarch Creek Indians To Purchase Greyhound Parks In Mobile And Pensacola
  18. ^ "Creek Entertainment Gretna opens in Gadsden County" Florida Trend
  19. ^ "Wind Creek Hospitality purchases Caribbean casino resorts" (Press release). Wind Creek Hospitality. October 18, 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-19 – via PR Newswire.
  20. ^ "Opening of Wa She Shu Casino marks landmark tribal gaming partnership" (Press release). Wind Creek Hospitality. May 26, 2016. Retrieved 2017-10-19 – via PR Newswire.
  21. ^ Mary Perez (March 29, 2016). "Poarch Creek Indians buy casino site in D'Iberville". The Sun Herald. Biloxi, MS. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  22. ^ Harris, Jon; Radzievich, Nicole (March 8, 2018). "Sands Bethlehem casino to be sold to Alabama Indian tribe for $1.3 billion". Retrieved 2018-03-08.
  23. ^ Harris, Jon (May 29, 2019). "With state's approval, Wind Creek Bethlehem plans to become 'No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast'". Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  24. ^ Cameron Shriver, Milestones: "September 2013: Reflecting on Justice 200 Years after the Creek Civil War", Origins,Ohio State University, accessed 28 September 2013
  25. ^ Brad Harper (June 27, 2016). "Alabama tribe strikes deal to buy Margaritaville casino". The Times. Shreveport, LA. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  26. ^ Vickie Welborn (April 24, 2017). "Margaritaville Casino ends merger with Alabama Indian tribe". KTBS-TV. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  27. ^ “Alabama Tribe Pitches State $1B Deal to Obtain Exclusive Gaming Rights”. Casino.org. 13 Nov 2019
  28. ^ Sharp, John (July 21, 2017). "Alabama's newest amusement park, OWA, officially opens". al. Retrieved August 18, 2022.
  29. ^ Ralph, Owen. "New theme park opens, named OWA". Retrieved 5 June 2022.
  30. ^ Girod, Brandon. "OWA opens water park". Pensacola News Journal. Retrieved 5 June 2022.
  31. ^ Mitchell, Bea (February 7, 2022). "Tropic Falls indoor water park at OWA opening in May 2022". Blooloop. Retrieved August 18, 2022.
  32. ^ Specker, Lawrence (May 26, 2021). "OWA shares early sneak peak at new coastal water park facility". al. Retrieved August 18, 2022.
  33. ^ Specker, Lawrence (June 27, 2022). "Tropic Falls indoor water park to open Wednesday in Foley". al. Retrieved August 18, 2022.
  34. ^ Davis, Kai (July 6, 2022). "Tropic Falls Water Park opens at OWA Parks & Resort in Foley". WEAR. Retrieved August 18, 2022.


  • Littlefield, Jr., Daniel F. and James W. Parins, ed. Encyclopedia of American Indian Removal, Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2011. ISBN 978-0-313-36041-1.
  • Miller, Mark Edwin. Claiming Tribal Identity: The Five Tribes and the Politics of Federal Acknowledgment. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.

External links[edit]