Directed by Sterlin Harjo, “Back to Nature: The Battle For Hickory Ground” highlights the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s struggle to defend a sacred area that is being razed by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians–for a Casino.
Hickory Ground, known as “Oce Vpofv” in the Muscogee language, was the last capital of the National Council of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, prior to forced removal to Indian Territory in the 1830s. The sacred place includes a ceremonial ground, a tribal burial ground and individual graves.
Hickory Ground was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. In 1984, the federal government officially recognized the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, descendants of Muscogee (Creeks) who were not removed and did not live in Alabama as Muscogee Creeks. The Alabama Historical Commission transferred Hickory Ground to the Poarch Band, even though they had no direct ancestral or cultural connection to the ceremonial ground.
Although the Poarch Band promised to preserve the Hickory Ground for the benefit of all Creek Indians, the Poarch Band exhumed Muscogee human remains and ceremonial objects to build the Creek Casino Wetumpka, with assistance from researchers at Auburn University. The excavated human remains belong to the lineal ancestors of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma, who hold Hickory Ground as sacred and oppose development on the ceremonial ground.