Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve is 900 acres of forest, creeks, and lakes, all cared for by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. They’re the only federally recognized Indian tribe in Alabama, operate as a sovereign nation with its own government, laws, and infrastructure, and are pulling in buckets of money with their gaming businesses.
We met the reserve’s general manager, Billy Smith, who served on the Tribal Council for 20 years, and also on the Gaming Board.
The reserve has been in the making since 2004, and new buildings such as this one use reclaimed wood whenever possible. Cypress, juniper, cedar, and long leaf pine downed by hurricanes Eric and Ivan are all part of this structure.
Gaming is their main source of income, and the money is pouring in, with three thriving casinos in Alabama, and three more in the works for Aruba. In 2012, the Poarch netted over $300 million for their tribe of 3000. They continue to buy back the land they were forced to give up in the 1830’s, and have established a museum and clinic on their reservation. Scholarships are available to any tribal member who wants to further their education. They also contribute to the greater community, such as the $14,000,000 Boys and Girls Club that’s in the works.
When I made Russ stop so I could take a photo Alabama’s red dirt roads, his comment was, “Janie, I don’t think people care as much about red roads as you do.”
We’re at Gunter Hill, a Corps of Engineers campground near Montgomery AL. As luck would have it, a dulcimer group has gathered here for the weekend, and last night we enjoyed the sweet tunes of old time music.