Arts & Culture
1:17 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

B-9!: How Two Oneida Women Dabbed Bingo into the Tribe's History to Save Community

Mike Hoeft's "Bingo Queens of Oneida" tells the history of the tribe and how two women brought Bingo into the tribe to save its community.
Mike Hoeft's "Bingo Queens of Oneida" tells the history of the tribe and how two women brought Bingo into the tribe to save its community.
Credit Wisconsin History Press

    

The Potawotomi tribe recently announced it has dropped the word "bingo" from its casino complex in Milwaukee, which will soon include a hotel. 

While gambling is a huge industry for several Native American tribes in Wisconsin, it was bingo that for years was the heart of Indian gaming here.  And its origins had relatively modest goals. 

A new book details the beginnings of Indian gaming back in the 1970s.  The Bingo Queens of Oneida: How Two Moms Started Tribal Gaming in Wisconsin sheds new light on the Green Bay area tribe’s first foray into the phenomenon.

It’s written by Mike Hoeft, a former reporter for the Green Bay Press-Gazette.  Hoeft was encouraged to write this book by his wife, who is a native Oneida member. Her mother, Sandra Ninham Brehmer, is one of the women who founded the bingo business in the Oneida tribe.

Ninham Brehmer, along with cofounder Alma Webster, had a lot of support from their elders. One of those key supporters was Purcell “Percy” Powless, who was a tribal leader in the Oneida tribe and saw the benefits that the bingo profits could bring to the community.

“I don’t care where we were; if we were in Washington, DC, or in front of some big conference, you know, when we’d have to speak, he’d introduce us as ‘his bingo queens,’” says Ninham Brehmer.