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.