Here's why Menominee Nation's bid for a casino in Kenosha is drawing both support and opposition from tribes in Wisconsin

·3 min read
FILE - A man grabs a $100 bill during a blackjack game March 17, 2020, at Oneida Casino in Green Bay.
FILE - A man grabs a $100 bill during a blackjack game March 17, 2020, at Oneida Casino in Green Bay.

KENOSHA - The governments of two tribes in Wisconsin have expressed support for a Menominee casino in Kenosha while the Potawatomi Tribe strongly opposes the endeavor.

“The Oneida Nation has a successful history of working with other sovereign nations to build and support Indian gaming and other enterprises across the nation,” read a statement from the Oneida Nation Business Committee this month. “Oneida can be proud of supporting the common goals of self-sufficiency, economic expansion and diversification and advocation for tribal sovereignty.”

Officials with the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation, whose reservation is adjacent to the Menominee Reservation, expressed support for a Menominee Kenosha casino on Saturday.

“The Menominee are our neighbors and share many ties and many of the same needs as our community,” said Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation President Shannon Holsey in a statement. "We fully support their efforts to find the resources to address those needs, which can only help the larger tribal, regional and state communities.”

RELATED: Menominee tribe teaming up with Hard Rock in another bid to open an casino in Kenosha

RELATED: Bristol Village Board approves the $15 million sale of land to company potentially interested in opening a casino in Kenosha

FILE - $2,000 is counted on the counter a woman won playing a slot machine game on March 17, 2020, at Oneida Casino in Green Bay.
FILE - $2,000 is counted on the counter a woman won playing a slot machine game on March 17, 2020, at Oneida Casino in Green Bay.

Officials from the Oneida and Mohican tribes cite the fact that the Menominee Nation is one of the poorest tribes in Wisconsin and revenue from a Kenosha casino would allow the tribe to invest in health and education needs and reduce high levels of poverty, hunger and unemployment on the Menominee Reservation.

The Menominee Nation is partnering with Hard Rock International, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe based in Florida, in the Kenosha casino project.

The casino would be on about 60 acres of land on the east and west sides of 122nd Avenue in Kenosha.

The village of Bristol last month agreed to sell the land to Hard Rock for $15 million.

Potawatomi tribal officials believe the Kenosha casino would compete for business with their Milwaukee casino.

“Potawatomi is opposed to this casino,” said Potawatomi spokesman George Ermert. “We’re opposed to a tribe from Florida with no connection to Wisconsin coming into our state and taking millions of dollars and bringing it back to Florida.”

He said Potawatomi officials do support a bid by the Ho-Chunk Nation to open a casino in Beloit in southern Wisconsin even though that could compete with the Milwaukee casino.

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Ermert said the Beloit casino would be owned and operated by the Ho-Chunk Nation and Beloit is within Ho-Chunk ancestral land.

“The Ho-Chunk have every right to open a casino there,” he said.

Kenosha is within an area that the Potawatomi claim as ancestral land and was once the site of a Potawatomi village.

Ermert said “Kenosha” is derived from the Potawatomi word for pickerel.

Oneida and Mohican officials had also supported the Menominee Nation’s previous bid to open a casino in Kenosha, which was shot down by former Gov. Scott Walker in 2015.

The Oneida and Mohican people had settled on Menominee land in the northeast of the state now known as Wisconsin in the 1800s after their own land was taken from them by European colonists in New York and Massachusetts.

The process to open a casino in Kenosha is expected to take several years and is subject to federal and state approval.

Frank Vaisvilas is a Report For America corps member based at the Green Bay Press-Gazette covering Native American issues in Wisconsin. He can be reached at 815-260-2262 or fvaisvilas@gannett.com, or on Twitter at @vaisvilas_frank. Please consider supporting journalism that informs our democracy with a tax-deductible gift to this reporting effort at GreenBayPressGazette.com/RFA.

This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Menominee bid for Kenosha casino has tribes in Wisconsin divided