Artifacts Inside Casino
The history of the Potawatomi is steeped in culture and traditions. Various design elements of the Casino, inside and out, were purposefully created to capture the essence of this rich heritage.
The most recognizable symbol can be seen from a distance… the flame high atop Potawatomi Bingo Casino. Hundreds of years ago, the Potawatomi tribe was given the task of keeping the sacred fire, which is why they are known as “The Keeper of the Fire.” The image of the sacred fire is located 120 feet in the air and symbolically burns 24 hours a day. The construction of the flame consists of a 20,000 pound urn made of steel tubing with cooper finish.
Once inside, the Potawatomi tradition of living in reverence and harmony with nature during all of the changing seasons is reflected in the west side of the Casino. This is demonstrated through both abstract and literal representations of images of nature. Look up into the ceiling in this area, and the four seasons are showcased in different sections through an abstract of a honeycomb representing summer, ice and snow flakes for winter, a network of nesting trellises for spring and falling leaves capture fall.
The east side of the Casino takes a more contemporary approach to Native American symbols and images. The center of the room showcases the essence of a dream catcher that melts into Bar 360 and comes alive with light. Portions of the ceiling features steel frames of leaves and a massive dream catcher with beads.
Inside The Northern Lights Theater, the stage is framed by a custom-designed beadwork pattern that reflects a design crafted by a Potawatomi tribe member.
Some of the eye-catching design in the Casino includes a hand-blown glass chandelier mounted in the ceiling in front of Ruyi. The glass light sculpture was created by glass artist Dierk Van Keppel through Rock Cottage Glassworks and features semi-flat bowls in earth tones. It measures 84 inches in diameter.
Authentic photographs and artifacts dot the walls above and along the escalators on the west side of the Casino. Tribal elders and artisans thoughtfully selected items that would best represent the tribe’s history. Some of the artifacts include clothing, moccasins, beadwork, baskets and a ceremonial drum, along with photos that reflect the lives of tribal elders through the generations.
Scattered throughout the Casino is original artwork created by Native American artists. A majority of these were commissioned specifically for Potawatomi Bingo Casino during its expansion in 2008.
JoAnne Bird’s paintings depict her Native American heritage—many spiritual in nature and dating back to early Native American history or legend. She feels that her paintings bring out the old in a modern way. She is a member of the Dakota Sioux tribe. Joanne’s images are in Dream Dance Steak.
A member of the Potawatomi and Creek tribes, Doug Coffin is best known for his monumental, brightly painted steel and mixed media sculptures. He has developed a style that suggests a fusion of the ancient totemic form used by many Native cultures with the abstraction and geometric forms of the modernist. Doug’s paintings are featured in the High-Limit Slots area and The Buffet.
Scott Hill is an artisan and craftsperson from the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. Some Oneida believe talent is borne of, and blessed by their creator. Hill's talent as an artist lay dormant until a spirit-man appeared to him in a dream, awakening him to his own abilities. Heeding this premonition, Hill began to paint and, in so doing, discovered his true vocation. As such, Hill's given Oneida Name is Wakatatlihuni, which in translation means "He Teaches Himself." Scott’s work in located in the Food Court and in Dream Dance Steak.
“House for Red Horses” is a large pastel and acrylic piece that is prominently displayed in The Buffet and was created by Niki Lee. Niki is an Arikara and Caddo beadworker and painter. She is a self-taught artist and is drawn to color, motion and light. In addition to the large piece at the entrance of The Buffet, six other of her creations are displayed in The Buffet.
Gene Locklear is a member of the Lumbee Nation and former member of the New York Yankees baseball team. Several pieces of Gene’s work can be found at the south entrance, in Wild Earth, and in the High-Limit Slots area. Gene is most often known for his artwork featuring athletes.
A vibrant watercolor painter, artist Patrick Rolo of the Bad River Band of Ojibwe captures elements of nature in the works displayed throughout Dream Dance Steak. Patrick drew from his rich heritage to co-illustrate the Eagle Books on exhibit at the Smithsonian. His career includes newspaper, magazine, comic book, and court illustration. His fine-art paintings hang in galleries in Minnesota and Washington State.
Tending the Fire—The Story Behind the Statue
In August of 2000 a life-size statue was placed at the entrance of the expanded Casino then under construction. While this was a newly created piece of art, its significance goes back hundreds of years.
The Neshnabek (True or Original People) have lived in the Great Lakes area for centuries. It is said that when the Neshnabek reached Bawating (Sault St. Marie), they split into three separate groups or nations that became known as the Council of the Three Fires. In this Council, the Odawa, the middle brother, became the keepers of the trade, the Ojibwe, the oldest brother, became the keepers of the faith and the Bodwéwadmi or Potawatomi, the youngest of the three, became the keepers of the sacred fire, hence the name Keepers of the Fire.
Fire is a living spirit that is honored and respected. Images of the fire are seen in the Casino logo and throughout the building. Fire also serves as a beacon high atop the Casino.
The Forest County Potawatomi Cultural Center, Library and Museum features a historic display of the three brothers depicted in a setting prior to their split in the 16th century. The tribes’ permanent display is entitled, “People of the Three Fires”.
MJM Studios of New York conceived the fire keeper statue and worked with the Potawatomi Historical and Cultural Board to create the life-like statue. Archival photos enabled accurately designed clothing. A mold was created from clay and the final statue was cast in bonded bronze.
One statue is located outside the Casino on Canal Street and a second is at the Administration Building, located at the corners of 13th Street and St. Paul. The Potawatomi fire keeper statue must always face the east because it is where subsistence begins as such with the rise of the grandfather sun.
As you walk or drive past the fire keeper statue, it should remind you that the Potawatomi are tending the sacred fire for all people for eternity. The Casino draws from these tribal values and commitment to keep the fire burning in many ways including the Miracle on Canal Street program which helps nurture future generations.