Casino welcomes new tribal artifacts

Jun 3, 2012 By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

The new display in the Wind River Casino's Arapaho Experience room includes numerous pieces from a collection formerly on display at the museum at St. Michael's in Ethete

In the display case are a ceremonial cup and a spoon both made from a buffalo horn, a beaded knife sheath, a bowl made from driftwood and a bow and arrow, and tomahawks with rock heads.

The authentic American Indian artifacts had been on display in the museum at St. Michael's in Ethete until flooding resulted in storing the items for safe keeping in the late '90s, said Lisa Yawakia, the Wind River Casino's marketing coordinator.

"They've been in storage for a very long time," Yawakia said.

The items have recently become a part of the casino's Arapaho Experience room that offers multiple displays of artifacts and artwork reflecting American Indian life.

"These items are here for everyone to view," Yawakia said.

The Arapaho Experience room will have an exhibit opening celebration on June 5 starting at about 5 p.m. with tours followed by dancing at 6 p.m.

"Our plan with that is to invite tribal members to look at artifacts, just experience the room itself," casino spokesman Jordan Dresser said.

Dresser recalled seeing the artifacts unwrapped upon their arrival to the casino.

"For me it was looking at something that was a link to our past," he said.

"It was a very intense moment watching them unwrap everything," Yawakia added.

A wooden cabinet holds the artifacts on display with the mirror background reflecting the shade made from red willow sticks erected in the Arapaho Experience room.

"This collection for me personally, it just makes it more real," Yawakia said about the historical connection. "You know there's history but to actually have something solid for you ... it makes it that much more real."

Dresser said the casino will have the collection on loan for a year. "I hear there's over 300 items in that collection," he said.

Discussions involved tribal officials meeting with Episcopal Church officials in Wyoming in order to get the exhibit to the casino.

"People have been really excited over this because a lot of people didn't think it was going to happen," Dresser said of the work involved.

Yawakia said the exhibit is the result of the cooperation between the church and the tribe. "They helped to keep and preserve the collection. It was with their caretaking they helped to display the items we have here," she said.

The Arapaho Experience room includes other displays such as paintings by tribal members and a teepee.

"If you pay attention to this room closely it tells the story of our people, how we got to where we are now," Dresser said.

Paintings from students at the Wind River Tribal College adorn one wall in the room. Casino officials hope to have regularly have rotating art exhibits in the room.

"Pretty much everything in the room is made from Northern Arapaho tribal members," Dresser said.

Yawakia added: "It's really been a room to help our people come and touch base with history."

Expect to see more tribal art on display.

"I think it's a real good thing for a lot of our art people," Yawakia said. "It really is just to showcase their work."

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