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Seven Clans Casino: Red Lake to hold grand opening

The Red Lake Band of Ojibwe will hold the grand opening of the new Seven Clans Casino, Hotel and Conference Center Thursday-Saturday Jan. 21-23 on Highway 89 north of Bemidji

Special events and promotions are scheduled for Thursday. Then at 6 p.m. Friday, hors d'oeuvres will be served with a short program marking the Grand Opening. Speakers will include Ernie Stevens, president of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), and Kevin Leecy, vice-president of NIGA and chairman of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe.

Other speakers include Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr., Red Lake Gaming Chief Operating Officer Ray Brenny and Seven Clans Casino Red Lake Manager Adrien Omen. The speeches will be followed by a free performance by Powwow Comedy Jam beginning at 7 p.m. Friday. At 7 p.m. Saturday, there will be a free performance by country music singer Crystal Shawanda.

The Seven Clans Casino at Red Lake is the second casino in Minnesota, and one of the few in the nation, to be built with all-American Indian funds. Instead of going to a non-Indian banker for construction loans, the Red Lake Band borrowed money from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota Community, which runs Mystic Lake Casino. This is Minnesota's first inter-tribal loan, with Dakota loaning to Ojibwe. The $31-million loan, in addition to funding the hotel, casino and conference center, has also helped expand the law enforcement center, start a propane business to power the casino and tribal homes, and build a forestry greenhouse. The hotel and casino will be run by the Red Lake Band with no non-Indian management company.

The Seven Clans Casino created more than 100 construction jobs, about half held by tribal members and half by people from across Minnesota. In addition, the complex is bringing in 100 new full-time and part-time jobs, with most of those jobs held by tribal members.

Since a soft opening just before Christmas, the restaurant and conference center are already being patronized more than projected, with new visitors coming from the region surrounding the reservation.

In addition, as part of ongoing economic development, as required by the tribe, contractors working on the project are helping Indian workers learn construction trades and professions, and some Indian workers are staying with the contractors on projects off the reservation. The general contractor and architectural firm - Woodstone Builders of Minneapolis and DSGW Architects of Duluth - led the way, each hiring Indian people to oversee the project.

The new hotel has 40 rooms, with master suites including balconies, fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. The hotel has a swimming pool carved in the shape of Upper and Lower Red Lake. The restaurant will seat 75, and, in good weather, will seat 25 more on an outdoor patio, serving Red Lake walleye and a full menu. The event center will seat between 350 and 800 people, depending on the seating configuration. The gaming hall has 300 slot machines, four blackjack tables and two poker tables. The hotel and restaurant are separated from the gaming floor, so people wanting to come only for recreation or conventions don't have to pass through the gaming area.

The design of the complex draws on Red Lake culture. Wood paneling, field stone, and images of a rippled blue lake reflect themes of the area. Woodland floral patterns permeate the carpeting throughout, while rooms are named for the seven major clans of Red Lake.

"This project shows how tribes can work together to capitalize and grow our own businesses, increasing employment and opportunity on the reservations and in the surrounding communities," said Jourdain. "It's all about economic development."