By Lisa Pemberton
Puyallup Tribal News Editor
Before snipping away the red, ceremonial “grand opening” ribbon and opening the doors, the Puyallup Tribal Council hosted a blessing ceremony on June 8 for the Tribe’s new nearly $400 million Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma.
The event featured drummers, dancers, witnesses and a prayer in Twulshootseed. Culture Director Connie McCloud noted that the building is located on an old Puyallup village site.
“We must always remember who we are, and where we came from,” she said.
The casino opened exclusively to Tribal members and their guests for its first two hours. It opened to the general public at noon, with several COVID-19 precautions in place, from masks and extra sanitization efforts to social distancing markers and reduced building occupancy.
Tribal Chairman David Z. Bean said he was thankful for all of the council members, and the Tribe’s past council members, along with all of the staff who helped make the casino a reality.
“We have to remember their work,” he said.
Once inside, many Tribal members walked around to view the artwork, which range from murals and carvings to basket-inspired light fixtures and decorative metal railings. Some tried out the new restaurants and table games.
Puyallup Tribal elder Teddy Simchen checked out the high limit area.
“This is phenomenal,” he said. “This is the dream we’ve had for 25 years.”
Puyallup Tribal member Sophia Lozier played slot machines with her dad.
They both worked on the construction project: Lozier helped with electrical work, and her dad worked on the garage and casino’s concrete foundation.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”
After the blessing, Tribal Vice Chair Bill Sterud conducted a couple of on-camera media interviews. He talked how much work was put into the project over the past five years. But then, final construction work and the opening were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sterud said he was feeling both ecstatic – and a little tired.
“We worked hard to get to this point,” he said. “Today is a happy day.”
Tribal Council members share their gratitude about new casino
During the June 9 event, all of the Tribal Council members thanked staff and past Council members for their work on opening the casino. Council member Tim Reynon was absent for funeral leave.
Tribal Council member Anna Bean, who is a 20-year Emerald Queen veteran, gave a shoutout to the casino’s entire workers, from cooks and cashiers, to maintenance and HR staff. Council member James Rideout said he was also thankful for the construction workers and casino staff who worked on the project.
Council member Sylvia Miller said she’s grateful that the casino can play an important role in the Tribe’s economic health.
“We will keep continuing to take care of our people,” she said. “Nothing will stop us.”
Meantime, Council member Annette Bryan also thanked the artists who worked on the project.
“I am sorry we weren’t able to have the grand opening that we were looking for, but we will have that celebration,” she said. “And we will honor each and every one of you.”