More than a hundred people gathered Wednesday outside the Oneida Casino complex in Ashwaubenon for a tobacco burning ceremony to help the community heal after Saturday’s shooting that left two dead and one hospitalized.
Prayers were first held in Oneida before being translated into English by Artley Skenandore, principal of Oneida Nation High School.
"As we burn this tobacco today, we’re reminded that whenever we have challenging times, as we’ve all faced in the last few days, that it affects all of us. It affects us because we are a family," he said.
The tobacco smoke sends a message from those gathered up to Creation, asking for help during difficult times, Skenandore said.
At the request of casino employees, community leaders also smudged the complex to dispel negative energy. Individuals participated in a smudging ceremony Wednesday, too.
The casino held employee debriefing sessions Tuesday and Wednesday before reopening Thursday at 8 a.m. Oneida leaders have said employee safety and wellbeing are priorities moving forward.
During a news conference this week, Oneida Nation vice chairman Brandon Stevens said resources will be provided to the broader community to help with healing and preparation for possible future incidents.
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"We treat our community like family, and as this happened on our reservation, we treat the situation like family, like it happened to us," he said.
Another tobacco burning ceremony will be held Saturday morning at the Norbert Hill Center. Attendees are encouraged to wear purple, and face masks and social distancing are required.
The shooting took place inside a restaurant at the adjoining Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, though the casino was also evacuated. Patrons can claim outstanding funds from slots, bingo and table games beginning Thursday.
According to police, a former employee shot and killed Ian Simpson, 32, and Jacob Bartel, 35, at a waiter station on Saturday evening. Just outside the hotel, he shot and injured Danny Mulligan, 28, who remains hospitalized, police said.
Police shot and killed the former employee, Bruce Pofahl, 62, on the north side of the building.
Another restaurant employee filed a restraining order against Pofahl in March. Police said Pofahl was likely targeting a specific individual Saturday but decided to open fire on that person’s friends and colleagues when he found out they weren’t working.
The Duck Creek Bar + Restaurant, where the shooting occurred, remains closed, according to the casino’s website.