Chairman Ernie L. Stevens Jr. opened the membership meeting with his annual State of the Indian Gaming industry address. Addressing the Tribal Leadership he stated; “It is truly an honor to be part of the hard work you all do to protect and strengthen this industry and better the lives of our Native people.
“Today, we have worked to rebuild once forgotten communities, and I am proud to report that the state of the Indian Gaming industry is strong.”
Recognition was also given to Mark Van Norman, who served as the NIGA Executive Director for 12 years. NIGA honored Van Norman for his years of service by presenting him with a traditional “hair shirt” used in honoring services by Tribes from the Great Plains region.
“Mark has been at the frontline for all of us. He has been a champion every step of the way. Whether it was defending Indian gaming or fighting to protect tribal sovereignty, he has been in this battle with us for the past 12 years.”
Van Norman will continue with NIGA as a Senior Advisor for the organization. The NIGA Membership unanimously voted to affirm Jason Giles as the new Executive Director of NIGA. Giles was joined on stage with his immediate family and Chief George Tiger from the Muscogee (Creek) Tribe. Witnessed with her family, Danielle Her Many Horses was also confirmed as Deputy Director of NIGA.
NIGA members then heard from Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). President Keel announced the start of the Native Vote initiative and Chairman Stevens pledged NIGA’s support and cooperation with NCAI on this initiative.
At the Chairman’s Leadership Awards Luncheon, retired Senator Byron Dorgan, founder of the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, was honored for his years of service in the US Senate. Senator Dorgan established the Native American Youth Center to bring greater national attention to the issues facing Native American youth. His foundation will foster solutions to adolescent problems with special emphasis on youth suicide prevention.
Great Plains Indian Gaming Association (GPIGA) Executive Director Kurt Luger and Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills, Jefferson Keel and Burton Warrington were honored at the Chairman’s Leadership Awards luncheon. As Executive Director of GPIGA for over 10 years, Kurt Luger was honored for his years of service to the Great Plains Tribal Region.
In the afternoon, NIGA Tribal members received a report from the NIGA Internet Gaming and Economic Development Sub-Committee. The discussion on internet gaming will continue for the next two days with a NIGA-NCAI Taskforce on Wednesday, culminating with a Congressional Tribal Leaders listening session on Wednesday afternoon.
The day ended with the Indian Gaming 2012 Cultural event where Marge Anderson, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians was presented the prestigious Tim Wapato Sovereign Warrior Award. The Tim Wapato Sovereign Warrior Award was established in memory of the late Tim Wapato, NIGA’s first Executive Director. Tim’s wife, Gay Kingman-Wapato and his daughter and grandchildren presented the award to Marge Anderson.
“Marge is a strong Native Woman warrior who had dedicated her life to leadership for her people. She exemplifies the power and strength of the Mille Lacs people and the spirit of what Tim Wapato believed,” Chairman Stevens said.
The cultural event included representation of Native American dance groups including the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Samala Singers & Dancers. The Yaaw Tei Yi Tlingit dancers from Juneau, Alaska, the Acoma Intercultural Dancers from the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico, the Chumash Inter-Tribal Singers from Coastal Southern California, the Dishchii’Bikoh High School Apache Crown Dancers from the White Mountain Apache Tribe of Arizona and the Southern California Intertribal Bird Singers.
Monday night also hosted a Crooked Arrows movie premiere, other hosted events around the Gaslamp District and the Chairman of the Sycuan Tribe, Daniel Tucker, hosted Tesla, Foghat, 38 Special, and the lead singer from Men at Work.