Over the course of four days major work was being accomplished. NIGA trained and certified Tribal government gaming commissioners;
However, the fun started with the Chairman’s Welcome Reception on Sunday, all veterans who have served their country were honored with roses aboard the USS Midway Museum. Further, a Navajo Code Talker and former Chairman of his tribe, Peter MacDonald was honored along with former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, and Navy Seal Dan Tabor. The National American Indian Veterans Association presented Chairman Stevens with a shadow box eagle feather and medal citation on behalf of his father’s service in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.
On Monday, Chairman Stevens 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.
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.
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 in-laws as well as Chief George Tiger from the Muscogee (Creek) Tribe and Laguna Pueblo 1st Lt. Governor Harry Antonio, Jr. With her dad and brother present, 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. 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.
Throughout history, Indian country has relied on leaders who have paved the way for economic development and positive growth, and recognizing their talent has been a part of the NIGA Tradeshow agenda for years. This year was no exception.
Great Plains Indian Gaming Association (GPIGA) Executive Director Kurt Luger and Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills, NIGA President Jefferson Keel and Burton Warrington of the Firekeeper Golf Course 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.
Along with a full day of workshops and seminars, the second 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.
Although the convention began since Sunday with the Chairman’s Welcome Reception, the 27th Annual National Indian Gaming Association 2012 Tradeshow really kicks off at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on Tuesday, April 3rd.
The Chairman and the NIGA Executive Board were joined by Law & Order SVU Actor Adam Beach, retired U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Olympic Gold Medal winner, Billy Mills at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
For the first time ever, an entire tribal nation received the Wendell A. Chino Humanitarian Award at the National Indian Gaming Association’
This year’s recipient of the Wendell A. Chino Award is the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma for their contributions and aid during the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri.
The Quapaw Chairman, John Berrey, along with Vice-Chairman Thomas Matthews, son of former NIGA Treasurer J.R. Matthews, his mother and many other members of the Quapaw Nation Council walked up to the stage to receive their award.
Berrey dedicated the award to J.R. Matthews’ son, Seneca Black Elk Matthews, a Downstream employee, who was a recent victim of a car accident just a few weeks before the award was presented. He was acting as a first responder of an accident moments before.
The award was presented to the Quapaw tribe by Mark Chino, Wendell Chino’s son. Wendell Chino, the award’s namesake, is an iconic figure in Indian country. He was a nationally recognized leader of the Mescalero Apache Nation, serving most of his life as his nation’s president. He modeled his philosophy by turning the Mescalero reservation into a small business empire that raised his nation to a level of economic growth never before experienced by any other Native American tribe.
On the third and final day of the convention, internet gaming was the primary topic.
NIGA, in partnership with the National Congress of American Indians, hosted a NIGA-NCAI taskforce meeting in which they each reiterated their commitment to a unified approach in discussing the internet gaming issue. Both organizations have standing Resolutions that call for any Internet gaming legislation to respect the principles of Tribal Sovereignty, tribal taxation, tribal regulatory authority, and designating the NIGC as the federal agency working with Tribes on any internet gaming regulation.
Later, NIGA hosted a Congressional internet gaming forum, in which tribal leaders and the U.S. Congressional representatives provided information and feedback about online gaming.
NIGA’s Chairman facilitated the meeting to provide a chance for tribal leaders and members of Congress to engage in a dialogue on the subject of internet gaming away from the formalities of Washington, D.C. The work conducted at this meeting will lay the foundation to bring about an understanding between Congress, States, and most importantly the tribal leadership.
California congressional representatives, Mary Bono Mack, Brian Bilbray, Jeff Denham, Darrel Issa and Minnesota representative Betty McCollum provided their perspectives while listening closely to tribal concerns. Tribal leaders took turns expressing their own Tribes’ concerns and the potential opportunities regarding internet gaming. Many reiterated the tribal principles of sovereignty and self-regulation.
Several tribes mentioned that in light of the December 2011 Department of Justice their respective state governments were now moving toward internet sales of lottery tickets and potentially other forms of gaming. The Congressional delegation urged tribal governments to communicate their principles and work with states on a government-to-
In addition, Congressional members urged tribes to continue to educate Congress on the success of Indian gaming and how it has positively impacted Indian Country. There could potentially be over 100 new members of Congress and the Senate on November 6th this year, all who will have limited knowledge of Indian gaming, let alone internet gaming.
The purpose of the tradeshow and convention is to build a positive venue for Indian gaming industry professionals and foster a dialog to help reinvent and reposition their facilities to better serve their communities, better serve their customers and stay competitive at a higher level.
NIGA’s next membership meeting will take place September 18-19, at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida. However, the NIGA Internet and Economic Development Subcommittee will continue to meet throughout the spring and summer.