NIGA News & Press Releases

Monday, January 25, 2010

Looking Back 2009

Dear Friends,

Greetings to you and your families as we begin the New Year!

As we move into a new decade, the National Indian Gaming Association and I will continue to place a premium on protecting Indian Gaming and defending Tribal Sovereignty. Our commitment to the Tribal leadership, entrusted by 184 member Tribes and 103 Associate Members, is to “stand strong” with Indian Country and further advance our platform.

It was a very productive legislative year for Indian country on Capitol Hill and we can attribute that to the hard work, dedication and a unified effort from our Member Tribes, the NIGA team here in DC, and our sister organizations such as the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). On an inspirational note, the Native American Heritage Day 2009 Bill was passed and signed into law by President Barack Obama in June.

Last year, President Obama also made good on his promises to Indian country, as a result we have witnessed a renewed energy from our nation’s Capitol. First, upon his confirmation in the White House, Obama appointed qualified Native Americans to key Cabinet and White House positions.

Second, in November, he made history by hosting Tribal leaders to a White House Forum, giving Tribal leadership an opportunity to voice their concerns over issues confronting Tribal communities. Working along side other National organizations such as NCAI, and regional Tribal gaming organizations, Indian country secured a pledge from the White House that executive agencies, including the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), will truly consult with Tribal Governments. President Obama issued an Executive Memorandum to all federal agency heads directing them to review and implement their Tribal consultation policy. We hope to use this momentum to renew the government’s focus on meaningful government-to-government consultation.

After six years of service, Chairman Phil Hogan retired from the NIGC. We will immediately begin working with the new appointees as we move forward. It has always been our commitment to work with the NIGC actively to enhance the communication and dialogue with our Member Tribes. With the momentum shown by the Obama Administration, we are confident that we can look forward to beginning a new chapter with the NIGC, built upon the administrative rules for federal agencies and the presidential executive orders

It is also critical that we stand firm insisting that the NIGC use Indian preference for hiring practices, in accordance with the Indian Reorganization Act. The NIGC is a federal agency serving Indian country and intended to promote tribal self-governance and strong Tribal government. Two of its three commissioners must be Indian, and thereby Indian preference should be observed when hiring staff. Finally, NIGA will continue to request that the NIGC implement a “best practices” procedure for Indian gaming regulation in order to assist Tribal governments to build strong Tribal regulatory agencies.

Our industry continues to be one of the most well regulated industries in the country. Upon this foundation, Tribes continue to build and strengthen their communities and provide essential services to their citizens. Indian gaming has also helped the American economy with the creation of over 550,000 jobs. While the Indian gaming industry has remained strong and resilient over all, we are very cognizant of the current state of the economy and we continue to rely on the outstanding commitment of the Tribal leadership and our Industry professionals to work our way through today’s economic climate.

The National Indian Gaming Association will continue to encourage Tribes to look towards helping diversify their economies with gaming revenues though such avenues as the tourism industry, tapping in on the most majestic and prominent natural resources of Indian country. While many predict that 2010 shows promise for economic improvement, we know that in order to continue to maintain the quality of life in Tribal communities, economic diversification is key.

In supporting this effort, we continue to build upon the American Indian Business Network (AIBN). By establishing this non-profit organization as an arm of the National Indian Gaming Association we are building upon one of our greatest resources - Our Indian people. In March, we appointed AIBN board members from throughout Indian country, who will work to provide the leadership and direction of AIBN. With the AIBN, everybody has a role, whether it is a Tribally owned business, Native owned business, or any businesses ready to support the development and creation of jobs and opportunities for Indian country. The AIBN will be key in helping develop additional revenue and further spread the opportunities that gaming has provided to all of Indian country.

We also established the National Indian Gaming Association Climate Change Committee to help do our part in address environmental concerns in our industry. This Committee is comprised of environmental advocates, Tribal educators, and industry leaders who coordinate with other organizations to push forward this national Tribal initiative. As we expect Congress to move forward with Climate Change legislation early this year, NIGA has continued to use our Climate Change Committee to make climate change education a priority in our industry.

Indian gaming is an energy intensive industry, yet we are a young industry with many new, modern facilities. While many Tribes are already doing their part in practicing energy efficiency, we want to promote and encourage climate change adaptation by urging Indian gaming operations to model eco-friendly designs or “go green” and beyond in keeping with our traditional and cultural values.

I want thank all of our Tribes and corporate sponsors who have supported NIGA’s various fundraising activities throughout the year. In particular, our annual Spirit of Sovereignty Foundation Scholarship and holiday giving program. It was a tremendous success once again this year. For the third year, we joined the Lakota Nations Invitational events in Rapid City, South Dakota to present contributions and Christmas gifts. This is a very special program, which brings joy to so many Indian communities during the holidays. It has been my honor to work with South Dakota State Representative Kevin Killer for nine years on the Christmas drive and each year we are left with even more special experiences.

As we begin our work in 2010, The National Indian Gaming Association will be on the legislative front in Washington, D.C., we will continue to join forces with our sister organizations such as the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to promote and protect the interests of Indian country. NIGA expects the 2010 congressional election to bring new faces to Capitol Hill. New faces represent new opportunities to educate and enlighten Congressional leaders about the numerous treaties, laws, and court decisions recognizing Tribal sovereignty.

This April, thousands of people will visit San Diego for NIGA’s 20th annual trade show and membership meeting. We are excited about the energy and potential of this year’s show at the San Diego Convention Center. For Indian country, this is an important gathering as it brings together Tribal leaders, businesses and organizations from across the country who are working hard to build upon one of America’s true success stories, Indian gaming, which has advanced the lives of Indian people economically, socially and politically.

As we look forward to a new year, it is more important than ever that we approach 2010 with a united front. Working together, we can continue to defend our sovereignty and advance the lives of our Indian people while helping bring restoration to America’s economy.

As Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, I pledge once again to work at the direction of our Tribal leadership. I can assure you that it is with confidence and determination that NIGA will stand with Indian country in 2010.

Ernest L. Stevens, Jr., Chairman
Ernest L. Stevens, Jr., Chairman
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