Anaheim, Calif. – April 20, 2022 – The Cultural event highlighted the Tuesday evening of Indian Gaming 2022 with the traditional dances that took to the stage at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California.
Traditional dances from the Bird Singers from San Diego, California, and the Oneida Warrior Dancers from Oneida, Wisconsin, led up to the Rick Hill -Tim Wapato Sovereign Warrior Award to former Chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians Anthony Pico.
This prominent recognition was established by the National Indian Gaming Association and is presented to an individual who exemplifies the shared passion and commitment to tribal sovereignty that inspired the leadership and legacy of Hill and Wapato on behalf of the advancement of tribal government gaming.
Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Steven, Jr., said, "Anthony Pico has spent his whole career working to help and advance not only the Viejas community, but his work inspired a path for others to follow throughout Indian country. We are honored to come together in the spirit of Rick and Tim to honor one of the most powerful warriors of all time with the distinguished award."
Former Indian Gaming Association Vice-Chairman Danny Tucker, the former Chairman of the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians, joined Theresa Wapato in presenting the honoring Pico.
Tucker shared, "I am truly honored to be presenting this to Anthony. This guy has done so much in his lifetime. He has researched what he believes are the most important and most profound issues facing Native Americans today and resolves to stand for that belief. Anthony is there for his people."
Gay Kingman-Wapato, the wife of the late Tim Wapato, was under the weather and unable to join the honoring sent a written message Chairman Stevens read to Pico and the crowd. She said," Chairman Anthony Pico was one of those early Tribal Leaders and warriors who went into battle to fight. I applaud Chairman Pico for his part in the battles. Anthony deserves to receive the Rick Hill - Tim Wapato Sovereign Warrior Award." She concluded, "Wish I was there to help present the Award to Chairman Pico."
Gay Kingman said, "Chairman Anthony Pico was one of those early Tribal Leaders and warriors who went into battle to fight. California wasn't an easy state to get compacts or Tribal Gaming, but the Tribal Leaders got it accomplished, fighting for the Sovereign right to Game." She added, "This is why the Rick Hill -Timothy Wapato Sovereignty Warrior Award was created, to acknowledge all the Tribal Leaders, whose shoulders we stand upon today.
Accepting the award, Pico said, "I am privileged and honored to be here, and I'm not just saying that because I know you leaders had come from thousand years of leaders before you who sacrificed so much, and you represent hundred and thousands of your own citizens. I am in awe of you all."
Pico added, "As a leader, I always thought about what our ancestors had to endure. I knew to do anything but the best I could to help exercise our sovereignty would be an insult to their sacrifices."
The Yaaw Tei Yi Dancers from Alaska closed out the evening by honoring Anthony Pico with their traditional songs and dance.