NIGA Chairman Receives AAIA Leader of Distinction Award

National Indian Gaming Association's Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. was awarded the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) Leader of Distinction Award November 20, 2014 in New York, NY. In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, the AAIA held its 2nd Annual Fundraising Reception and Annual Meeting of the Members & Short Film Showcase. The AAIA recognized Chairman Stevens as well as two other individuals for their contributions and service to Indian Country.

For nearly a century the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) has been operating as the oldest Indian advocacy organization in the United States. Notably, the AAIA can be credited for helping draft the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the Tribal Governmental Tax Status Act. Working from the grassroots up to the national level, AAIA centers their programs around youth and education, cultural preservation and sovereignty.

AAIA's mission is to promote the well being of American Indian and Alaska Natives by

 *       Promoting the health, education and welfare of children and youth;
 *       Sustaining and perpetuating tribal languages and cultures;
 *       Protecting tribal sovereignty, religions and natural resources;
 *       Advocating for tribal constitutional, legal and human rights.

Organizations like AAIA and people like the staff, board and volunteers at AAIA, provide a voice for those unheard. Their efforts are also recognized and awarded. This summer AAIA board member and the National Indian Child Welfare Association's (NICWA) Deputy Director, Dr. Sarah Kastelic, was a recipient of the American Express NGen Leadership Award for her work in policy research against child abuse and neglect in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

It is our leaders, like Frank Ettawageshick (Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa) that come together and help empower our native people by serving as advisory for these organizations. His presence and energy were appreciated at the awards. As a long time friend of NIGA's and AAIA Treasurer, Ettawageshick introduced and helped present the Leaders of Distinction Award to Chairman Stevens. Also recognized by the AAIA for their impact and involvement in Indian Country was award wining recording artist and activist MarthaRedbone (Cherokee, Choctaw, Shawnee) and celebrated actor from Broadway's "Jersey Boys", Shaun Taylor-Corbett (Blackfeet).

Both Redbone and Taylor-Corbett are strong believers in cultural preservation and mentorship through the arts. In addition to Redbone's career as a recording artist and songwriter, she has maintained involvement with causes celebrating Indian Country. Equally as talented, Shaun Taylor-Corbett starred as Frankie Valli in the national tour of Jersey Boys and co-wrote Distant Thunder, a musical exploring Taylor-Corbett's Native American roots.

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