Indian Gaming 2015: Chairman's Leadership Award


San Diego, CA, March 31, 2015 - The National Indian Gaming Association's (NIGA) Chairman's Leadership Award Luncheon was held today during the 30th Annual Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention. With culture woven all throughout the tradeshow, the Oneida Nation Smoke Dancers greeted attendees with traditional Oneida songs. The Pueblo of Pojoaque Hoop Dancer entertained attendees with a live presentation.

 During this year's well-attended luncheon, Chairman Stevens welcomed the hundreds of attendees and MarjaRia, a ten-year-old Oneida Nation youth, provided a traditional Oneida opening in her Native language.

 Billy Mills, the only 10,000 meter Gold Medalist Olympian in the western hemisphere was today's keynote speaker. Mr. Mills of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe, proudly shared his story from his days in the Pine Ridge Indian community to running at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas to winning the 1964 Olympics. The spokesman for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, spoke of the healing of his broken spirit through his dream of being an Olympic champion. Mr. Mills stressed the importance of inspiring our youth to have a dream, to have healthier spirits and to have hope.

 Following Mr. Mills was the presentation of the Chairman's Leadership Award. Mr. Steve Ortiz was the former Chairman of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. For 15 year Mr. Ortiz served on tribal council and was Chairman from 2007 to 2014. During his acceptance speech Mr. Mills said, "To me this represents a life time achievement award. It recognizes 15 years of hard work that have preceded me to this point. I just want to tell each and every one of you that it's a tough job being on tribal council leadership. Best job I ever had! If you can survive on council that long you know your listening to your people and leading in the right direction."

 Marisa Mendoza, Executive Director of the Haskell Foundation also received recognition for her work in Kansas with the foundation. Working hand in hand with Haskell Indian Nations College, the Haskell Foundation provides resources to the Native American population allowing them to reach new heights. Ms. Mendoza thanked NIGA and reminded us that "students who attend Haskell are representatives of our tribal communities and it's my hope and goal of the foundation to support our student population for the future of Indian Country." 

 The Chairman's Leadership Award Luncheon continued with the Spirit of Sovereignty Christmas Drive Donors Recognition by the Spirit of Sovereignty's Chairman and NIGA Treasurer, Andy Ebona. The Spirit of Sovereignty's efforts are two-fold. They do an annual Christmas Drive for tribes in need during the holidays as well as provide scholarship assistance to Native students and colleges. Chairman Ebona thanked all the sponsors for without them they could not do what they do.

 Before the luncheon concluded BMM Test Labs presented Chairman Ebona with a $2,500 check to support the Spirit of Sovereignty as part of their Next Generation Initiative.