30th ANNUAL NATIONAL INDIAN GAMING ASSOCIATION
INDIAN GAMING 2015 CHAIRMAN'S WELCOME RECEPTION
San Diego, March 31, 2015 - The 30th Annual National Indian Gaming Association's (NIGA) Indian Gaming 2015 Chairman's Welcome Reception kicked off the association's 30th anniversary in style. Attendees from across Indian Country came out to celebrate not only NIGA's 30 years serving Indian Country but also the phenomenal year in the Indian gaming industry.
The Manchester Grand Hyatt poolside ambiance provided the perfect setting for tribal leaders and gaming professionals to interact as networking opportunities is a key component to NIGA's Indian Gaming 2015. NIGA Chairman Stevens pleasantly greeted the reception attendees and welcomed everyone to San Diego, CA and the tradeshow.
NIGA Associate Member, First Data President, Barry McCarthy graciously helped sponsor the event and addressed why First Data cares so much about Indian gaming. "We think you are leading the way and innovating all things around gaming payments and we really want to be a part of it." Mr. McCarthy went on to extend an invitation to Indian Gaming 2015 participants and thanked NIGA for the opportunity.
One of the evening's highlights was the Annual Charlie Hill Entertainer of the Year Award. Last year the passing of entertainer Charlie Hill was recognized and the memory of the comedy legend and longtime friend to Indian Country was honored. NIGA respects Mr. Hill's memory and a man who was always taking us to a happier place, interrupting the ordinary and historical upsets through his comedy. As a stand-up comedian Mr. Hill's quick wit, humor and Native wisdom touched all of our spirits and reminded us that we could change the world one laugh at a time. Charlie always advocated for Native American artisans to be more involved in Indian gaming.
This year the 2nd Annual Charlie Hill Entertainer of the Year Award was awarded to Keith Secola. An award-winning figure in contemporary Native American music from the Anishinabe Nation of Minnesota, Keith Secola is an accomplished artist. The guitarist, native flute player, singer, songwriter and producer's famous song, "NDN KARS" is considered the contemporary Native American anthem. Mr. Secola reminisced about his days with Charlie Hill and thanked NIGA and the Hill family for the Charlie Hill Entertainer of the Year Award before he played a song in tribute to Mr. Hill.
The Chairman's Welcome Reception continued with a special presentation by the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Oneida Gaming General Manager, Louise Cornelius introduced the surprise unveiling of a portrait of NIGA Chairman Stevens and Rick Hill commissioned by the Seminole Tribe and BMM Test Labs by artist Laurie Schultz. The 2 warriors, who have sacrificed their time and efforts to promote and lobby for Indian people across the country, were honored and addressed the crowd. "I just want to acknowledge the artist and the people who've built this industry, it's the NIGA family that has made this all possible," said Mr. Hill. Chairman Stevens echoed the sentiment and stated, "The bottom line is we have a lot of work to do and this week we celebrate the 30 years of hard work that has been done in order to build a better future for Indian Country."
The Northwestern American Indian College Fund Director Greg Masten, Deborah Parker, David Bean, Chairman Brian Cladoosby and others presented a gift to Chairman Stevens, an honoree member of the foundation board, for his support and continued fight for education. Mr. Masten said, "As tribes are becoming stronger in economic development education has to be hand in hand with that and we acknowledge all of Chairman Steven's hard work and advocacy." Mr. Masten announced they now have a Degree in Tribal Governance and Business Management with a key component of casino management. Our Northwest friends finished their presentation with the singing of a traditional song.
Wilson Pipestem and Notah Begay III also recognized Ho-Chunk Nation President, Jon Greendeer for his dedication to improved health, as he is an example of what the Notah Begay III Foundation stands for. The Notah Begay Foundation believes in our Indian youth and using sport as a way to prevent diabetes and the advantages it can provide. President Greendeer was nearly lost for words and thanked the Notah Begay III Foundation and said, "I'm taken back by this opportunity to bring this issue back to Indian Country and bring it to the people that it matters most to."
With desserts, coffee and a last call, attendees poolside at the Manchester Grand Hyatt wound down the night with a performance by long time NIGA friend Daniel Tucker's DT and the Love Po'Shun. Indian Gaming 2015 will continue today at the San Diego Convention Center.