San Diego, CA - The Wendell Chino Humanitarian Awards Banquet is the National Indian Gaming Association's (NIGA) most prestigious event honoring the legacy of longtime President Wendell Chino of the Mescalero Apache Nation, who spent his life protecting tribal sovereignty and advancing Indian self-governance. Those who joined us last night as we honored this year's recipient, W. "Ron" Allen, were in for a spectacular evening.
Master of Ceremonies, Gary Davis, President and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) kept the show going with his lively spirit while NIGA Chairman Stevens gave a warm welcome.
Earlier at yesterday's NIGA Membership Meeting, the NIGA Board of Directors held their elections for the NIGA Chairman and Secretary positions, where Chairman Stevens and Paulette Jordan we elected uncontested. John Eckohawk did the honors of swearing in Chairman Stevens. Chairman Stevens accepted the position and reminisced of carrying the weight of Indian Country on his shoulder as a boxer and how he's proud to be doing so now in his 8th consecutive term as the NIGA Chairman for the past 15 years.
Paying respect to the tribal leaders that have made their way on to the spirit world, Chairman Stevens took time during his acceptance speech to acknowledge the late leaders. During Chairman Steven's remarks he said, "By dedicating this next year I promise you what I said on the first day, I'll work as hard as I possibly can, my work is my campaign and I will stand on the shoulders of that lady over there, Mrs. Cheryl Stevens. I dedicate this reelection to the late Billy Frank, a warrior and my hero."
Mr. Davis went on to introduce Mr. Wendell Chino's son Mark Chino. Mr. Chino spoke about his father and the passion he had for Indian Country. He shared the spirit of his father who, over 45 years ago was the President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Mr. Chino continued and said, "Whether you're President, Chairman, Governor or a member of your council, you all have an obligation not just to educate people on what it is to be Indian, but you have a duty to your people as well to represent them. That's what my dad tried to do...So again, thank you to NIGA for this opportunity, I very much appreciate being here and I thank each and every one of you."
Chairman Ron Allen, has served as the Chair since 1977 and as Chief Executive Officer since 1982. He is a member of the JKT Art Board, Hunting/Fishing Committee (Ad Hoc member), Tribal Gaming Commission and U.S. Canada/Pacific Salmon Commission. Ron has served four years as President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and two years as NCAI First Vice President and ten years as NCAI Treasurer. Chairman Allen is currently President of the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA).
As Chairman Allen stood before his family and attendees, he professed his gratitude. "Advocating for Indian Country is something we do and there's a lot behind what we do as warriors on behalf of our people. Whether it's in Washington, DC, state capitols or anywhere else, we are championing our interests....Its been a great journey and a pleasure. I look forward to continuing this journey as we continue to fight each of these fights and move our agendas forward. I am very honored my brothers and sisters, thank you, "Chairman Allen stated as he accepted the award.
Before the evening entertainment, NCAI President, Brian Cladoosby was honored with a Pendleton blank on behalf of NIGA. After all the excitement of the Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award, attendees enjoyed legendary rock band, Foreigner live in concert.