SANTA FE, NM August 18, 2016 - Continuing its mission of "Rebuilding Communities through Indian Self-Reliance," the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) hosted the Tribal Economic Development and Internet Gaming Forum on August 18, 2016, at the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The forum focused on discussion of legislation relating to economic development in Indian Country, economic diversification beyond gaming, re-examining NIGA's internet gaming Principles of Sovereignty, and motivation strategies for Indian Country to exercise their right to vote in the 2016 election.
Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr., and Governor Joseph Talachy of the Pueblo of Pojoaque kicked off the day with welcoming addresses.
Chairman Stevens welcomed the participants and said, "Today is an important working session for us. I look to us all to put our minds together to develop our strategy, so we can do what we have to do in Washington, DC and on behalf of Indian country."
Governor Talachy welcomed attendees, "I appreciate the National Indian Gaming Association for what it stands for and all the work they do for our Indian people. It takes strength, leadership, and a working mentality. We must always move in the direction of fairness and rightness." The Governor continued, "I want to welcome all of the tribal leaders as we gather to talk about the importance of Indian Gaming and the need to continue to protect tribal sovereignty. Today I continue to fight, and I encourage you all to continue the fight."
The morning session then opened with a presentation by John Lewis, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Gila River Indian Community Utility Authority, on the Climate Change Initiative. Jason Giles, NIGA Executive Director, and John Harte, of the Mapetsi Policy Group, then followed with several legislation updates, including an update about daily fantasy sports legislation (DFS). The morning session closed with a panel discussion on the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), economic development, and taxation. The panel was comprised of Indian gaming and policy leaders Mark Van Norman of VN Consulting, Dave Devendorf of Nighthorse Consultants, Rob Porter of Odawi Law, Robert Shepherd of Shepherd Solutions and John Maier of Maier Pfeffer Kim Geary & Cohen LLP. NIGA Vice Chairman Kevin Leecy served as the morning session moderator.
The afternoon session opened with a presentation on "Diversification and Expansion Beyond Gaming" led by Governor Eddie Paul Torres of the Isleta Pueblo, who spoke about the Pueblo of Isleta and their economic development and business development plans through their tribal gaming dollars. Gary Davis, President & CEO of the National Center for Indian Economic Development (NCAIED) addressed the group and provided a passionate address impressing the importance of building upon business development now for future generations to come.
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell followed with "Election Outlook 2016," a discussion and presentation regarding the U. S. Presidential and Congressional elections and the importance of getting out the vote. Senator Campbell also provided updates on the US Presidential candidates and their plans for potential transitions to the White House. He emphasized the importance of making sure that the Native voice was included in the transition plans and reported that he would be forwarding potential names of Native Advisors to both presidential candidates.
Following Nighthorse's presentation, a panel discussion was held regarding the "Native Vote 2016." The panelists included Nicole Willis, Director of the National Tribal Outreach; Carmen Henan, Dean of Students at the Institute of American Indian Arts; Mike Andrews, Majority Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and John Harte of the Mapetsi Policy Group. Kevin Killer of the South Dakota House of Representatives and Paulette Jordan of the Idaho State House of Representatives served as co-moderators of that panel discussion.
The afternoon session also included reports and a Listening Session from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) Majority Staff led by Rhonda Harjo, Deputy Chief Counsel, and Mike Andrews.
The one-day working session concluded with a report from the National Indian Gaming Association Subcommittee on Class II gaming briefing after a day-long dialogue regarding issues surrounding the grandfather provision. The subcommittee provided recommendations to be included in the upcoming tribal leader's discussions at the National Indian Gaming Association Mid-Year Conference meetings in September with the approval of the NIGA Executive Committee. Following the day's many educational sessions and forums, NIGA hosted a tribal leader reception for attendees.