San Diego, CA - The Tim Wapato Sovereign Warrior Award was presented to Joel Frank, a distinguished tribal and community advocate of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Frank played a significant role in bringing the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) team together to create a powerful Tribal Government Gaming presence in Washington, D.C.
NIGA Chairman Emeritus, Rick Hill and Gay Kingman-Wapato, the wife and family members of the late Tim Wapato and Dr. Michael Marchand, Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, joined NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., on stage to present the coveted award to Mr. Frank.
A. Gay Kingman said, "the Sovereign Warrior Award was established because Tim used to say, 'when I'm gone dust to dust, know that someone will try to take away your sovereignty. If I have a legacy, let it be that I spent my life to preserve tribal sovereignty.'"
Kingman further remarked "Joel Frank is such a person. He spent his whole career defending tribal sovereignty, and he has continued to work for all of us in what he has done nationally, regionally and for the Seminole Tribe."
NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. said, "This honor is going to one of the most powerful warriors of all time. He is America's Warrior, he is an Indian Country Warrior, but tonight Joel Frank is the Tim Wapato Sovereign Warrior Award recipient."
Frank accepted the award and said, "I'm very happy and pleased to accept this award on behalf of all Indian people. My elders have pushed me to represent my tribe since I was fourteen years old... always standing up for our tribal sovereignty."
As Vice Chairman of the NIGA, Frank was part of the great leadership team that led the early discussions about organizing Indian Country for the protection of their sovereign rights to conduct gaming. He also advocated to develop regulatory standards to protect the integrity of Indian gaming, which led to tribes organizing and providing financial contributions to fund the legal fees needed for an amicus brief in the Cabazon-Morongo case. This historic case was critical to setting the stage for Indian Country's economic future.
Frank, NIGA Chairman Emeritus, the late Tim Wapato and his wife Gay Kingman-Wapato along with several others were instrumental in building what we now call the National Indian Gaming Association, and its commanding presence felt today in Washington, D.C.
As part of the Cultural event activities, representatives of the Lucy A. Covington Center Project which is being undertaken by the Eastern Washington State University Foundation presented their project. Margo Hill, Associate Professor, EWU Planning and a member of Spokane Tribe of Indians, Mel Tonasket, Former National Congress of American Indians President and Council Member of the Colville Confederated Tribes provided an overview of the project and their fundraising initiatives.
Lucy Covington was a long-time tribal rights activist, and Colville Tribal Council member helped change the course of American Indian history through her courageous and selfless style of leadership in the face of great odds. She was one of many tribal peoples who worked in the 1950s and 1960s to bring an end to "termination" - an ill-conceived federal policy designed to remove control of land and natural resources from tribal ownership, by terminating tribal status.
Each year NIGA hosts the Cultural Reception that showcases many tribal dance and singing groups. This year's groups featured the Kumeyaay Bird Singers, Yaaw Tei Yi Dancers, and Oneida Warrior Smoke Dance group.