Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sat, Oct. 31

National Indian Gaming Association mid-year a success

HOLLYWOOD, FLA. -- The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Mid-year Conference and Expo concluded on Nov. 15. The two-day event was held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

"With over 200 participants, Tribal governments brought a lot of energy to this meeting with the single goal in mind of protecting Indian sovereignty," said NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr.

During this year's meeting, the life of Vine Deloria, Jr., a renowned native scholar and activist, was celebrated and honored. Deloria died last Sunday at the age of 72.

"Vine Deloria's writings brought Indian country into the homes and hearts of America. In the spirit of his teachings, we at NIGA strive to spread the true word of Indian country to non-Indian communities throughout the nation. This great warrior helped end the Era of Termination and replaced it with Self Determination. NIGA and every Indian organization and tribal government owe it to Vine and our ancestors before him to protect, preserve, and strengthen what they fought for: tribal government self determination and economic self-sufficiency," Stevens said.

Highlights of the conference included presentations by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) on proposed amendments to limit class II Indian gaming.

Chairman Stevens proclaimed that, "Indian country's voice must be heard to prevent DOJ's misguided proposal from moving forward, unless it is substantially amended to respect existing federal court rulings on this issue. Tribal leaders will not settle for less than timely and meaningful government to government consultation." At the mid-year meeting, there was a preview of the Interior Department's proposal to implement regulations regarding off-reservation gaming. A June 2005 joint NIGANCAI Resolution on Off-Reservation Gaming called on Interior to begin the regulatory process in order address the issue, while avoiding opening the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and subjecting it to harmful amendments.

Mid-year also gave NIGA an opportunity to showcase the American Indian Business Network Expo highlighting native owned businesses, and it offered media training sessions for tribal leaders and representatives to enhance public relations efforts.

NIGA also unveiled its national survey on Indian gaming. The survey revealed that a majority (67 percent) of the public is supportive of Indian gaming. The survey also indicated that 74 percent of Americans feel that the current Indian gaming regulatory scheme is working well to protect the integrity of Indian gaming, and a majority is apprehensive about expanding the federal government's role in regulating Indian gaming. Finally, the poll found that a majority of Americans recognize that Indian gaming is working to meet its intended purpose: to benefit Indian people and surrounding communities.

Mid-year also provided an opportunity to honor two of Indian country's leaders: Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr., and NIGA Treasurer Charles Colombe were the recipients of the John Kieffer Award for their exemplary service and a lifetime of achievement and commitment to Indian gaming. The seventh annual John Kieffer Awards Banquet was held on Nov. 14.

The National Indian Gaming Association is a nonprofit trade association comprised of 184 American Indian Nations and other nonvoting associate members. The common commitment and purpose of NIGA is to advance the lives of Indian people -- economically, socially and politically. NIGA operates as a clearinghouse and educational, legislative and public policy resource for tribes, policymakers and the public on Indian gaming issues and tribal community development.

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