National Indian Gaming Association Summer Update

As the summer months are upon us, Indian Country comes together for traditional summer cultural activities such as harvest celebrations, pow-wows, and rodeos.  For many, coming back together means returning to the workforce and the offices in this post-COVID world.

In March, the Indian Gaming Association officially re-opened its doors where we have continued to focus on crucial work with our member tribes, tribal casinos, and organizations.  We have much to celebrate in this effort and much more work ahead.

On July 27, we will host our Summer Legislative Summit at our headquarters in Washington, D.C.   Our Winter and Summer Legislative Summits have empowered Indian Country and helped advance our voice on Capitol Hill for over two decades.  We have not held an in-person Summit since the Pandemic, and this will be Indian Country’s triumphal return to D.C.

Since 2001, our Legislative Summits have brought federal policymakers together with Tribal Leaders nationwide to discuss priorities facing Native communities. These summits educate Members of Congress and agency officials about the benefits of Indian gaming, highlight the importance of protecting and preserving tribal sovereignty, and offer our Member Tribes opportunities to build new and foster existing relationships with key decision-makers.

With the 117th Congress ending in December, Indian country should be proud of the outstanding policy gains achieved with the enactment of the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Jobs and Investment Act, not to mention the federal aid received by Tribal Governments for the Covid-19 pandemic.

These laws continue to deliver historic levels of federal resources directly to Tribal Governments to help address the disparate impacts of the pandemic and are helping transform Indian Country’s infrastructure.  IGA’s goal, along with our sister Tribal organizations, is to help build our Native communities and diversify tribal economies for generations to come.

These achievements would stand on their own in any ordinary session of Congress, but we know that critical work remains ahead. The Indian Gaming Association’s Member Tribes will gather this July to build on these incredible gains, including our focus on long-needed regulatory proposals to update the Indian gaming compacting process and the tribal trust land process.

In addition, Tribal Leaders will gather to bring momentum to legislative proposals that seek to modernize the federal tax code and increase parity and respect for the governmental status of Indian Tribes.

The Summit will also allow us to recognize the hard work of tribes and organizations in the recent successes of Indian country. We are celebrating a decades-long legal battle that affirms the ability of Native Nations to engage in Indian gaming. On June 15, 2022, the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe to conduct gaming on their lands.

The Indian Gaming Association has stood by the Texas Tribes throughout this thirty-year legal battle. Our Association and the National Congress of American Indians and the United South and Eastern Tribes filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court.  Our brief contended that, under the Court’s 1987 California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians decision and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (“IGRA”), the State of Texas has no authority to regulate gaming on Indian lands that is not subject to a full State criminal prohibition against gaming.

On June 21, President Joe Biden announced the appointment of Lynn Malerba, Lifetime Chief of the Mohegan Tribe, to serve as Treasurer of the United States. Chief Malerba is the first Native American to serve as the nation’s Treasurer.

To underscore the Department’s commitment to Tribal nations, Treasury also announced the establishment of a new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs. Treasurer Malerba will lead the new office and coordinate Tribal relations across the Department. In addition to leading the new Office of Tribal Affairs, Chief Malerba will also have oversight of the U.S. Mint, serves as a liaison with the Federal Reserve, and oversees the Treasury’s Office of Consumer Policy.

Last month the treasury department unveiled their quarter honoring the late Wilma Mankiller, which is the third coin in the American Women Quarters™ Program.  Her honoring is placed on the reverse (tails) and depicts Wilma Mankiller with a resolute gaze to the future. The wind is at her back, and she is wrapped in a traditional shawl. To her left is the seven-pointed star of the Cherokee Nation. This is a great honor for not only Indian country, but for our Native Women Warriors on the front lines due in great part to Wilma Mankiller paving their path to leadership.

The Indian Gaming Association applauds the appointment of Chief Malerba to serve as the Treasurer of the United States. For the first time in U.S. history, a Tribal leader and Native woman’s signature will be on our nation’s currency. Chief Malerba joins Secretary Debra Haaland and federal judges Lauren J. King, Suzanne Sykes, and Lydia Grigsby in historic Native American appointments by President Biden.

While we have so much to celebrate as the close of the 117th Congress draws near, we have significant work ahead. These past two years highlighted our resilience and showed what is possible when Indian Country unites behind the common purpose of building a better place for all generations.

Ernie Stevens, Jr. 15 Articles
Ernie Stevens, Jr. is the Chairman and national spokesperson for the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) NIGA