NIGA Update

Ernie StevensAs we close 2021, we must recognize the unchartered path we continue to find ourselves in as all of our country works to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, it has impacted every one of us in some shape or form, with not only the loss of precious lives but also the devastating economic consequences of many of our Tribal communities.

Our Indian Gaming industry definitely felt the economic impacts at the onset of this pandemic that transferred to a financial crisis throughout our Tribal communities, but that did not sway our commitment to putting communities first.  Tribal communities stood firm against this pandemic, resulting in our ability to open our Tribal gaming properties safely and successfully.

These accomplishments achieved in 2021 is a tribute to Tribal Government leadership, Indian gaming professionals, and the commitment of our front-line workers. Their tireless work honors the resiliency of our ancestors and resulted in a remarkable economic comeback for the Indian gaming industry.  However, there is so much more we need to do to continue to build back upon the capabilities of the Tribal government gaming industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be the single most significant threat to the health of our people and our economies. The world now faces a new variant – the COVID-19 Omicron variant, which has reached the United States, causing additional concerns by the rapid spread of the variant.

We know our work is not done. As they have done since March of 2020, Tribal Leaders nationwide will continue to place the health and safety of Tribal communities above all. For nearly two years, Indian Tribes have imposed the most stringent safeguards to stop the spread of the virus. In 2021, Tribal Leaders ramped up education efforts about the benefits of continuing to wear masks, getting vaccinated, and taking every action available to curb the pandemic.

History has shown that Indian Country has persevered over the centuries in the face of many obstacles. There are no limitations to what can be done when we have a common purpose.

As we prepare to encounter the many unknowns of 2022, we will continue to follow the guidance of our Tribal Leaders, who have taken this pandemic head-on from day one. We honor their commitment to placing the health and safety of all Tribal communities at the forefront, as we all continue to support each other in the year ahead.

Our prayers go out to those who this virus has impacted. We pray for a safe journey for those who have walked on, for the continued safety of medical professionals, caregivers, and first responders, and for the continued health and safety of our Tribal communities.

On behalf of the National Indian Gaming Association, our Board of Directors, and our team, I wish for a new season of rejuvenation and renewal to shower upon us all with the blessing of good health and fortitude of joy and the endless charity of self and boundless love.

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