TG&H Advisory Board Profile: Get to Know Jay Garcia

Interview with Former Lieutenant Governor of Santa Ana Pueblo & Chairman of the Board of Directors, Santa Ana Pueblo and Santa Ana Golf Club Inc. Also contributes as member of the Investment Committee

With Christine Faria

Garcia has a 29-year career as an employee at the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, NM,

19 years as a department head and has been Chairman since 2016. Since 2003 he has served his community with the overall vision and goals of improved quality of life, betterment for the community for the present and future and for the Tamaya people (Santa Ana Pueblo).

He is committed to his constituents and family to live and prosper under traditional culture and values. He is a competitive and recreational golfer and enjoys hunting, fishing and hiking the great outdoors, and takes a great interest in travel, history, National Parks and indigenous cultures.

Chris: Jay, in your bio, integrating traditional culture into your everyday life is important. What do you mean by this?

Jay: For me, being Native is a way of life. My worldview, my interpretations of things going on around me are all processed in my mind through my traditional upbringing and teachings of parents, elders and clanship. I begin and end each day with a prayer in our traditional way.

Chris: When we first met, we shared a wonderful dinner and you started off with a prayer in the language of the Santa Ana Pueblo to welcome me and my co-worker; and at our formal meetings, you have been the one to start off before we get to business. Explain this tradition, why it is important, and how you learned the language.

Jay: The tradition of beginning a formal meeting with a prayer is rooted in acknowledging everyone’s presence and participation. We each carry a power or spirit within ourselves as we not only represent ourselves, but our family, clan, Tribe or in a business setting, your organization. The prayer is to state the purpose of the meeting, pray for clarity and vision to discuss the matter at hand in a good and knowledgeable manner; to not speak out of turn, to respect each other’s point of view. In my Tribe, every meeting, whether traditional or business, is opened in this manner. The opening prayer is important because it not only sets the tone and purpose of the meeting, but also each person is the recipient of the blessings called upon for health, life, and physical and mental well-being.

Chris: Since COVID-19, your Tribe had to focus on keeping their families and constituencies safe, and probably put other initiatives on the back burner. What do you see as the biggest focus for your Tribe for the rest of the year and into 2023?

Jay: I believe the focus to be “getting back to being whole again.” I certainly feel, after speaking to many colleagues and acquaintances at several conferences and meetings I’ve attended this year, that the majority of us Tribal business operators, whether it be casino/hotel, golf, retail/gas, government or whatever business we conduct, are still struggling to fill staff positions and return to 100 percent operationally. The business demand and volume from our guests is there, many of us are getting it done with less staff, and sure it’s nice to operate lean and mean from a P&L standpoint, but employees are starting to experience burnout at a faster rate. Work/family life balance is being affected. So focusing on getting whole again so that our businesses can return to full capacity and our employees can utilize their time off and regain that work/family balance we all need to stay productive and engaged.

Chris: Since you are a history buff, if you were to travel back in time and experience another place and time, where would that be and why?

Jay: I’ve always had great interest in the Roman Empire era. Due to the fact that so much of our modern world stands on the foundation of Roman principles, from politics, engineering, architecture, science and technology, as well as literature, law and language. In particular, the aqueducts systems that were engineered to move water to cities and farms. Some of those ancient systems are still in use today to some degree, with modern upgrades.

What about things in our everyday life as Americans? Politics, government, senators, courts, graduation pomp and circumstance, sporting and theater arenas or “colosseums,” the calendar, currency, and so on. So for these reasons, I enjoy learning and reading about this era. It makes me ask the question, “The Roman Empire was a great civilization of that time. Now in this time we think that our modern civilization is here to stay, but in three to four thousand years from now, are we going to meet the same fate? One hundred generations from now, are humans going to be digging up our great cities? Here lie the ruins of a great city once called New York or Washington, D.C.”

On behalf of TG&H, we thank Jay for his support and insight as a Board Member of Tribal Gaming and Hospitality Magazine and for his stewardship as a leader in our industry.

Christine Faria 35 Articles