IGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. Addresses UNITY Conference

Ernie Stevens UNITY 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Indian Gaming Association (IGA) Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., joined the annual United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) National Conference recently, addressing the youth and honoring youth leaders at the National Museum of American Indians in Washington, D.C.

Chairman Stevens impressed upon youth the importance of their leadership. “Throughout my years in leadership at Indian Gaming Association, I have had the honor to watch many, like you, grow into some of the most outstanding leaders in Indian Country,” said Stevens. “As I look at all of you here, I am inspired because your commitment to be here is your commitment to be here in the Nation’s Capital. Too often, we hear the term ‘our future leaders’ when referring to our youth. Here in Washington, D.C., you play a very prominent role in leadership in helping to educate America about the sovereign rights of America’s first people. You are stepping up, standing to protect the sovereignty of your tribal communities, and coming together in leadership to mentor one another in this forum.”

Stevens also provided legislative updates, including mobilizing the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and IGA Tribal Leaders Task Force. In May, tribal leaders requested the re-establishment of the two largest advocacy organizations to come together to form a strategy to confront Indian Country’s challenges at the national level.

Stevens encouraged the UNITY youth to engage in this effort to work with IGA and NCAI. “Indian Country continues to face many challenges negatively impacting tribal sovereignty, tribal jurisdiction, economic self-sufficiency, and women’s health, all impacting your future,” said Stevens. “It is important that we stand together to continue to hold this country to its commitment and promises made by numerous presidents and enshrined in our treaties and the Constitution.”

Chairman Stevens also presented the Indian Gaming Association Chairman’s Leadership Award to UNITY 2022-2023 representative, Co-President Colby Whitethunder, a citizen of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas, and Evynn Richardson, a citizen of the Haliwa Saponi Tribe of North Carolina and the UNITY Southeastern representative.

The UNITY National Conference is held annually to engage Native youth nationwide through workshops, breakout sessions, and cultural sharing.