MASHANTUCKET, CT – The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Indian Gaming Association (IGA) Tribal Leaders Task Force met at the Indian Gaming Association’s annual Mid-Year Convention at the Foxwoods Resort & Casino in Mashantucket, CT.
Before a broad audience of tribal leaders, advocates, and gaming professionals, representatives from the industry discussed the many challenges facing Indian Country today.
The primary mission of the IGA/NCAI Task Force is to protect the inherent right of tribal governments to exercise jurisdiction and facilitate economic activity to support their communities. This mission goes beyond just tribal gaming – it includes protecting tribal sovereignty and Native homelands.
At the Indian Gaming Association Annual Tradeshow in 2023 in San Diego, tribal leaders called upon the IGA/NCAI Task Force to respond to repeated attacks on our sovereignty. These attacks were coming from the federal courts, federal agencies, and, in some cases, commercial enterprises.
The first public meeting was held in Shakopee with the NCAI Mid-Year Convention.
“As we all know, there have been and continue to be attacks on tribal sovereignty coming from the Congress and the Supreme Court, and we have decided to mobilize with our sister organization NCAI, and we stand ready to act when given the directive by our elected tribal leaders,” said IGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. “Prioritizing Indian Country’s message to the federal courts and the Biden administration is a key aspect of what the IGA/NCAI Taskforce is working to accomplish.”
“Our bosses, the tribal leadership throughout Indian Country, have spoken, and we stand ready to heed their directives, work together, and stand on the front lines to continue to protect our tribal rights,” added Stevens. “I think it’s important to continue to gauge where our challenges lie, why we are where we are today, and what we need to do. These taskforce meetings will shape Indian policy going into the most important election period in our lifetimes.”
“The bottom line is we must understand our issues, articulate them, and stand together. We cannot sit back and give the courts or the government the benefit of the doubt when it comes to decisions made on tribal nations’ behalf. Our treaties and sovereignty are at stake,” Stevens stressed.
“Both organizations have been committed to working with this task force,” continued Stevens. “Our collaboration has an extended history, starting with our IGA previous Chairman, the late Rick Hill, and throughout my tenure as Chairman, always working alongside every NCAI President in the last 30 years because it is about always standing on the front lines committed to defending tribal sovereignty.”
IGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. led the task force for NCAI First Vice President Mark Macarro, Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Indians. The discussion of the forum’s primary focus was examining the significant threats to tribal sovereignty before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The task force discussed strategies to counter these and other challenges to the Indian gaming industry, including a national public relations effort to educate policymakers and the public about the longstanding benefits of Indian gaming to both Indian Country and their neighbors.
The IGA/NCAI Task Force is bringing the two largest national tribal organizations together to unite Indian Country in the fight to protect sovereignty and their sacred treaty rights. In just two meetings, the task force received input from tribal leaders on threats to their continued use of reservation resources, offshore environmental concerns from the administration’s renewable energy initiatives, and even challenges to federal Indian law under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
The task force is a call to action that is seeking to reframe and reshape the arguments now percolating through the federal courts that challenge tribal government sovereignty over their own lands and citizens. This effort will also include getting out the Native vote in the 2024 election. Indian Country is a significant population in several swing states, and it is important to elect federal officials who will understand tribal sovereignty and make changes in Congress, the courts, and the federal agency levels.
The next IGA/NCAI Task Force meeting will be held at NCAI’s 80th Annual Tradeshow and Convention. Chairman Stevens will be convening the task force at the NCAI Gaming Subcommittee on November 13th, 2023, at the Ernest Morial Memorial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA.