Ernie Stevens, Jr., former tribal councilman with Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, is challenged by Ivan Makil, the former president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community of Arizona, for the role as chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA). At the organization's annual trade show and convention held April 3-6 at the Phoenix Convention Center, expected to attract 1,800 people, according to the The Phoenix Business Journal, members will decide who should take the helm as the leader of NIGA.
Global Gaming Business interviewed both candidates: Stevens, who has lead NIGA for a decade, and Makil, the three-term-elected former president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona.
Stevens cited his defining accomplishments as the defense of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), "consensus and coalition building in Indian Country, the empowerment of tribal leaders through government-to-government consultations with the U.S. Congress, and the establishment of NIGA’s Annual Legislative Summits," reported Global Gaming Business.
Makil referenced his integral role in turning the Salt River tribal government into a "nationally recognized model for successful business enterprises, land use planning and overall economic development that is creative, diversified and culturally sensitive," reported the trade publication.
Stevens advocated for educating the public and policymakers about overcoming challenges that Indian communities and Indian gaming face. He also stressed the significance of economic diversification and Indian-owned businesses helping one another.
"One of the most effective means of strengthening diversity is empowering local businesses, and in Indian country, this means helping American Indian entrepreneurs and tribal government owned businesses," Stevens told Global Gaming Business. "Since 2003, NIGA has helped facilitate this goal by connecting our member tribes with Indian businesses, and working through the American Indian Business Network. The Business Network highlights the hard work of tribal business people, and facilitates networking between tribal leaders, gaming procurement officers, Indian entrepreneurs, and other tribal government businesses. The American Indian Business Network is about empowering native-owned businesses. Indian Country recognizes that we are all in this together and that cooperation is critical to our survival."
Makil addressed issues that require immediate attention: "Internet gaming, Carcieri, and the misperceptions about tribes and Indian gaming," he told Global Gaming Business. "My priority would be to bring about clarity and understanding regarding these critical issues, build consensus amongst the tribes, and develop a strategic plan with a clear process for implementation. I think it is also important to consider an updated education and public awareness campaign regarding tribes and gaming issues."