Indian Country will help bring light to America’s dark hour

Ernie Stevens Jr.

I stand with President-Elect Biden who has repeatedly stated, 'Never bet against the American people.'

Ernie Stevens, Jr.

Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association

The eyes of the world were on Washington, D.C. on January 6th as America experienced an act of domestic terrorism when protesters breached the United States Capitol. These groups sought to undermine the very fabric of our democracy, threatening elected officials with violence and disrupting the constitutionally required confirmation of American votes.

This riot was motivated by hatred, conspiracy theories, and outright lies that have infected our Nation for far too long. At the same time, the horror that America witnessed on January 6th coincided with record-breaking levels of deaths and hospitalizations in the United States caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the wake of this violence, our Nation is shaken, but we are not deterred. The failure of leadership that has stoked hatred, conspiracies, and ignorance has forced America to take significant steps backward. However, there are many signs of hope and light that will lead us forward.

Unbowed by the domestic terror that came to the U.S. Capitol, Members of Congress reconvened, staying in session until far past midnight to fulfill their duty to certify Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next President and Vice President of the United States of America. That same early morning, voters in Georgia spoke loud and clear – sending new leadership to the United States Senate.

The pieces are in place to move America forward, but we know it won’t be easy. It is impossible to understate the work that must be done to put our Nation back on track. I stand with President-Elect Biden who has repeatedly stated, “Never bet against the American people.”

We are at a crossroads, and we must get to work.

First and foremost, we must immediately unite to vanquish the pandemic, reopen our economy, and rebuild America. This virus has and continues to disproportionately inflict harm on the health and economies of Native communities. While Congress has taken some steps, much more must be done. Indian Country needs additional government assistance to quickly distribute vaccines and restore some semblance of normalcy to our reservations.

Equally if not more importantly, we must confront head-on the division in this country that has brought our Nation to this period of darkness.

Indian Country has sadly lived with and dealt with division, racism, and oppression for generations. When it’s given oxygen, Indian Country has felt the effects: genocide, loss of homelands, forcible removal of Native children to government-run boarding schools, and the policies of assimilation and termination. America, just like Indian Country has, will recover from these dark days, but only through unity and a sense of common purpose and will.

We will take comfort in the light that lies ahead. In the coming weeks, we will hopefully see a much wider distribution of the many COVID-19 vaccines that are being approved. America will see the seating of the first Native American cabinet official in the history of the United States.

With Deborah Haaland’s appointment as Interior Secretary, we see a historic opportunity to turn the page and open a new era for Native nations to work in true partnership with the United States to improve the lives of reservation residents.

With a somber mind, we know that none of this will happen without hard work, perseverance, and focused dedication. We are ready to get to work.

The National Indian Gaming Association, our Member Tribes, and all of Indian Country are energized. We will help bring light with diplomacy and respect to lead our Nation forward out of this darkness.

Sincerely,

Ernie Stevens, Jr.

Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association

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Ernie Stevens, Jr. is the chairman and national spokesperson for the National Indian Gaming Association in Washington, D.C. Stevens is currently in his ninth two-year term as the organization’s leader, which is a position elected by the member tribes of the National Indian Gaming Association.

As chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, Stevens represents the Indian gaming industry. In this role, he has worked to educate Congress, the media and the public about the positive impacts of Indian gaming on tribal and nearby communities. Stevens is also responsible for shaping policy initiatives that have the potential to impact the industry. Stevens has led the Association and worked to protect Tribal Sovereignty and strengthen the Indian gaming industry. During his tenure, Indian gaming revenues have risen from $11 billion in 2000 to over $39.1 billion in 2018 making Tribal Government Gaming the largest segment of the Gaming Industry in the United States, passing Commercial Gaming. 

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