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Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation

Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation President Bernadine Burnette has been part of her tribal community’s success story for more than 20 years and is also one of Native America’s most-honored woman leaders. In recognition of this, Arizona Business Magazine named Burnette one of “Arizona’s Most Influential Women” at a gala event at the Arizona Biltmore on August 22. Burnette was joined by her family, including husband Waylon Burnette, children Ernestine and Solomon Boyd granddaughter Giselle Boyd-Lopez and by other family, friends and Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Treasurer Pamela Mott.

The girl who grew up in a dirt-floored home with no electricity or running water frequently says that those humble beginnings led her to lead her 890-member Tribe to prosperity, and that drive has contributed to Fort McDowell’s success in gaming, economic development and community issues.

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Over her years of service to the Tribe, Burnette has held council positions of tribal secretary, vice president and president. Among her achievements are a nationally acclaimed agricultural operation, the world-class We-Ko-Pa Resort and Golf Club, Fort McDowell Adventures, an eco-friendly Western venue, Fort McDowell Sand and Gravel, the Eagle View RV Park and, of course, Arizona’s first casino, the Fort McDowell Casino. Burnette is currently leading the construction of a new casino, which will be rebranded as the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort. The new casino will open in 2020.

But this is just the latest in a long series of recognizing Burnette’s leadership throughout Native America and in Arizona. In 2012, Burnette was named Indian Gaming Advocate by the National Indian Gaming Association. She has also been recognized by former Arizona Governor Jane Dee Hull as one of Arizona’s female tribal chairwomen; NIGA Warrior and Gaming Woman Leader; Great Women of Gaming and Native American Connections leadership nomination.

Burnette’s service also extends beyond the boundaries of her community, located about 30 miles northeast of Phoenix along the Verde River; she’s currently serving as president of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona and formerly served as the organization’s vice president. Burnette also served as vice president of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association. She was also Western Region Vice President for the National Congress of American Indians, secretary of the National Indian Gaming Association, and has served on the boards of the Maricopa Association of Governments, the National Indian Education Foundation and the National Environmental Association.

Burnette told Arizona Business Magazine upon being notified of her award: “My unwavering love for the Yavapai people and commitment to their future have motivated me to continually seek and accomplish projects that will help my Nation prosper.”