October 12, 2022
“Honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day: A Special Look at Tribal Gaming” panel kicked off the Keynote session for G2E 2022. Panelists L-R, Holly Cook Macarro, Political Consultant & Strategic Advisor; Reid D. Milanovich, Chairman, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Honorable Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Former U.S. Senator, Colorado and Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., who moderated the session.
Las Vegas, Nevada – October 10, 2022 – Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2022 officially kicked off its annual show on Monday at the Venetian Expo by recognizing Indigenous People’s Day and with a full day of panels and educational workshops, which included a track focusing on Indian gaming-related topics and issues.
To celebrate Indigenous People Day, the keynote track at G2E hosted their first keynote address entitled “Honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day: A Special Look at Tribal Gaming,” which included Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., who moderated the session and panelists Holly Cook Macarro, Political Consultant & Strategic Advisor, Reid D. Milanovich, Chairman, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Honorable Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Former U.S. Senator, Colorado.
Chairman Stevens opened the session by presenting his official Indigenous People’s address to attendees. Stevens said, “At its core, Indigenous People’s Day is an opportunity to tell the story not only of our perseverance but our essential contributions to this nation.” Steven noted, “It should be a well-known fact that our ancestors inspired the infrastructure of America’s early democracy.”
He added, “Countless advances in American medicine, agriculture, and engineering, without the influence of native healers, farmers, and thinkers, would not have been possible. It should be well known. It should be a well-known fact that our ancestors inspired the infrastructure of America’s early democracy. Of course, even before being recognized as United States citizens, Native men and women warriors have stepped up to protect and serve our nation. And this democracy is five times the national average.”
He acknowledged the outstanding work of the Indian Gaming industry’s comeback post-COVID-19. “This pandemic rocked Indian Country to our core. From day one, Tribal Leaders put the health and safety of people and communities first.” Stevens added, “The safety-first approach fostered trust in our operations. While Indian gaming revenues fell for the first time since the great recession, our revenues topped $39 billion in 2021, beating our pre-COVID record revenue by more than 13 percent. This comeback is a resounding affirmation of the vision and approach to the pandemic taken by Tribal leadership. It also comes as no surprise to those who witness every day the tireless work of the Indian Gaming industry leaders.”
Stevens concluded, “I hope that we all take a moment to celebrate this Indigenous People’s Day by making an effort to understand the true history of Native America, erase the myths and legends, not to dwell on the past, but to educate, heal, and honor the gifts that our ancestors have given us all.
Former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell provided a wealth of history to the audience that led to the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Campbell was one of the five co-sponsors of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988. He shared, “None of us who could have ever thought it [Gaming] was going someday to be a 39 billion dollar a year business, hiring thousands of employees and helping so many communities.” The Senator concluded, “Overall, the Indian gaming industry has helped millions of people, both Indian and non-Indian, and I was proud to be a small part of it.”
Holly Cook-Macarro shared her thoughts on the recognition of Indian Country through Indian Gaming. She said, “The recognition Indian Country has today, with our allies and all of those relationships that we’ve built throughout the years, shows how hard we’ve worked to be visible and educate mainstream America about Indian country and who we are as contemporary people. A lot of that is under the specter of Indian gaming.”
Chairman Reid Milanovich added, “It is important to look at what gaming has done. For tribes, for my tribe, gaming generated the ability to operate our government member benefits, health care, housing, and education. It allows us to protect our natural resources and our culture.” Milanovich said, “So what gaming revenue has given my tribe and many other tribes the opportunity to do what we need to do. We have a seat at the table now.”
When Stevens asked closing thoughts, Macarro said, “I look at our youth now and am so in awe of them. Every single one who stands up and protests and shows up and shouts that we’re getting our land back not as like we’re going to take the land your house is on but as the meta-narrative of what land back means”. She concluded, “It’s our land, our culture. It’s our songs and our prayers. Our youth seem to have so much passion for all those things. Just know nothing holds them back, and it’s super inspiring to see that on this Indigenous People’s Day.”
Chairman Milanovich said, “When tribes stick together, we’re much stronger. Right? I try to say that when we have a united Indian Country, we have a strong Indian country. We are in charge of our destinies. I think about all the hard work of generations before us, and their sacrifices are what put us where we are today. And although I think they would be proud to see where we’re at now, they wouldn’t want us to let up. We must keep moving forward.”
Last week, President Biden issued an official proclamation on Indigenous People’s Day. He said, “On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we honor the sovereignty, resilience, and immense contributions that Native Americans have made to the world; and we recommit to upholding our solemn trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, strengthening our Nation-to-Nation ties.”