Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. addresses Native Youth at the UNITY Conference in Washington, D.C.

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July 6, 2023

Washington, D.C. – June 29, 2023 – Indian Gaming Association Chairman joined the annual United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) National Conference last week, addressing the youth and honoring youth leaders at the National Museum of American Indians in Washington, D.C.

Chairman Stevens impressed upon the youth the importance of their leadership, now. He said, “Throughout my years in leadership at Indian Gaming Association, I have had the honor to watch many, like you, grow into some of the most outstanding leaders in Indian Country.

Stevens added, “As I look at all of you here, I am inspired because your commitment to be here is your commitment to be here in the Nation’s Capital. 

Too often, we hear the term “Our future leaders” when referring to our youth. Here in Washington, D.C., you play a very prominent role in leadership in helping to educate America about the sovereign rights of America’s first people. 

“You are stepping up, standing to protect the sovereignty of your tribal communities, and coming together in leadership to mentor one another in this forum.” Stevens shared.

Stevens also provided legislative updates, including mobilizing the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and IGA Tribal Leaders Task Force. In May, tribal leaders requested the re-establishment of the two largest advocacy organizations to come together to form a strategy to confront Indian Country’s challenges at the national level.

Stevens encouraged the UNITY youth to engage in this effort to work with IGA and NCAI. He said, “Indian Country continues to face many challenges negatively impacting Tribal Sovereignty, Tribal jurisdiction, economic self-sufficiency, and women’s health, all impacting your future. It is important that we stand together to continue to hold this country to its commitment and promises made by numerous Presidents and enshrined in our Treaties and the Constitution.”

Chairman Stevens also presented the Indian Gaming Association Chairman’s Leadership Award to UNITY 2022 -2023 representative, Co-President Colby Whitethunder, a citizen of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas, and Evynn Richardson, a citizen of the Haliwa Saponi Tribe of North Carolina and the UNITY Southeastern representative.

The UNITY National Conference is held annually to engage Native youth nationwide through workshops, breakout sessions, and cultural sharing.

UNITY is a national network organization promoting personal development, citizenship, and leadership among Native American youth. UNITY has a long (40+ years) and impressive track record of empowering and serving American Indian and Alaska Native youth. UNITY is well regarded among the nation’s Native American organizations, tribal leaders, and government officials.