February 15, 2018
Washington, D.C. – February 13, 2018 – National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., once again joined in the 23rd Annual National Indian Women’s Honoring Luncheon, hosted in conjunction with the National Congress of American Indian (NCAI) Winter Executive Session at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, D.C. The honoring luncheon paid tribute to Juanita Ahtone a citizen of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and Debra Haaland, of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico.
Ahtone, 90 was born in 1928. At an early age, she made a commitment work for and support Native people at the local, region & national levels. In the 1960’s she began her volunteer work for the Kiowa Tribe and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI.) In 1973, she was elected Secretary of the Kiowa Tribal Council and NCAI Anadarko Area Vice President and became a Lifetime Member of NCAI. Today, 45 years later she is still an employee of her Tribe & volunteering as the Chair of the election, resolution & many committees of NCAI. Ahtone attended Carnegie Public School & graduated from the Haskell Institute (now known as the Haskell Indian Nations University) in 1947. In 1948 she married the love of her life Vernon R. Ahtone. They had six sons & 2 daughters. Today she is blessed with 19 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren & 3 Great-Great-Grandchildren.
Debra Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo is a graduate of the U of New Mexico Law School, a former State Party Chair of the New Mexico Democrat Party who successfully retired the State Democrat party’s debts after two years in 2016. She is a woman who has worked successfully for Tribes in the New Mexico region and has supported tribal priorities through-out Indian County. In 2015, Debra was requested to run for Congress and represent New Mexico in 2018! After lengthy discussions with elders and tribal leaders, she was told “Congress has never heard a voice like yours, the voice of a Native Women. You have earned the honor & respect of not only our people here in New Mexico but of many Tribes in the USA. Go Forward.”
The Native Indian Women’s Honoring Luncheon is in its 23rd year has been led by Julie Johnson and other prominent Women tribal leaders. The two Native American Women honored have served Native people on the local, regional and national levels for many years and they are shining examples of wisdom, generosity, commitment, happiness, and have shared their love and their services for families, people and all tribal communities.
As part of the honoring ceremonies, NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. and Vice Chairman David Bean, presented flowers of appreciation to both Ahtone and Haaland, as well as the women tribal leaders present. Chairman Stevens said, “It is always empowering to be among our powerful Indian women leaders being honored today. Being raised for the most part by my mom, grandma, and my aunties, I have been instilled with the importance of respecting and honoring our Native women. I attribute much of my success in my life to the teaching brought to me by the women who raised me.”