April 4, 2019
San Diego, CA – April 04, 2019 – One of the highlights of the annual Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention is the ribbon cutting ceremonies officially opening the Exhibitors floor offering opportunities for business exchange, viewing of new products and services and networking. This year, the event was preceded by a presentation and honoring with the 2019 Warrior Women, honored by the National Indian Gaming Association for their outstanding leadership as tribal leaders for their community and representation throughout Indian country.
“This continues the momentum upon our commitment over the last few years, where we felt it necessary for the world around us to understand the powerful role that Native women play, not just in leadership, but in life.” Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., said. “While our movement in Indian Country has always been governed by our traditional values, it is vital in today’s society that we highlight the roles that women play, not just in leadership, but in the heart of our traditional community.”
The NIGA Executive Board, Tribal Leaders and celebrities gathered to join the 2019 Warrior Women as they were honored. Those honored included:
• Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota
• Stephanie Bryan, Tribal Chair and CEO for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama
• Bernadine Burnette, President of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation in Arizona
• Shannon Holsey, President, Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians in Wisconsin
• Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington State
• Lynn Valbuena, Chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in California
• Virginia Hill, Indian Country Advocate (Posthumously)
Following the ribbon cutting, tribal leadership, Indian gaming professional, special guests and attendees gathered to explore the hundreds of gaming vendors, tribes, and tribal enterprises who showcased the businesses and services they offer.
The purpose of the trade show and convention is to create a vibrant hub for Indian gaming industry professionals to foster a dialog to help, reinvent and reposition their facilities and properties to better serve their customers, stay competitive at a higher level and ultimately to provide additional revenues for Governmental programs and services in Indian Communities.
Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. said, “Today, the exhibitor’s floor was bustling with hundreds of world-class exhibitors; many who are our friends of the gaming industry and many Tribally or Native-owned businesses who are eager to build their brands. There is a $34 billion industry behind these doors, leading the overall industry and we welcome you!”
Joining Chairman Stevens, and the 2019 Women Warriors were, actor and comedian George Lopez; Taboo, of the world-renowned Grammy-winning group, the Black Eyed Peas, who is a multi-talented rapper, music producer, Nike N7 Ambassador, and Indian Country tribal sovereignty advocate, Taboo recently joined city representatives at the inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day event in Los Angeles last year. Also participating were Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) – 4 times World Champion Cowboy Tuf Cooper, who was pegged the youngest cowboy to earn 1 million dollars in his rodeo career several years ago at the age of 23. He has great respect and admiration for Native America and more specifically the professional Native American rodeo champions he competes with on the PRCA rodeo circuit. Stevens was also joined by professional basketball legends A.C. Green and Bill Walton and National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) Chairman Jonadev Chaudhuri and the National Indian Gaming Association Board of Directors. Stevens was also joined by his mother, wife, daughters and close friends who participated in recognition of the Warrior Women, including Margo Gray, President/CEO of Margo Gray and Associates, Susan Masten, former Chairwoman of the Yurok Tribe and Rachel Joseph, former Chairwoman of the Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone Tribe.