A capacity crowd of more than 380 guests joined Minnesota tribal leaders and dignitaries on Thursday, September 15, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the state’s tribal gaming compacts. In honor of the occasion, Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed Thursday “Tribal Government Gaming Day in Minnesota,” and U.S. Representative Betty McCollum read a letter from President Barack Obama in which he saluted tribal leaders for “helping to open a new era of opportunity for our Nation’s first peoples.”
Dinner guests enjoyed a wind flute serenade by Ojibwe musician Maxwell Blake and a slide show recognizing the early leaders of Minnesota Indian gaming. Another program highlight was a short video telling the story of the compact negotiations and what the agreements have meant to Minnesota tribes. Following the video, each of the MIGA tribal leaders in attendance delivered brief remarks and introduced their fellow elected officials and staff.
Ernie Stevens, Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), noted the key role that MIGA tribal leaders played in the formation of the organization he leads. “It was Minnesota that led the way in creating NIGA,” Stevens said, “and Minnesota tribes continue to be key players in keeping NIGA strong and effective.”
Keynote speaker Franklin Ducheneaux noted that MIGA’s contributions go beyond Minnesota and beyond Indian gaming. “Minnesota tribal leaders have always understood that when the sovereignty of one tribe is threatened, all tribes are at risk. By remaining unified and speaking as one voice in the defense of sovereignty, MIGA tribes have set an example for the rest of Indian country to follow.”