2006 State of the Tribal Nations Address

Press Release
For Immediate Release


2006 State of the Tribal Nations Address

January 11, 2006

Good morning.

I am Anthony Miranda, a proud member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and Chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association.

Before we start, I just want to say it is a tremendous honor, ladies and gentleman, to serve California's tribal nations in this capacity. And I thank you, the members of CNIGA, for allowing me to serve you for a second term. Thank you.

Thank you, Chairman Tucker and Chairman Milanovich, for your kind words.

And thank you to the Agua Caliente Tribe for your gracious hospitality.

Members of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, Executive Board, fellow tribal leaders, industry partners, distinguished guests, and friends: welcome to the 11th Annual Western Indian Gaming Conference.

We are the descendants of a proud and just people that defended this great land and secured the rightful place of their nations among other nations.

If not for their resolute guardianship, we would have no sovereignty. We would have no tribal governments. There would be no tribal government gaming.

May the strength, wisdom, and faith of our forefathers inspire us all to strive for justice and excellence in all our endeavors.

And so, I respectfully ask that before we begin, we take a moment of silence to honor our ancestors and to pay tribute to our brothers and sisters who this past year left this great land.

Leaders like Donald "Tiny" La Chappa of Barona; Vine Deloria, Jr. of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Phillip Hunter of Tule River; Marcus Pete of Agua Caliente, and so many other warriors who fought honorably to defend and advance the rights we enjoy today.

I also ask that you keep in your hearts and prayers the brave men and women of the Armed Forces, who today are defending our freedoms throughout the world.

Please stand and join me in a moment of silence.


Thank you.

It has been our custom to gather at the start of the year to contemplate the State of the Tribal Nations of California; to celebrate our past achievements; and to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead.

Today, the tribal government gaming industry is vibrant and leading the nation in technological advances and innovation.

Our tribal economies are growing. Our tribal governments are providing services for our people. Our youth are receiving better educations.

Our elders are receiving improved healthcare. Our cultures are thriving.

And our tradition of sharing with those less fortunate is alive and well.

Friends, the State of the California Tribal Nations is improving and looking brighter for future generations.

Together we made remarkable progress in 2005.

The tribal government gaming industry surpassed a milestone this past year.

We have, created more than 50,000 tax-paying jobs for Californians.

We are deeply humbled and proud to be contributing to the economy of California in such a significant way.

I know our grandparents and great grandparents are looking down on us smiling, proud that their descendants are returning their nations to greatness.

I know that our tribal governments could create even more jobs if the barriers to progress were removed and we were allowed to grow our businesses.

We have made remarkable progress.

Our tribal governments provided $30 million to local governments last year through the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund.

Throughout California, local governments are using Special Distribution Fund revenues to build stronger communities. They are hiring more police, improving fire protection, improving road conditions, and funding youth programs. All thanks to tribal government gaming.

We have made remarkable progress.

We stopped legislation that would have been harmful to tribes from being enacted.

For the first time in CNIGA's history we placed a historical display honoring California's Tribal Governments in the rotunda of the State Capitol.

The display educated thousands, particularly students, about our diverse tribal customs, cultures and histories.

I encourage you to see the display for yourselves later today on the trade show floor.

And several members of the CNIGA family made great strides in their quests to realize the dream of self-sufficiency.

The Bear River Band of Rohnerville Indians opened its casino this past year in Loleta in Humboldt County.

In San Diego, the Jamul Indian Village, after years of struggle and unfair treatment by local government, broke ground on its economic development project.

Also in San Diego County the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians is moving ahead with plans to build a 35,000-square foot casino south of Palomar Mountain.

We congratulate you and wish you the best of luck.

As I reflect on the many accomplishments we made last year, I am most proud of one in particular: the enactment of Assembly Bill 1750.

AB 1750 is providing greater stability and certainty for the most economically challenged tribes in California by distributing Revenue Sharing payments to them on a quarterly basis.

I applaud the CNIGA family for its commitment to advancing the lives of Indian people, and for its steadfast pursuit of economic justice.

And I applaud the Legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger for recognizing the appalling economic conditions that afflict our non-gaming brothers and sisters.

This action is a step in the right direction toward helping to combat poverty on Indian reservations. But it is not enough. We need to do more, much more.

I also congratulate CNIGA and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians for their courage and leadership in partnering with the University of California, Riverside to conduct the first comprehensive study of Indian gaming in California.

We heard the repeated requests for empirical data about Indian gaming from policymakers, from the media, and from the public.

Today we have it.

UC Riverside assembled a notable research team of economists, anthropologists, political scientists, and others. For months they analyzed data from the 1990 and 2000 U.S. Censuses, tribal and local government survey information, and conducted interviews with scores of tribal leaders and government officials.

Of course Indian gaming really didn't begin to expand until after the 1999 compacts with the state.

This study provides an important evaluation of the impact of tribal government gaming during its initial growth phase in the 1990s. It will serve as the basis for a systematic analysis of the impacts of gaming under the 1999 tribal-state compacts.

Among ourselves we have known gaming has brought progress to our people.

But we also have known that centuries of poverty and despair CANNOT be overcome in a matter of a few years. We have known that the myth of the "rich Indian," is nothing more than that.

And we have known that the benefits of gaming on tribal lands don't stop at the reservation border; they stretch far into surrounding communities and constitute a major economic engine for the state of California.

Well today we have the empirical data to confirm what we have known to be true for so long.

For instance, the study reveals that the introduction of gaming in an area had the effect of raising median family incomes on reservations and in particular poor neighboring areas by as much as 30 to 60 percent. That is amazing.

UCR also found that Indian gaming in California concentrates employment and other benefits in counties that need development the most and where it has the largest positive impact.

For instance, median family income in Census tracts within 10 miles of an Indian casino in 1990 was merely $32,500. By 2000, median family income grew significantly in the gaming tracts by 55%.

Friends, off-reservation impacts of Indian gaming in California are largely positive and local governments near Indian casinos are starting to realize those benefits.

But despite the relative progress tribal gaming has brought to some of our people, the average income for American Indians in California is well below the national average.

In 1990 it was 42% of the national average. By 2000 we experienced only a modest increase, reaching 53% of the national average income.

We have made progress, but we have a long way to travel before we catch up to the rest of America.

In 1990, 36% of families within gaming tribes were living in poverty. By 2000 that figure had improved, but only slightly, to 26%.

By comparison, the percentage of California and American families in poverty is between 9 and 10%, almost a third of the figure on reservations with gaming.

We have a long way to go before we catch up.

Clearly, we need to do more to combat poverty on Indian reservations.

And so today, I propose that in 2006 we commit ourselves to taking steps to bring real and sustainable economic development to Indian Country. We must work together to tear down the barriers that historically have blocked sustainable economic development on reservations.

Reservation infrastructures are in need of drastic improvements just to catch up to the living standards our neighbors enjoy.

Limited access to capital continues to obstruct meaningful economic opportunities.

And to those that say gaming is the answer, I say not all tribes are able to participate in gaming; geographic barriers prevent them. And some tribes may not want to participate in gaming.

We cannot leave our brothers and sisters behind; lest our collective dream of self-sufficiency remain unfulfilled.

That so many families are still in poverty is unacceptable.

This task must be given the full attention of all our tribal governments, bringing to bear our collective talents and wisdom.

To begin this effort, I propose to you that we hold an economic summit of all tribes as soon as possible to devise a comprehensive approach to this problem.

We need to work together to find ways for all tribes to have a fair chance at realizing the dream of self-sufficiency.

And from that summit we should present a set of recommendations to national organizations such as NIGA and NCAI, because the challenge of economic development is not limited to California.

My fellow tribal leaders, our tribal nations are part of the fabric of California.

Our businesses are an integral part of the California economy.

Yet to this day, collectively, we have been denied an equal seat at the table.

And so we ask you, Governor Schwarzenegger, in the spirit of starting afresh, can we not put our past differences aside?

Let us work TOGETHER to restore California and her tribal nations to greatness? Together we can realize the dream of California for ALL of her people.

Governor, you are part of a distinguished American family, revered for its dignity, its justice, and its spirit of idealism.

We hope you agree: California's tribal governments have a right to participate in the great dialogue of California, especially at this moment in our common history when the state is preparing to embark on a monumental effort to build more roads, more schools, and more hospitals.

These plans will mold and impact our shared environment for generations to come. We want to participate in that discussion.

Let us together fulfill the ideal of "initiating a new era of tribal-state cooperation in areas of mutual concern," and out of respect for the sentiment of the people of California who strongly supported this principle in Propositions 5 and 1A.

Friends, since 2000 we have prospered in many ways, and we continue to make extraordinary progress.

We have done so with the blessing of the California electorate. Twice the people conferred their trust in us.

And with the progress we have made comes a tremendous responsibility.

We have a responsibility to our current and future tribal members; to the good people that we employ; to those that now neighbor our reservations; and a responsibility to our patrons.

Friends, we provide a form of entertainment, which most people enjoy responsibly.

But for a very small number it is more than entertainment, it can be a compulsion.

California tribal nations are proud of our commitment to promoting responsible gaming. Our tribal nations have funded non-profit counseling services.

We have funded 24-hour toll free help lines for the California Council on Problem Gambling.

Although some forms of legalized gaming have been in California for decades - in some cases more than half a century - the state's Office of Problem Gambling remained unfunded until tribes provided the resources.

And today we are still the ONLY segment of the gaming industry to provide monies for the California Office of Problem Gambling.

That is not acceptable. The gaming industry as a whole can and should do better.

As I said before, with our progress comes responsibility. We are addressing this issue responsibly. But if our progress is to endure for generations, then we must exceed what is expected of us.

So today, I propose that CNIGA form a task force, composed of problem gambling experts, tribal leaders, industry partners, and policymakers to study the issue and to develop recommendations that will promote responsible gaming throughout the California Indian gaming industry.

These findings and recommendations will serve as a foundation for future initiatives as our businesses continue to mature.

As we look to the challenges that lie ahead, I am reminded of the difficulties that confronted our forefathers. Though our struggles are not the same, they are nevertheless considerable.

They survived unthinkable acts of hatred; even state-sponsored campaigns to exterminate California Indian tribes.

They endured and overcame invasion; enslavement; oppression; poverty; destruction; new diseases.

They survived all of this. And today we are here as a testament to the enduring spirit of California's Tribal Nations.

Our parents and grandparents labored to make their voices heard in the corridors of power. They struggled to gain even the slightest attention of lawmakers.

Indeed Native Americans did not receive voting rights until after World War I.

Today, however, as a result of gaming, we are more often than not invited to participate in the debate.

But friends, there are those who think tribal governments should not participate in America's great debate over its future. There are those who would like nothing more than to take away our basic right to participate in the political process.

I submit to you that we must vigorously defend our ability and our right to fully participate in the great debate that will shape the destiny of America and mankind.

To not participate completely in the political process would be to turn our backs on the sacrifices of our forefathers.

It would be to lay down our modern bows and arrows. That is something we will not do!

The same people who want to take away our rights are those who will use the disgraceful acts of lobbyist Jack Abramoff to advance their cause.

Ladies and gentlemen, this man violated the trust of members of congress, Indian tribes, banks, major corporations, charitable organizations, a Federal territory, his own law firm. Even the press, the New York Times reports, was a victimized client.

Now, more than ever, it is vital, absolutely vital, that tribal leaders be the ones to walk the halls of congress THEMSELVES and not send representatives.
WE must tell our story to the leaders of America.

We cannot emphasize enough to our children the importance of civic engagement. It is no longer an elective. It is a prerequisite for their educations and the survival of tribal sovereignty.

Indeed, never in the modern history of Indian gaming have we faced as many credible legislative challenges as we face today.

The chairmen of the two committees that oversee Indian affairs have made clear their intent to pass legislation that would amend IGRA.

The Department of Justice seeks to overturn four separate court rulings that would amend the Johnson Act and penalize innovation.

Isn't it ironic that the Silicon Valley innovations are celebrated, but innovations in Indian Country are penalized.

Fellow tribal leaders, IGRA is the foundation of the tribal government gaming industry. It is one of the cornerstones that has allowed us to make the progress we have made. We must be fully engaged in this debate to help shape the outcome of these challenges.

And when we engage this debate, we must urge the Congress and the President to restore a proper balance to tribal-state relations and to reestablish the spirit and intent of IGRA that states have increasingly abused.

Friends, our ancestors hoped for a day when their people would have opportunity and self-determination. Their hopes are this generation's reality.

I ask you: will our hope of enduring tribal sovereignty be realized by the next generation, or will that generation still only hope to someday regain sovereignty? Will our dream of self-determination be their reality?

Will each of us, in our closing days, look back and say we did everything we could to protect our rights, our children's rights and our grandchildren's rights?

In your hands - not mine - lies the choice of unity or division. In your collective and united hands lies the ability to protect tribal sovereignty as our forefathers did. In your hands lies our destiny.

Our generation has an opportunity; no, a solemn obligation to secure our place in the history of nations.

In closing, I ask you my fellow descendants of a proud people; my fellow brothers & sisters, my fellow tribal leaders: will we forfeit our birthright of sovereignty?

Thank you.

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