CNIGA Chairman Anthony Miranda Gives State of Tribal Nations Address at Western Indian Gaming Conference

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CNIGA Chairman Anthony Miranda Gives State of Tribal Nations Address at Western Indian Gaming Conference

January 17, 2007

A crowd of over six hundred comprised of tribal leaders and other assorted guests gathered at the Pechanga Resort & Casino for the 12th Annual Western Indian Gaming Conference to watch California Nations Indian Gaming Association Chairman Anthony Miranda give the annual State of the Tribal Nations Address.

“You can be proud that our industry- which you built- employs more than 56,000 Californians. You can be proud that Indian gaming is bringing hope and opportunity to tens of thousands across the state,” said Chairman Miranda during the Address.

Chairman Miranda listed the tribal accomplishments over the past year while also cautioning that tribes still have a difficult time ahead before all of California’s tribal nations can realize the promise of self-reliance.

Among the tribal accomplishments of the past year that Chairman Miranda outlined in the address was the opening of dialogue with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which resulted in a commitment to create a tribal liaison in the governor’s office. Other accomplishments include tribes joining forces with the state’s business and labor communities to approve infrastructure bonds. On the federal level, Miranda noted the joint effort with the National Indian Gaming Association to block attempts to amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Miranda issued five initiatives for the coming year:

1. Alluding to the efforts of President Franklin Roosevelt to ease economic disparities, Miranda issued a challenge to extend economic benefits to all California Indians.

2. Miranda also asked for the “members of CNIGA to create an Economic Development Task Force in the coming weeks composed of representatives from academia, business and government to come up with recommendations to improve the economic conditions of tribes in California.”

3. Ensure that the promise of revenue sharing with non-gaming tribes continues to be fulfilled and is backfilled in case of a shortfall.

4. Address the issue of problem gaming in a comprehensive manner, with all segments, and not just Indian gaming, at the table. Currently, Indian gaming is the only sector that subsidizes problem gambling programs and Miranda would like other gaming sectors to become involved to create a more comprehensive program.

5. Create broad-based and lasting coalitions and find common ground with other organizations and groups. Miranda also issued a plea for tribal unity and cited past successes to illustrate how much more effective the results have been when tribes worked together than when they go it alone.

“Worthy goals require patience, commitment and courage.”

Miranda concluded his speech with an acknowledgement that not all tribal ills will be erased in the coming year, however, he pointed to the progress that has already been made and asked whether California tribes will seize the tremendous growth potential in California, in the coming decades.

“Our home state of California expects to grow 30 percent over the next 20 years. Will our tribes be positioned to seize the opportunities that such tremendous growth provides?”

The entire text of the speech is available on the web at: https://cniga.com

California Nations Indian Gaming Association
2007 State of the Tribal Nations Address
Delivered by
The Honorable Anthony Miranda, CNIGA Chairman
Pechanga Indian Reservation, CA
January 18, 2007

Good morning.

Thank you, Chairman Macarro and Mayor Villaraigosa, for your encouraging words this morning.

And thanks to our gracious hosts - the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians - for their hospitality and generosity.

Before we begin, let me just say what an honor and a privilege it is to be at this rostrum, in this capacity at this moment in our history. It is very humbling, and I thank you, my fellow tribal leaders, for the opportunity to serve you.

Over the last several years we have made it a custom to take a moment of silence to honor our ancestors and to pay tribute to our fallen brothers and sisters who left this world this past year.

I also ask that you keep in your 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.

(Silence)

Thank you.

Members of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, Executive Board, fellow tribal leaders, industry partners, distinguished guests, and friends: welcome to the 12th Annual Western Indian Gaming Conference, the largest regional gaming show in the United States.

These are exciting times, and the WIGC Conference Committee has assembled an exciting program covering a multitude of topics of importance to our industry and our people.
We are fortunate to have the participation of the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate G.O. Committee, and the chairman of the Assembly G.O. Committee.

Both committees, of course, are important to us because they have jurisdiction over gaming issues in California. These gentlemen have graciously agreed to take part in the Sacramento Political Report panel, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. today.

We are also fortunate to be joined by the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission and the chairman of the California Gambling Control Commission.

The topic of regulation in Indian Country has been in the headlines lately, so I am confident that today's panel on regulation will be a popular discussion.

And of course we have with us representatives of the BIA who later this afternoon will discuss their proposed changes to the Revenue Allocation Plan.

Tomorrow's program promises to be even more extensive than todays with panel discussions on a variety of topics including: the Washington, D.C. Report, moderated by Chairman Ernie Stevens of NIGA, economic development, Title 31 tracking, fiscal leadership, energy issues, and much more.

I think you'll agree: the members of the WIGC Conference Committee have put together a comprehensive tradeshow that will leave you with a wealth of information. Let's give the committee and our panelists a warm round of applause.

Thank you.

For more than a decade, California's tribal nations have gathered here at the Western Indian Gaming Conference.

It is a time to catch up with old friends, to make new friends, to learn from one another, to celebrate past achievements, to explore new opportunities and to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead.

And so we begin this annual gathering by reporting that the State of California's Tribal Nations is improving. You can be proud that California continues to lead the rest of the Indian gaming industry in innovation and revenues.

You can be proud that our industry - which you built - employs more than 56,000 Californians. You can be proud that Indian gaming is bringing hope and opportunity to tens of thousands across the state.

Fellow tribal leaders, we have made great progress toward the goal of self-reliance for all California tribes.

But we still have a long and difficult road before all of California's tribal nations are in a position to seize the promise of self-reliance.

And therein lies the challenge of our generation: to bring real and sustainable economic development to all of California's tribes.

For California's Native People, the last decade has witnessed some of the most consequential developments in our modern history. We united for the common purpose of changing state law to secure our right to conduct gaming on our tribal lands. We came together for the common purpose of negotiating a compact with the state. We amended the constitution to once and for all permit gaming on tribal lands. We stopped two powerful and well-healed segments of the gaming industry from stripping away the rights we gained only years before.

Who could have imagined ten years ago that tribes would wage not one, not two, but three successful statewide campaigns to first secure, then to protect our right to pursue self-reliance? Who could have imagined ten years ago that the Indian gaming industry would employ tens of thousands of Californians? Who could have imagined that tribal casinos would someday compete with the best facilities that Las Vegas has to offer?

But we endured the trials and tribulations. As we look back on the journey that has brought us to this moment, there is one event in particular that many of us believe to be the turning point in the struggle to achieve self-reliance.

On March 24, 1997, nine tribes in the Central District of California faced the threat of closure by U.S. Attorney Nora Manella, because they refused to remove their gaming devices. This group eventually evolved into what is now the TASIN tribes.

Knowing justice was on their side, these nine tribes refused to surrender the only opportunity for self-reliance. Their elected leaders faced not only the threat of closure, but also the prospect of prison.

Instead of signing away the rights of their children, they drove into downtown Los Angeles with 4,000 supporters to be served with the government's lawsuits.

Not since the American Indian occupation of Alcatraz had so many tribal people gathered to protest yet another government injustice.

Tribal people came from all over California to stand with their brothers and sisters. From the Sierra Nevada's to San Diego, tribal people drove in caravans to stand up for what was rightfully ours.

That event was a defining moment in our struggle. We realized that broad support for Indian gaming existed. We realized that thousands of jobs hung in the balance. We realized that we were not alone in this struggle. Most importantly, we realized the potential of tribal unity and public support.

Because those nine tribes refused to remove the machines, Proposition 5 was born. And because of Prop 5 and later Prop 1A, the California Indian gaming industry leads the nation. Several of the nine tribes are represented here today. They are Agua Caliente, Cabazon, Cahuilla, Morongo, Pechanga, San Manuel, Santa Ynez, Soboba, and Twenty Nine Palms.

Please join me in applauding these courageous tribes and their leaders.

The Pechanga Band is sponsoring a booth at the tradeshow with photos from the Jobs and Justice Rally. We encourage you to stop by.

If there was any lesson to learn from these experiences, it was that worthy goals require patience, commitment, and courage.

Last year, here at WIGC, the member tribes of CNIGA called upon Governor Schwarzenegger to meet with California's tribal nations and to begin a new dialogue, a dialogue built on mutual respect. Friends: that dialogue was started, and we hope it will continue throughout the remainder of his administration.

When we met with the governor, we also asked him to consider appointing a tribal liaison. And this morning, we renew our request for the appointment of a liaison for tribal governments within the governor's office. This position will help ensure ongoing communication between the state and California's 107 federally recognized tribes.

Last year we also worked with our friends in local government to defeat Prop 90, a measure that would have severely hurt our efforts to protect Native American cultural and sacred sites from destruction. And as we campaigned side by side, we both realized that we have far more in common than we do apart.

And we joined with friends in the business community, labor groups, local government, and legislators to support passage of California's transportation bond measures, because reliable highways and a reliable infrastructure are important to California's Native Americans.

At the federal level, Indian Country stopped wholesale changes to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. We blocked attempts to take away our right to participate in America's political process. And we will continue to work with the NIGC to develop fair and equitable Class II regulations.

You can be proud that CNIGA achieved several victories last year. But more challenges lie ahead, and so today I propose for your consideration five strategic initiatives that will guide the association in the coming year.

First, I propose that we commit resources to the task of identifying ways to bring real and sustainable economic development to California's tribal nations. Despite the modest progress tribal gaming has brought to our people, many of our California Native families remain at the bottom of the income distribution. Why?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said "the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

I submit to you that CNIGA can and must serve as a catalyst for economic development throughout Indian Country in our state. This is our obligation. We must find ways to extend the benefits and opportunities of economic development to those who have little.

For the first time in our generation, we have the resources to fulfill dreams worthy of the sacrifices of our ancestors. Let us not be shy or modest in pursuing a better tomorrow for our children. Let not our children suffer from our inability to harness today's opportunities. We can and must find ways extend the benefits of economic progress to all California tribes.

Later this week I will ask the members of CNIGA to create an Economic Development Task Force composed of representatives from academia, business, and government to come up with recommendations to improve the economic conditions of tribes in California.

This task force will build on the work that was accomplished during last year's economic summit.

Another priority for CNIGA will be educating the new members of the State Legislature. Last November voters sent 48 new legislators to Sacramento. These men and women will be making decisions that will impact our lives and those of our children and grandchildren. CNIGA will make it a priority to work with these new members to find common ground where possible and to address issues of mutual concern.

CNIGA's third priority will be to ensure the promise of revenue sharing with non-gaming tribes continues to be fulfilled.

In 2005, CNIGA and member tribes sponsored and enacted legislation to provide greater stability and certainty for the most economically challenged tribes in California by distributing revenue sharing payments to them on a quarterly basis. This year we will work with the legislature to ensure the revenue sharing trust fund continues to be backfilled in the event of shortfalls.

Next month, we expect the Office of Problem and Pathological Gambling to issue the findings of their problem gambling prevalence study. Indian country must be prepared to respond to the findings of the study.

More than ten years have passed since the last prevalence study was conducted in California. Since then, the state's gaming industry has dramatically evolved. We can expect the new study will show a rise in the level of problem gambling in California. We can also expect opponents of Indian gaming to take advantage of the study to criticize our tribes.

And so our fourth priority must be to address the issue of problem gambling in a comprehensive manner - with all segments of the gaming industry at the table.
Though other segments of the industry have been thriving for years, Indian gaming continues to be the only sector that subsidizes state problem gambling programs.
Is this fair?

We should be proud of our commitment to promoting responsible gaming.

In addition to our contributions to state programs, our tribal nations have also funded non-profit counseling services. We have funded 24-hour toll free help lines for the California Council on Problem Gambling.

Today, I propose that we set aside our differences with the other segments of the industry and invite them to a conference to begin discussing the issue of problem gambling. This is an industry-wide issue that requires an industry-wide response.

And this leads us to our fifth priority for 2007: finding common ground with other groups and building lasting alliances. CNIGA began this work last year when we opposed Prop 90 and supported passage of the historic bond package.

Propositions 5, 1A and 68 proved that we can accomplish more with broad-based coalitions than going it alone. And we have also realized that we want the same things all other Californians want: good schools for our children. Safe streets. A clean environment. A reliable infrastructure. A strong economy. Healthcare for our elders.

We have more in common than we realize. And so we must commit ourselves in 2007 to building strong alliances for the future.

As I have said from this podium before, we must unite around the common threads that make us sovereigns. We must return to the guiding principle of tribal unity, which worked so well for us over the last decade.

Since 1988, CNIGA has brought tribal governments together to collectively pursue our common goals. This large, broad-based coalition has accomplished more on behalf of Indian families than any individual tribe acting alone.

Now more than ever, we need tribal unity if we are to protect and preserve for our children and grandchildren the right to self-determination.

In closing, let me say that I am a pragmatist and realize that centuries of poverty and despair cannot be overcome in just a few years. It will take hard work, perseverance, time, and commitment. But as I said earlier, worthy goals require patience, commitment, and courage.

So as we continue our deliberations in the days and weeks ahead, let us ask ourselves: what will California Indian Country look like in 2017? Will our children be prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century?

Will our elders be receiving quality healthcare? Will we have diverse income streams that can withstand the expansion of gaming beyond tribal lands?

Our home state of California expects to grow by 30 percent over the next 20 years. Will our tribes be positioned to seize the opportunities that such tremendous growth provides?

And most importantly, will we have preserved the sovereign rights we know today for future generations?

Thank you.

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