From Left to Right:Rea Cisneros, NIGC staff attorney; Jason Nichols FCPGC Executive Director; Mark Powless, Chairman, Oneida Nation Gaming Commissioner/NTGC/R Vice Chairman; Jonodev Chaudhuri, NIGC Chairman; Ken George Jr., Vice Chairman FCPGC; John Dillett, Director of Office of Indian Gaming & Regulatory Compliance; Shannon O’Loughlin, NIGC Chief of Staff
Beginning on Labor Day, the FCP Gaming Commission hosted the 2015 National Tribal Gaming Commissioners/Regulators Conference. Thanks to the efforts of the Gaming Commission’s Vice Chairman, Kenneth George, Jr., over 50 federally recognized tribes traveled to Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, to enjoy the facility and gain fresh regulatory insight. NTGC/R is a non-profit organization that gives tribal regulators a national voice. The conference protects and promotes tribal sovereignty by helping tribes develop professionally and socially as leaders in a multi-billion dollar industry.
A charity golf outing, at Brown Deer Park, kicked off the conference and helped raise thousands of dollars in scholarships for tribal youth. The following day, Young Fire Keepers drummed the opening ceremony with dancers Krystal Wayman, Joshua Jackson and Brian Thunder. The commission’s own, J.R. Holmes, carried in the Warrior Eagle Staff with Jayson L. Jackson, who carried the Soldier Eagle Staff and led the opening prayer.
Chairman of NTGC/R, Jamie Hummingbird, Cherokee Nation, opened the conference, “This isn’t just a job, it’s a passion. These aren’t just words, they’re actions”. Highly esteemed by his colleagues with 20 plus years of experience in tribal gaming, Hummingbird was a charismatic presence in front of the 290 plus attendees (the conference’s largest turnout yet). He personally designed a very special medallion that was presented to each Veteran in attendance. Hummingbird sounded, "we wanted to do something really special that honors our [warriors], because they are not forgotten. We want to show that we care because this isn’t a corporate event, this is a Tribal event.”
As the week progressed, Wisconsin State officials, tribal councils and regulators chose from four different tracks with which they could attain certification. Speakers taught on a variety of subject matters from technology in gaming to new commissioner leadership training. Over 50 diversely educational workshops and roundtables were hosted by the end of the conference. NTGC/R featured tribal leaders not only in gaming, but in our Nation's Capital.
Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri, Muscogee Creek and Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, flew in from Washington D.C, to speak at the closing ceremony. As a tribal presence in Congress, leaders were encouraged in one common goal: to protect Tribal Sovereignty, our inherent right to game on tribal lands and provide for our tribal communities.
The Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association also flew in for the closing ceremony after back to back travels. “This isn’t about Indian Gaming. This is about land; this is about righting some wrongs in our history with the United States,” said Ernest L. Stevens, Jr. Oneida.
A well-known face in tribal regulation, Oneida Commissioner and Vice Chairman of the NTGC/R Mark Powless said, "there are people that never thought we'd be successful in this business".
Yet tribal regulators have pioneered a $30 billion industry in a manner that has exceeded the expectations of the federal government. “We are the experts of [this] industry… our elected officials only know what we show them about tribal gaming. We have to understand [the laws and sovereignty] better than our counterparts,” said Hummingbird.
Over the course of the four day conference, a phrase was repeatedly heard coming through the lobby, “remarkable”.
The unique trust land's gorgeous views of the Menomonee Valley and the Milwaukee skyline are remarkable, but the awe that regulators feel on a property like Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, strikes deeper than the surface. FCP’s “remarkable” property echoed ideas, lessons and questions that will build the future of tribal gaming for the next seven generations to come.
With over 24 years of gaming and regulatory experience to bring to the table and a sizable property, the FCP Gaming Commission was proud and humbled to accommodate such an honorable organization.
“We really made a great impact on the industry this week as a Gaming Commission. Be proud of what you do as a profession,” Kenneth George Jr. wrote to the FCP Gaming Commission the day after the conference.
FCP regulators, like all Tribal Commissions, are ordinary people, native and non-native working hard for the greater good of tribes everywhere. They have legal jargon to learn and lawyers to contend with but with NTGC/R as a fuel, regulators find a community to call their own. Connecting tribal leaders and gaming experts is detrimental to building brighter futures for tribal communities.
The Forest County Potawatomi Gaming Commission is honored to have hosted NTGC/R’s 2015 Fall conference. The opportunity to grow together, protect one another and celebrate culture was truly unlike any other.