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NIGA Mid-Year Event Celebrated Los Angeles Debut of Indigenous Peoples’ Day & More

Issues related to Indian gaming and sports betting took center stage at the recent National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Mid-Year Conference and Tradeshow. But a host of other notable awards and announcements were delivered:

  • Retired U.S. Senator, Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado) was recognized with a special leadership award.
  • Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, a citizen of the Wyandotte Nation in Oklahoma, joined NIGA to announce that the Los Angeles city council recently voted to be one of the next major cities to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.
  • Actor Wes Studi debuted news of his film, “The Pipeline,” based on the true stories surrounding the building of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline.
  • And on the eve of the conclusion of the NIGA-Mid Year event, NIGA hosted a discussion and screening of the award-winning movie “Smoke Signals” in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary.

The annual Mid-Year Conference and Tradeshow was held September 25-27, 2018, at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California. Read on for details about each event highlight.

Sen. Campbell (R-Colorado) was recognized with a special leadership award for his continued advocacy on behalf of tribes and tribal government gaming. In 1988 when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was being debated, Campbell was serving as a member of Congress and helped to educate other members on the importance of Indian gaming to tribal governments and our communities.

NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., said, “Senator Campbell has been a longtime advocate and champion for all of Indian country, His work as a Congressman and Senator and as an advocate for Indian Country after his retirement from the Senate makes him a champion for the protection of tribal sovereignty and an advocate for tribal economic development.”

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell joined NIGA to announce that the Los Angeles city council recently voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Councilmember O’Farrell, who is also a citizen of the Wyandotte Nation in Oklahoma, shared the first official celebration to commemorate Indigenous Peoples Day in both the City and the County, Monday, October 8, in downtown Los Angeles. O’Farrell said, “I knew how important it was for the city of Los Angeles to act.” He added, “We are part of an Indigenous movement across the world. We will take this message of celebration, of reclaiming our history and our rightful place in it with this message of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.”

Also during the NIGA mid-year event, Native American actor Wes Studi announced his new film project. As part of the NIGA Board Meeting, Studi presented a preview of the upcoming movie, “The Pipeline,” based on the true stories surrounding the building of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline. Written by Caitlin Kazepis, she joined Studi,co-producer, and Alexis Lacono, to garner tribal support for the film. Studi told the NIGA board, “This feature film tells our true story of the effects the pipeline has had and the effects of the generational trauma.”

On the eve of the conclusion of the NIGA-Mid Year event, NIGA hosted a discussion and screening of the award-winning movie “Smoke Signals” in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary. For the first time since the movie was released in 1998, cast members and the director came together to celebrate the cultural touchstone, which was the first feature film to be produced and directed by Native Americans as well as showcase an almost exclusively Native American cast. Cast members Adam Beach, Gary Farmer, Evan Adams, Elaine Miles, and Irene Bedard as well as the film’s director Chris Eyre, joined a discussion about the film and participated in a discussion moderated by Steve Gaydos, Vice President and Executive Editor of Variety, a weekly American entertainment trade magazine.

“We are so proud to be able to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Smoke Signals.” This film shows a strong display of Native American talent and culture, and more importantly, it is a film that takes us back to a nostalgic era and shows us how far we have come in this industry. I feel it motivates us all to continue to utilize this industry to educate the world about Indian Country. As we slowly erase the myths and flat out misrepresentations this industry instilled so long ago, we will take our place and share our history, our culture and our traditions from our own perspective.” NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens told the crowd. More than 200 people joined in the anniversary screening event and discussions with the film’s cast, crew and producer.

Following the “Smoke Signals” celebration, Gary Farmer (Smoke Signals Actor) and The Troublemakers Band performed in the Casino nightclub.

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