The following is a statement by National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. on the recent issue surrounding a Navajo golf fundraiser:
The National Indian Gaming Association has a long-standing history of opposition to ethnically damaging mascots. We have signed on in partnership with tribes, organizations and associations who represent the interests of Indian people who are and will always be against stereotypical sports imagery. Further, we have partnered with national Civil Rights organizations who have joined Indian country in opposing culturally harmful caricatures.
Our mission is to uphold sovereignty and increase the self-reliance of our Native people. We are an organization of 184 member tribes entrusted to ensure there is a strong tribal presence here in Washington, D. C. to protect the Indian Gaming Industry. We have a strong commitment to our tribes and will continue to do so.
This issue provides us with another opportunity to help educate America so that we can grow out of the negative stereotypes of the past. Being separate, diverse groups of people with beautiful cultural traditions and beliefs makes us unique and distinct from one another, in a very positive sense. It adds to the fabric of the creation, allowing honor and respect for all things. This is the kind of harmony and appreciation we need to strive for every day.
To ensure the integrity of our 30-year-old association and our tribal nations, we have pulled our sponsorship from this golf tournament, which has just recently announced a partnership with the newly created Washington football team's Original Americans Foundation. When we agreed to be a sponsor to benefit Native American College Scholarships and Youth there was no mention of the involvement of the Washington football team.
As Chairman of NIGA, I will stand by my previous statements on this issue. The team's name is offensive and is a racial slur. We will not associate with organizations who continue to perpetuate derogatory depictions and images of Native Americans in this way. We need to move positively into the 21st Century and respect one another. It is unfortunate that this Foundation was utilized to further divide our Country over an issue that is a basic humanitarian principle. All people should be treated with honor and respect regardless of race, gender, or religion.
Ernest L. Stevens, Jr. ?Chairman, National Indian Gaming Association