Each year the National Indian Gaming Association presents its highest honor – the Wendell A. Chino Humanitarian Award – to a leader who has served Indian country in its broadest sense over a lifetime of work. This year the prestigious award was given to Tex Hall, the longest serving chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes.
Hall, whose Indian name is Ihbudah Hishi – Red Tipped Arrow – was born on September 18, 1956, and grew up on his family’s ranch in Manderee, North Dakota, where he still lives and ranches. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from the University of Mary, in Bismarck, North Dakota, and a Master of Education Administration degree from the University of South Dakota in Vermilion, South Dakota.
First elected chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in 1998, Hall was elected to a historic third term in 2010, making him the longest serving chairman of his tribe.
The Wendell A. Chino Award was presented to Hall at a banquet during the NIGA’s 2013 Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention, which took place in Phoenix in March. NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. introduced Hall with a shower of praise. "This award signifies leadership, humility, strength and honor. Tex Hall exemplifies all of those qualities. He continues to take charge when many do not, but while doing so, instills courage to others, many of which are in this banquet room. Indian country and the MHA Nation are stronger because of the efforts of this man,” Stevens said. "His record of accomplishments and humanitarian service to Indian people is truly representative of the spirit embodied by Wendell Chino. The Wendell A. Chino Humanitarian Award is one of the highest honors in Indian country and Tex Hall has certainly earned it."
The late Wendell Chino is a revered figure in contemporary Indian country history. He was a steadfast advocate for Indian sovereignty and self-determination and one of the strongest voices for American Indian rights during the 1960s until his death in 1988 at the age of 74. He set the stage for the Cabazon ruling more than 10 years before that case opened the doors to Indian gaming by establishing the Inn of the Mountain Gods in 1975. The recreational facility was home to a championship caliber golf course and later became a casino where Chino asserted that the state of New Mexico could not outlaw gaming on sovereign tribal land. Chino led his tribe for an astounding 43 years and took his people on a genuine rags-to-riches journey through what he called “red capitalism.” A national figure in and outside of Indian country, the New York Times eulogized Chino in a long obituary at his death.
Wendell Chino’s son Mark presented the award to Tex Hall.
Hall’s list of accomplishments is long. He served two terms as president of the National Congress of American Indians, co-chair of the National Indian Education Task Force and chairman of the Great Plains Region Tribal Chairmen's Association. He was appointed to the first tribal advisory committee ever established in the history of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to recommend and advise the secretary of the service. He initiated the Keepseagle class action lawsuit that brought a historic settlement of $760 million for Native American farmers and ranchers. (Related story: Indian Farmers Granted $760 Million from USDA)
Chris Stearns, Hall’s longtime friend and advisor, said, “Tex could very well be the most popular man in Indian country and to me that’s no surprise. He mixes three of the best qualities you could ever want in a leader – he’s loyal and kind but he’s also got a brilliant political mind. He’s definitely the guy you want calling the shots. Sometimes his sense of adventure can take him into uncharted waters but that’s exactly where he thrives. He’s not just one of the most exciting leaders in Indian country but in the entire United States.”
Watch this tribute video for Hall in honor of receiving this award.