Ernie Stevens and Kevin Leecy, the chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Indian Gaming Association, call for the creation of Native American Heritage Day:
As the chairman and vice chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, we offer this Columbus Day message on behalf of the 184 tribes that form our organization. Throughout this great and diverse Nation, there are certain holidays that carry more weight for certain segments of our nation than for others. This is true for Indian people as well. There are certain holidays that generate discussion amongst our Tribal citizens and their tribal governments because they speak to our place in the history of this great democracy. Columbus Day is certainly one of those holidays. Indian people have their own governments, cultures, societies, and values that were in place long before we were supposedly “discovered.” Our status as preexisting sovereign nations is acknowledged in the Constitution of the United States in three separate sections. The treaties our ancestors signed with the United States are still in force today and are as the Constitution states: “The supreme law of the land.” Tribes have great respect for the preservation of our roles as separate sovereigns under the Constitution and at the same time Indian people are proud American citizens as shown through our high rates of participation in military service to this nation. Tribes are determined to uphold their rights assured through the treaties with the United States of America and to ensure that our children are provided with accurate historical accounts of our families, societies, governments, and status as separate nations, as well as our true place in world history.
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Ernest L. Stevens Jr. & Kevin Leecy: NIGA Talks About Columbus Day and the History of Indian Country (Indian Country Today 10/14)