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NIGA’s Roots as a BIA Advisory Group

NIGA’s Roots Frank Duscheneaux is considered by many to be the “father of IGRA,” (along with IGRA’s “mother,” Virginia Boylan). He believes it was Hazel Elbert who first recognized the need for a tribal advisory group to advise the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on Seminole bingo and other forms of gaming being offered across Indian Country. Elbert started in 1967 and worked her way up to acting commissioner at the BIA. According to Duscheneaux, in the late 1970s, Elbert “put together a tribal advisory group, and the tribal representatives there took over a meeting in Oklahoma City.”

NIGA’s Roots Rick Hill’s 2013 speech picked up the narrative from there. He recalled how the BIA “called an emergency meeting to gather facts about high-stakes bingo after a lot of complaining by the states. Mark Powless was elected chairman of what was being called the National Indian Gaming Task Force. Shortly after that, Senator Daniel Inouye organized a meeting to tell the tribes that if we do not get organized, we are going to get rolled by the states. Powless went coast to coast, visiting tribes to get recommendations for the task force.”

At that time, NIGA also established an alliance with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) committee on Indian gaming.

There were no records, no office beyond a kitchen table, and NIGA was in debt with no budget.

As Hill described it, “We had to build NIGA at the same time we maintained the fight. We set up the NCAI-NIGA Task Force, and created a board with 12 regions, two from each region. It was the perfect size, since we had exactly 12 chairs in the room.

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