May 08, 2013 –
Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians
Ernie Stevens, Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association
MAYETTA: Two of the biggest leaders in Indian Country plan to be in attendance when Gov. Sam Brownback holds a ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 111 on May 9 at the Capitol that will recognize the first Wednesday in February as Native American Day at the Capitol. The Kansas Legislature passed the bill last April which some consider the first of its kind in the Nation. The bill marks the culmination of a series of efforts between the tribes in Kansas and the State in formally recognizing government to government relationships.
Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and Ernie Stevens, Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, are being brought in as special guests of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.
Keel is in his second term as President of the National Congress of American Indians, the largest and oldest tribal organization in the country that is based in Washington, D.C. He is also in his fourth term as the Lieutenant Governor of the Chickasaw Nation and serves on numerous national boards including the Tribal Interior Budget Committee, Tribal Law and Order Commission, and the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee. Keel is a retired U.S. Army officer with over 20 years of active duty service that included receiving a Bronze Star with “V” for valor and two purple hearts.
Stevens has been the chairman and official spokesperson for the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) headquartered in Washington, D.C. since 2001. NIGA is a nonprofit organization composed of 168 Indian Nations and other-nonvoting associate members that represent tribal entities and businesses involved in tribal gaming enterprises throughout the country.
In addition, Stevens is a former councilman of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin and has also been an officer in NCAI. He presently sits on many executive boards including the Native American Rights Fund and the National Indian Telecommunications Institute. He is heavily involved with Native American youth and is active on the Native American Advisory Board for the Boys & Girls Club and the National Indian Child Welfare Association. He graduated from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence and is a strong advocate of the school.
For the last two years the Kansas tribes have been recognized by the Kansas Legislature at the State Capitol and this year Native American veterans were also honored as special guests. Kansas District 103 Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham) initiated the day-long event in 2012 after she was elected to office and was also the sponsor of the bill.
About Native American Legislative Day at the Capitol Senate Bill 111
The bill designates the first Wednesday of February 2014 and the first Wednesday of February each year thereafter as “Native American Legislative Day at the Capitol.” The bill also changes the title of “American Indian Day” to “Native American Day” which would continue to be recognized on the fourth Saturday of September.