Cabazon Band pays tribute to the late John James, 'Father of Native American Gaming'

John James, a former chairman of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians and a driving force in the Indian gaming industry, passed away on April 21. He was 87.

James was known as "The Father of Native American Gaming," the tribe said in announcing his death. He helped the tribe establish its first gaming facility during the 1980s, an effort which culminated in the landmark California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

"It was never about getting recognition for himself, or becoming someone with a lot of esteem or success," James' granddaughter, Dana Washington, said at a memorial service on Sunday, KESQ reported. "He just wanted to make things better for his tribe, and for them to have a place at the table."

John James, 1931 - 2018.

The Cabazon decision, issued in 1987, confirmed that tribes exercise the inherent right to engage in gaming, free of state interference. A year later, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and gave states a role in the regulation of Class III gaming, such as slot machines, and a role in certain types of land acquisitions.

James, who was a veteran of the Korean War, was serving as secretary/treasurer of the tribe when it got into gaming. In 1989, he was elected chairman, a post he held for more than 20 years.

“Chairman James set the bar for all tribal leaders His passing is not only a loss for Cabazon, but for all tribal nations," current Chairman Doug Welmas said. "Chairman’s service to his country, to his people and to his family is a legacy that we all hope to emulate and to continue to live up to.”

"As Indian gaming flourished, Chairman James yielded the front line to the emerging tribal government gaming leadership. While this era did well for our industry, it was because of leaders like him that we did well," added Ernie Stevens, Jr., the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association. "He was always available for us whenever we needed him. He was my friend, my mentor and my hero!”

Read More on the Story:
Former tribal chairman, "Father of Native American Gaming," honored at memorial (KESQ May 12, 2018)
Cabazon Band of Mission Indians mourn death of 'Father of Native American Gaming' (The Palm Springs Desert Sun April 26, 2018)
Former Tribal Chairman of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians passes away (KESQ April 25, 2018)

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