Ernie Stevens: Optimism and change in Washington
The following is a statement by Ernie Stevens Jr., a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association.

On behalf of our 184 member tribes, I want to congratulate President-Elect Barack Obama, on his victory. Early in his campaign, tribal leaders often noted that Senator Obama always made an effort to include Native Americans when addressing the Nation. I had the privilege of attending Senator Obama's historic election night speech at Chicago's Grant Park and I was heartened to hear him again include Indian Country in his victory address to the nation.

Senator Obama consistently reached out to our communities and reservations and experienced first hand the struggles Indian nations face when he visited the Crow reservation last spring. The Crow Tribe certainly left a lasting impression as Senator Obama continued to refer to this experience during the length of his campaign.

I also want to extend our congratulations to
Senator McCain for his tireless campaign and service on behalf of this great Nation. We look forward to Senator McCain's return to the halls of the Senate where he has a proven track record of defending tribal sovereignty.

As we now focus our energies towards the next administration, it is my sincere hope that President-elect Obama will move quickly to address the concerns of Indian Country. Tribal leaders throughout the nation have expressed a great sense of anticipation that an Obama administration will move Federal-Tribal relations in a new direction with a commitment to the government-to-government principles embodied in treaties and the U.S. Constitution.

Finally, I wish to commend the efforts of those who energized the Native vote by working all over Indian country to "get out the vote." These initiatives contributed to one of the highest voter turnouts in United States history and when the final numbers are counted, I am sure we will see record Native American voter turnout. Your vote makes a difference in how Congressional leaders look at federal Indian policy. This year's election will almost certainly build upon the record Native turnout we experienced in the 2004 and 2006 elections thereby giving Indian Country a strong voice on Capitol Hill.

The National Indian Gaming Association pledges to work with our sister tribal organizations to ensure that the most qualified and dedicated defenders of tribal sovereignty will be considered for positions in the new Administration.

Senator Obama's election has generated a great sense of optimism and expectation for change in Washington. Now is the time for Indian Country to come together and seize this opportunity to forge a new framework for tribal and federal government relations.

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