Navajo President: Tribes work together on gaming

"In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and beyond anyone's expectations the fate of Native people took a turn.

IGRA offered freedom anew through financial independence, and, through that, returned a measure of self-sufficiency and sovereignty that had been wrested away.

In September, four Arizona tribes came together to exercise real sovereignty among themselves and the state of Arizona. After a year and a half of negotiation, the Navajo Nation, the Gila River Indian Community, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and the Tohono O'odham Nation agreed to pool and transfer rights to gaming devices allocated to the Navajos.

In the first-of-its-kind agreement Arizona has seen, the Navajo Nation, which will open its first casino in November, agreed to lease 1,045 of its 2,856 allocated machines to the other tribes. Through this agreement, the Navajo Nation will receive $130 million over 17 years. Even before its first casino opens its doors, the federal law that permitted Native gaming is helping to improve the individual lives of Navajos, and is returning independence to these tribes.

No one accomplishes anything alone. The more difficult the task, the more help is needed. Here, tribal leadership was crucial to execute the agreement, and should be acknowledged. I offer my heartfelt thanks to Gila River Indian Community Gov. William Rhodes, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation President Clinton Pattea, and Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris."

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Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr.: Tribal leadership key in gaming pact (The Arizona Republic 10/4)