Ernie Stevens, Jr. is the Chairman and national spokesperson for the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) in Washington, D.C. Stevens is currently in his eighth two-year term as the organization’s leader, which is a position elected by the member tribes of the National Indian Gaming Association.
As Chairman of NIGA, Stevens represents the Indian gaming industry. In this role, he has worked to educate Congress, the media and the public about the positive impacts of Indian gaming on tribal and nearby communities. Stevens is also responsible for shaping policy initiatives that have the potential to impact the industry. He has testified before Congress on a number of topics from proposed amendments to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to Internet gaming. In addition to his role as spokesman, Stevens has worked to build consensus among NIGA’s diverse member Tribes and is often quoted as saying, “Our membership is our strength, and we are strongest when our voice is unified.” He has also succeeded in building strong coalitions with other Indian and non-Indian organizations to help strengthen the industry. In the face of constant challenges while Stevens has served as Chairman, NIGA has consistently defended any movement in Washington, DC against the Principles of Tribal Sovereignty. Stevens has led the Association and worked to protect Tribal Sovereignty and strengthen the Indian gaming industry. During his tenure, Indian gaming revenues have risen from $11 billion in 2000 to nearly $30 billion in 2015.
From 1993 to 1999 Stevens served as an elected councilman for the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin. He is a former First Vice-President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). As a respected leader in Indian Country, Stevens also serves as a long-standing board member on the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAID), the Nike N7 Foundation Board, the Executive Board of the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) and the Native American Advisory Board for the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA).
The Chairman has been recognized for his outstanding leadership and his advocacy in Indian Country by numerous organizations. He was inducted into the American Gaming Association’s Gaming Hall of Fame in October of 2014. The Association on American Indian Affairs recognized his lifetime achievements in November of 2014 and he was inducted into the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Alumni Hall of Fame in 2012.
Chairman Stevens received an Associate’s degree from Haskell Indian Nations University in 1983 where he served as the Vice President of the Student Senate. He was a two year starting center and team captain for the Haskell Basketball Team. Stevens also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Mount Senario College in Ladysmith, Wisconsin (1986). He was a three sport letterman and served as President of the Native American Student Council.
Chairman Stevens is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin. He and his wife Cheryl have been married for over 34 years. Together they have 5 children and 14 grandchildren.