NIGA Seeks Nominations for Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award

Gale Courey Toensing
1/31/13

The National Indian Gaming Association is calling for nominations for its Annual Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award.

The winner of the award will be honored on March 27, 2013, in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award Banquet during NIGA’s Indian Gaming 2013 Tradeshow and Convention, the gaming association announced in an email blast.

NIGA has set criteria for nominations. Each nominee must be a tribal citizen of a federally recognized tribe; must he or must have been a government/community or organizational leader; must have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to humanitarian causes; must have dedicated their careers to fair governance and demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of Indian people’s lives.

Nominations, including a supporting narrative, must be sent to Angelica Molina, Business Manager at amolina@indiangaming.org by close of business on February 8. For more information call 202-546-3372.

The Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award is NIGA’s most prestigious recognition. It honors the iconic figure of the man who led the Mescalero Apache Nation during almost the entire second half of the 20th Century. Chino’s spent his life defending and advancing tribal sovereignty against federal policies that ranged from extermination, to assimilation. Born in 1924, Chino was elected chairman of the Mescalero Apache’s tribal governing committee in 1952 when he was 28 years old. He was reelected every two years until 1965 when he was elected the first president of the Mescalero Apache Tribe. He served in that capacity for 16 consecutive terms.

Chino was the first tribal leader in the 20th Century to challenge the Bureau of Indian Affair’s policy of approving all leases on tribal lands—a challenge that ultimately resulted in shifting control of the tribe’s resources from outside forces to the tribe. When Bureau of Indian Affairs-controlled contracts for everything from mining to timber to grazing contracts on the Mescalero reservation came up for renewal in the mid-1960’s, Chino allowed them to lapse and then created companies to develop the resources that were under the tribe’s control. Under his guidance and philosophy of what he called “red capitalism,” the Mescalero Apache Nation built a ski resort, the Inn of the Mountain Gods, a casino, a timber mill and a metal fabrication plant, as well as Indian schools, a hospital and a health centre.  During a 1977 court case involving control of Mescalero natural resources, Chino stated, "The white man has raped this land and now he wastes six million acres of Indian land use in this state."

Chino set the model for strong leadership and took positions that impacted all of Indian Country at the time. His actions and policies set the agenda for the tribal self-determination era that was adopted under the Nixon administration and continues to this day. Chino died in 1998 at the age of 74.

NIGA’s Executive Board members and alternates will vote on all nominations for the Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award three weeks before the Indian Gaming Tradeshow an Convention. In extraordinary circumstances, the NIGA Chairman may accept nominations that do not fit the above criteria. Any “extraordinary circumstances nomination” will still be voted on by the full Executive Board as part of the normal nomination voting process.

Read: Quapaw Tribe Honored With Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award

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