Monday, December 16, 2019

A Tribute to the Honorable Richard G. Hill: A Warrior Who Fought Trump on Behalf of Indian Gaming

By A. Gay Kingman - December 16, 2019 at 10:29AM

Rick Hill, Tim Wapato and Danny Tucker testifying on Capitol Hill. From A. Gay Kingman collection.

In Memoriam: Richard G. Hill 

Published December 16, 2019

Rick Hill

My Oneida Brother, Rick Hill has been called home. His work on this physical world is finished. Rick was an effective and tireless leader who accomplished many things for tribes, often in times of crisis. He was highly respected throughout the United States and touched many lives. Rick was known for his brilliant mind, his wise advice, his humor, his vision, his ability to lead and get things accomplished, his ability to unify and inspire tribal leaders and for his charisma.     

Rick left a legacy for all of us and today, tribal nations benefit from his work.

I will address his time as Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), although, he had several careers. 

The Indian  Gaming Regulatory Act had passed in 1988, but there were many obstacles in actually implementing the law. The National Indian Gaming Association was founded in 1985 and was immersed in addressing the multitude of problems. Rick was Chairman of Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and knew the problems. Tribal leaders approached Rick to run for chairman of NIGA. My Husband, Tim Wapato and I assisted in his campaign, entitled, “Rick Hill & Tucker Too!”  Former Chairman Danny Tucker of Sycuan Band of Mission Indians, was his running mate for vice chairman. Rick and Danny Tucker,  got elected to NIGA in 1992 and the new Board asked Tim and me to be the staff and to start a National Indian Gaming Association in Washington D.C. NIGA had no money; in fact Rick inherited a huge debt, so we all worked out of our townhouse on Capitol Hill until we eventually were able to purchase the NIGA building a couple years later.   

There was so much work to do and we were up against powerful enemies such as, in 1993, New Jersey Congressman Robert Torricelli who introduced legislation to deny Indian gaming. Donald Trump was called to be a witness before the Committee

Donald Trump testified in support Torricelli’s legislation and got into a verbal fight with the chairman of the congressional committee over his racist words after Trump said “they don’t look like Indians to me.”

Donald Trump, a who fought against American Indian rights, testifies before Congress in 1993: “They don’t look like Indians to me,”

Some members of Congress were against tribes’ right to game, but we prevailed when Rick and Tim dubbed the legislation the Donald Trump protection act and the legislation died in Committee. Many in the casino industry didn’t want tribes to game, they saw the competition. The media was mostly negative against tribes; also the religious right opposed Indian gaming. States where refusing to sign compacts with tribes.

These were some of the problems. Rick, Tim and I, worked day and night, traveling, speaking, rallying the troops, meeting with tribes, speaking to state legislators,  developing educational information,  fighting in the courts, testifying at Hearings talking with the press. It was said, the three of us were joined at the hip.  

Rick Hill rallying tribe in mid-1990s. Photo from A. Gay Kingman’s private collection.

Thanks to Ricks ability to lead, all the Tribes came together, we didn’t have money, so the first Board often  met in someone’s hotel room, but we were all unified in a common purpose and everyone worked hard  

In addition to unifying the Tribes,  Rick as NIGA Chairman, worked to unify all the Resource People who worked for tribes. Under his leadership, NIGA created the Law/Lobb’s, made up of all the attorneys and lobbyists who represented tribes. They would meet and discuss legislation, strategy, and solutions and report to tribal leaders, so a common message was developed. I believe it still exists, today.

A. Gay Kingman

Another example of Rick’s leadership was as chair, Rick carried the message as directed by tribal leaders. One particular time, Our champion, Senator Inouye had dropped some legislation that the tribal leaders determined would be detrimental to tribes. Rick testified at the hearing and it fell upon Rick’s big shoulders to inform Senator Inouye his legislation was bad. Senator Inouye commented, “You used to be my son, now, you have no father!” Senator Inouye remained our champion and worked with tribes throughout his tenure. 

There are many stories, but the long story short, NIGA succeeded. Tribes and states eventually all signed compacts, the  tribal gaming enterprises expanded, Rick signed the incorporation of NIGA in Washington DC, NIGA purchased the NIGA building where they remain today, Tribes have many casinos with revenue coming in, relationships have improved, and NIGA is strong today thanks to those who carried on the Rick Hill legacy.  

Rick had such an ability to pull people together & he accomplished so much with his calm manner & ability to care deeply. And, who could resist that laugh? Rick was coming to Rapid City to visit in a few days, now, I will miss my Brother forever. I know Rick, Charlie Hill & my Timmy Wapato are laughing & Telling stories in Heaven, now.  

May the Creator Bless the Family of Rick Hill, his Tribe and all our Tribes 

A. Gay Kingman is a tribal citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the executive director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association. Kingman is a former executive director of the National Congress of American Indians and a founder with her late husband, Tim Wapato, and Rick Hill of the National Indian Gaming Association.





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