By Gale Courey Toensing
The award was presented to the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma in honor of their heroic efforts to help the community of Joplin, Missouri, which was destroyed by a tornado in May 2011. The award ceremony took place at the Wendell Chino Banquet during NIGA’s annual Indian Gaming Trade Show and Convention in San Diego the first week of April. Prior to the presentation, attendees viewed a short video of the Quapaw Tribe’s actions during the storm. The tribe’s Fire and Emergency Service Team, based at its Downstream Resort Casino and in Quapaw, Oklahoma, was among the first responders to arrive at the scene of devastation just minutes after the storm. The casino was turned into a temporary storm shelter, providing hotel rooms for storm survivors, relief workers and members of the American Red Cross for weeks. Casino restaurants provided storm victims and relief workers alike with thousands of hot meals and sandwiches delivered to the Joplin Emergency Command Center and to workers in the disaster zone. Tribal members donated clothing, household items and financial assistance to victims and sponsored a number of fundraisers.
Below: "People on stage and in the audience were saddened by the memory of the loss of Seneca Mathews, 27, who died in February in a car accident. From the left are National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr., Seneca Mathews' brother Thomas, Quapaw vice chairman, and Seneca's grandma Flossie Mathews." (Gale Courey Toensing)