National Indian Gaming Association Honors Butler

The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) awarded leader Rodney Butler the John Kieffer Sovereignty Award at the 2019 NIGA Mid-Year Conference and Expo. Things are going well for Rodney Butler, who has received no shortage of attention in the last few years for his work with finances in Indian Country.

The award ceremony took place during the Sovereignty Luncheon at the Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino in Uncasville, CT. This ceremony brings together many of the most important members of the gaming community in Indian Country from New York to California and beyond.

Rodney Butler receiving award from three other officials.

Rodney Butler with the John Kieffer Sovereign Award © IndianGaming.org

The chairman of NIGA Ernie Stevens, Jr. had no shortage of compliments for the man of honor. Stevens said about Rodney Butler, “Chairman Butler is one of the most dynamic leaders in Indian Country. He is always ready to go to work for not only his people but for all of us defending tribal sovereignty. He is flat out a gentleman and such a great warrior. We are all honored by his leadership.”

Butler accepted this great distinction with humility. He said, “This is such a tremendous honor. It is not only about me, but all of our team. It is a collective effort.”

Who Is Rodney Butler?

Rodney Butler has been hard at work in the gambling industry of Indian Country ever since he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Connecticut, where he was already winning hearts playing defensive back for the UCONN Huskies’ football team.

After his time in school, he spent many years working for the finance department of the Foxwood Resort Casino. This resort is a notable success story in the neighborhood. The resort was built shortly after the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe gained legal control of the reservation in 1983, won by overriding a veto by President Ronald Reagan. Over the next thirty years, the resort has ballooned in size. It handled more than $9.1 billion just from slots for the fiscal year ending in June 2008.

The Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Butley spent many years working at the Foxwoods Resort Casino © RoarLoud

Butler’s relationship with the resort came to a head when he served as Interim President and CEO from 07/2018–08/2019. During his time there, he contributed to major expansion efforts that saw the resort grow to the size we know it today. He also helped establish the Mashantucket (Western) Pequot Tribe Endowment Trust. His time with the casino also saw some down swings, leading the New York Times Magazine to pen a story entitled, ““Foxwoods is Fighting for its Life.”

Apart from his work with Foxwood, Butler has also been deeply involved with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council. He began his services there in 2004, and was soon appointed Tribal Council Treasurer. He held this position for four years. Throughout these years, Mr. Butler chaired the Tribe’s Finance, Housing and Judicial Committees.

Over this relatively short carrier, Rodney Butler has managed to attract the attention of many associations. The Native American Finance Officers Association appointed him “Tribal Leader of the Year” in 2017. In 2019, he has already received two other awards including the Citizen of the Year award by the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce as well as the St. Edmund’s Medal of Honor Award from the Enders Island Retreat Center. No small feat for a man who has just entered his forties.

These awards may stem from the fact that Rodney keeps himself busy. Apart from his current work as Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, he is also on the board of directors of United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, the board of trustees at Roger Williams University, and the board of directors of the Mystic Aquarium. It is a wonder he has the time to visit these award ceremonies at all.

Who Is This Most Recent Association to Be Giving Mr. Butler an Award?

According to the website of the National Indian Gambling Association, “The mission of NIGA is to protect and preserve the general welfare of tribes striving for self-sufficiency through gaming enterprises in Indian Country. To fulfill its mission, NIGA works with the Federal government and Congress to develop sound policies and practices and to provide technical assistance and advocacy on gaming-related issues. In addition, NIGA seeks to maintain and protect Indian sovereign governmental authority in Indian Country.”

This mission makes sense in the context of Butler’s work. The prosperity that has been seen at both the Foxwood casino, and the success of the Tribal Council in protecting tribal sovereignty fit right in with their mission.

Honors Both Past and Present

As Butler received his award, Chairman Stevens meditated on the namesake of the award, the late John Keiffer of the Spokane Tribe.

“So many great things have happened in Indian Country, but we still have a lot of work to do. There are so many tribes that need us. That’s why we need more people like the late John Kieffer. He was a worker who worked hard morning, noon, and night. He worked hard for his people, his family, and he worked hard for Indian Country. We memorialize him and celebrate the memory of his life,” said Chairman Stevens.

Also, there to present the honor to Butler were the sons of John Kieffer, Charles and Danny. Danny also spoke about his father’s legacy. He said, ”It is a great honor for not only my family but for the Spokane tribe. My dad loved being on the tribal council, and he fought hard for Indian gaming. He was a great man who continued to fight hard for Indian Country.”

Rodney Butler has now joined the ranks of those others who contributed to the gaming community that helps maintain the legal sovereignty in Indian Country. Among those past recipients are David Bean, Chairman of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Mark Macarro, Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño, John Warren, Chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Kevin Brown, Chairman of the Mohegan Tribe of New York, and Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Kurt Blue Dog of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Tracy Burris of the Chickasaw Nation, among others.

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