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National Native Tourism Organization Honors Senator Schatz with Special Award for Championing Economic Development and Empowerment

Senator Schatz is the First Member of Congress to Receive AIANTA Award

Washington, D.C. – Today, the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA), a national organization representing the native hospitality and tourism industry, presented U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) with a special “Enough Good People” Award for his efforts to champion economic development and cultural strength for Native Hawaiians, American Indians, and Alaska Natives.

“Tourism is not only good for our economy, but it is one of the best ways for Native communities to tell their own stories and share their history and culture.  No organization knows that better than AIANTA,” said Senator Schatz.  “This award is a real honor.  I want to thank AIANTA for this award and for the work they do every day to advocate for Native communities and support tribes and Native-owned businesses in Hawai‘i and across the country.”

Earlier this year, Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and the Senate Tourism Caucus, introduced S.1579, the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act or the NATIVE Act, to enhance and integrate Native American tourism, empower Native American communities, and expand heritage and cultural tourism opportunities in the United States.  The bill has garnered broad bipartisan and bicameral support.   The legislation was recently voted to be favorably reported by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

“Tourism is an essential part of Hawai‘i’s economy, and it is so important that Native Hawaiians are included and supported in this arena,” said Pohai Ryan, Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association and former Hawai‘i State Senator. “Thanks to Senator Schatz’ leadership in writing and introducing the NATIVE Act, this bill will help to advance tourism’s potential to improve the lives of Native Hawaiians, while also supporting and expanding Indian Country tourism throughout the country.”

AIANTA is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit association of Native American tribes and tribal businesses, organized in 1999, to advance Indian Country tourism. The association is made up of member tribes from six regions: Eastern, Plains, Midwest, Southwest, Pacific and Alaska. The purpose of AIANTA is to serve as the voice and resource for its constituents in advancing tourism, assist tribes in creating infrastructure and capacity, provide technical assistance, training, and educational resources to tribes, tribal organizations and tribal members.  

Camille Ferguson presenting award to schatz
The Executive Director of AIANTA, Camille Ferguson, presenting the award in the form of a commemorative print (“Medicine Lodges”) by Terrance Guardipee, a Blackfeet ledger artist, to Senator Schatz.

Each year, AIANTA recognizes the best of the Indian Country travel and tourism and honors individuals with Enough Good People Awards for their work to support tribal tourism and its mission.  This is the first time AIANTA has chosen to honor a Member of Congress for their public service to help grow and sustain American tourism that empowers native communities and honors their traditions and values.