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Commissioner Biographies

Acting Chairwoman Sharon Avery

Acting Chairwoman Sharon Avery

May 2024 to Present

Sharon M. Avery is the Acting Chairwoman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC). She was appointed by the President effective May 15, 2024. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland recently appointed Avery to a three-year term as Associate Commissioner, effective May 6, 2024. As such, she is responsible for regulating and ensuring the integrity of the more than 500 Indian gaming facilities, associated with over 245 tribes across 29 states. Avery joined the NIGC’s Office of General Counsel as an Associate General Counsel in January of 2020.

Prior to joining the NIGC, Avery served as General Counsel for Tribal Operations for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan for 3 years. She also worked in the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan’s Legal Department for 7 years as a Senior Associate General Counsel and Associate General Counsel.

Avery graduated Cum Laude from Central Michigan University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science degree. She graduated from Michigan State University College of Law in 2009 with a Juris Doctor degree and a certificate from the Indigenous Law & Policy Center.

Vice-Chair Jeannie Hovland

Vice-Chair Jeannie Hovland

January 2021 to Present

Jeannie Hovland (Flandreau Santee Sioux) is Vice-Chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC). As such, she is responsible for regulating and ensuring the integrity of the more than 500 Indian gaming facilities, associated with over 245 tribes across 29 states. She served as the OSR Director from May 2021 through July 2023. Hovland began her second three-year term at the agency on May 6, 2024, after first being appointed by the Secretary of the Interior on  January 17, 2021.

Before joining NIGC, Hovland served as Commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans providing oversight of a $57 million annual operating budget to promote self-sufficiency for American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Hovland oversaw discretionary grants that support social and economic development, Native language restoration and revitalization, and environmental regulatory enhancement. Hovland created the Social and Economic Development Strategies for Growing Organizations program, which provides funding to strengthen internal governance structures and build capacity for tribes and tribal organizations. She also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Affairs at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), a $58 billion operating division under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Hovland provided expert and culturally appropriate advice to the Assistant Secretary in formulation of policy, positions, and strategies affecting Native Americans.

Hovland chaired the HHS Secretary’s Intradepartmental Council on Native American Affairs (ICNAA), serving as an advisor to the Secretary, addressing issues of importance to tribal communities through partnerships with all of HHS departments. Hovland helped bring national awareness to the crisis of Missing and Murdered Native American’s through her role on the ICNAA as well as through her participation on the Presidential Taskforce, Operation Lady Justice. Under Hovland’s leadership, as chair of the ACF Native American Affairs Advisory Committee, comprised of ACF leadership and in partnership with the ACF Tribal Advisory Committee, the ACF Missing and Murdered Native Americans - A Public Health Framework for Action was published in October 2020.

In her previous role as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, Hovland provided strategic recommendations to the Assistant Secretary on issues related to land leases, access to quality water, land into trust status, and energy and economic development issues.

Hovland’s extensive knowledge and experience on Indian Affairs includes her many years serving Native American communities in South Dakota where she worked for Senator John Thune for nearly 13 years. As Tribal Affairs Advisor, Hovland dedicated most of her time in the communities as she believes in community-driven solutions. During that time, Hovland was able to provide input on important legislation such as the Tribal Law and Order Act and the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008.

Past commissioners

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