Published March 15, 2016
PHOENIX – The National Indian Gaming Association yesterday named Richard Tall Bear Westerman as the recipient of the 2016 Charlie Hill Spirit Award. Richard is a native entrepreneur and the son of the late native actor Floyd Red Crow Westerman.
The annual award was presented during the Chairman’s Welcome Reception on Sunday, March 13, 2016, at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel Casino. The award has been presented the past two years to American Indian entertainers who have positively impacted Indian Country. This year’s award goes to Richard in the “spirit” of his father, who was an actor, entertainer and public personality.
Tall Bear Westerman’s father, Floyd Westerman, worked early on as a musician, establishing a successful career as a folk music singer. Later on, Floyd became a leading actor who appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, including Dances with Wolves, recurring roles on Walker, Texas Ranger and Dharma & Greg. Floyd fought fiercely to defend Indian treaty rights and actively fought for the social advancement of Indian people.
NIGA Chairman Emeritus Rick Hill presented the award to Tall Bear Westerman, who was joined on stage by his wife, Charlie’s wife and extended family.
“I have known Richard since he was a young man and am proud to see he’s grown into a successful businessman with the environment close to his heart,” said Charlie’s wife Lenora Hill.
“Richard has demonstrated a strong commitment to bettering the lives of Indian people in the communities he’s served,” said Rick Hill. “He’s someone who had a vision and made that vision come to life, and in doing so, he shows that you can achieve your dreams.”
“I wouldn’t be here without Indian Gaming,” said Richard in accepting the award. “Everything from my education, to my home, my land, my businesses, and who I am, pretty much over the last 20 years, is due to the work of people like Ernie Stevens and Rick Hill,” added Richard.
Richard, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Oyate of South Dakota, started the Tall Bear Group in 2011. The company made a name for themselves by providing high quality gaming related products and services to tribal clients. That, coupled with cutting edge design and proactive project management, led to increased success for the group and their tribal clients.
The Tall Bear Group was eventually awarded a Power Purchase agreement for 20 Megawatts of solar power for 20 years. At 250 acres and a cost of $51 million, the project was the first and largest minority owned power project of its kind. That spelled growth for the Tall Bear Group and the communities they served. The project now supplies electricity to 250,000 homes in southern California.
“Indian Country is filled with opportunities because of the inherent advantages of where we live, where our land is, and where we are economically and politically,” said Richard.
Through his entrepreneurship and proactive community vision, Richard has continued the work of his father, who himself brought attention and ultimately opportunity to Indian communities across the country. Richard’s companies have helped to advance the economic, social and cultural interests of tribes across the country.
“This award represents leadership in inspiring others to attain their potential. Charlie Hill, who the award was named for, was a dynamic man who worked with some of the biggest names in comedy and Hollywood. He was able to influence those around him in a way that brought out their best. He was a warrior in his field of work, and worked tirelessly to bring social justice to native causes. In that spirit, Richard follows in the footsteps of his father as an innovator and a visionary who broke through the barriers to build a platform for others coming behind him,” shared Chairman Stevens, Jr.
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