Born and raised on the Morongo Reservation in Banning, California, James Siva came from a large family with a long linage of leadership. He is descended directly from Captain John Morongo, regarded as the last chief-type leader of the tribe.
“Knowing our family’s history, I have always thought about being a leader in some fashion for Morongo,” Siva says.
The road to leadership stopped off at Columbia University, where Siva earned a bachelor of arts in ethnicity and race studies. Family is as important an element as education, he says.
“Having a strong family is the best base for being a strong leader,” he says. “I am married to a wonderful woman, Christina, who balances the political with the spiritual as a pastor.”
Prior to his election to tribal council, Siva served in leadership roles in a different setting, as a trustee on the board of Morongo Moravian Church, and as a mentor in a mentorship program at Columbia.
“Additionally, I served in the student government at Columbia. I feel that these varied roles gave me the opportunity to understand what leadership can be from very different perspectives and in very different organizations,” he says.
The Tribal Council where he serves has a dual function as a board of directors for tribal-owned enterprises, including the casino, and as a city council-like group for the governmental operations of the tribe.
“An average day has meetings at Morongo’s administration building involving governmental issues with operational oversight of our enterprises mixed in at various times,” Siva says.
Siva credits two colleagues—Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin and Vice Chairwoman Maryann Andreas—as mentors.
“Both have been visionaries for Morongo and have been people who I admired for years. Now, being able to work with them on a daily basis has been a fantastic experience. I have learned so much in a short amount of time from the two of them,” he says.
The future of gaming must mirror the future of technology, Siva says.
“Our customers want the newest and greatest technology out there,” he says. “Gaming must continue to be at the cutting edge of technological advancement, be that through new modes of reaching consumers like social media or through new ways of gaming such as online-based platforms.”
His advice for young people entering the industry would be to push the envelope.
“These people are the future, and have a better feel for what is the cutting edge than anyone else,” Siva says. “The millennials will be, in a short time, the gaming industry’s biggest market. The industry should harness the innovation that continues to pour out of them.”