Veterans organization

‘Long-awaited’: Senate passes bill for Indigenous veterans organization

Indianz.Com > News > “Long Awaited”: Senate Passes Bill for Indigenous Veterans Organization

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota): National Indian American Veterans Charter Bill Passes Senate

‘Long-awaited’: Senate passes bill for Indigenous veterans organization

The National American Indian Veterans Charter has been in the works for decades

Monday, November 21, 2022

By Acee Agoyo


WASHINGTON, DC — A bipartisan bill to advance the work of a Native veterans organization nears final passage as the 117th Congress draws to a close. Last Thursday the US Senate past S.1725 to grant a congressional charter to the organization National American Indian Veterans, Inc. (NAIV). The bill was approved unanimously, which means that it received the support of the entire House. “We are about to give our Native American veterans the recognition they truly deserve and have earned,” Senator Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), the sponsor of S.1752, said Monday after his bill passed. “There are many congressionally approved veterans service organizations, but none uniquely represents the interests and needs of Native American veterans. Our bill would change that by recognizing the mission and authority of the NAIV with a congressional charter.

In remarks on the floor of the Senate last week, Rounds noted that NAIV has worked across states to advance the interests of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian veterans. As COVID-19 has affected Indian Country at disproportionate rates, he said the organization has secured and distributed supplies and equipment to over 375 tribes across 30 states. “, rounds said In Monday. “Congress regularly looks to NAIV for input when addressing issues facing Native American veterans. This charter will help give NAIV a broader platform to continue to advocate for and serve the more than 140,000 Native American veterans living in the United States. The NAIV was founded in 2004, following discussions at a Senate hearing in which lawmakers highlighted the absence of a congressional chartered Native veterans organization. The group, which relies on Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, operates on a decentralized basis, with 14 regional offices across the country. “In New Mexico and across the country, Native Americans have had a profound impact on our country by proudly serving in our armed forces,” said Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-New Mexico), a co-sponsor of S.1752. “That’s why I’m proud that the Senate has passed our bipartisan legislation that will create a congressional charter for the National Organization of American Indian Veterans.” “This organization is an important resource supporting Indigenous veterans and ensuring they have access to the benefits they have earned,” Lujan added. “This Senate endorsement reaffirms our nation’s commitment to Indigenous veterans, who have proudly served throughout America’s history to the present day.”

Native veterans salute as a fire is lit at the National Native American Veterans Memorial during a dedication ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC on November 11, 2022. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Despite the commitment of Native veterans, Congress never followed through by granting a charter to NAIV. The bill, which still has to pass the United States House of Representatives, finally moves the effort forward after nearly two decades. “I am very grateful to Senator Rounds for never giving up on this bill,” said Crow citizen Don Loudner. Creek Sioux Tribe who serves as the national commander of the NAIV, said Monday. “Through his efforts and those of the bipartisan team he assembled, we are closer than at any time in the past 20 years to Congress recognizing the sacrifices of generations of American Indians. who answered the nation’s call and fought in every war since the American Revolution,” said Loudner, who is a Korean War veteran. Robert Dunsmore, the veterans services officer for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe also welcomed the passage of S.1752. He served in the US Army and worked for meeting the needs of Indigenous veterans Across the country. “This charter is long overdue,” Dunsmore said. “As Native American veterans, we want to thank the United States Senate for getting things done. As veterans, we have been calling for this charter since 2004. As Native American veterans, we hope to have a voice in issues that affect Native American veterans. As a tribal veterans duty officer, I fully support this bill.

Non-Indigenous supporters also applaud. Ken Teunissen from South Dakota is a Purple Heart recipient, the oldest American military honor. “It’s a giant leap for our Indigenous brothers and sisters who are veterans and fought alongside us,” Teunissen said. “We have to give them the respect that is given to all veterans. Hopefully they will now have their own voice. The motion on the congressional charter for NAIV comes days after the official inauguration of the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. More than 1,700 Indigenous veterans, their families and supporters participated in a ceremony at the National Mall the afternoon of November 11. The memorial is located on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). It was finished in November 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic meant only one virtual program was taking place at the time. “The museum is proud to house the memorial and will fulfill its responsibility to forever welcome and honor veterans and educate people about the extraordinary military service of Indigenous veterans and active duty members. “, Cynthia Chavez Lamar, citizen of San Felipe Pueblo who is director of NMAI, said at the ceremony.

John Herington

John Herrington, a Chickasaw Nation veteran who was the first tribal citizen to fly in space, watches the lighting of the flame at the National Native American Veterans Memorial during a dedication ceremony at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. DC, November 11, 2022. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Chavez Lamar, who is the first woman to be the permanent leader of the NMAI, called the memorial a “long overdue” recognition for Native Americans, who enlist in the military at the highest rates of any racial or ethnic group, according to U.S. government data. The design himself was created by an aboriginal veteran — artist Harvey Prattwho is a citizen of Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. “Without warriors, we might not be here,” Pratt said before lighting the sacred flame that represents a key part of his design – a large circular structure that sits within sight of the US Capitol. “This memorial is about warriors of the past, warriors of today and warriors of tomorrow,” said Pratt, whose colors, elements and materials in the “Warriors’ Circle of Honor” were chosen to respect the sacred traditions of tribal nations across the US

Representative Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), a citizen of Ho Chunk Nation, also spoke at the inauguration ceremony. She is co-sponsor of HR6402the House version of the NAIV charter bill. At the event, Davids acknowledged his mother’s presence. Crystal Herriage, who is Ho-Chunk, served 20 years in the US military and was a major influence on one of the first two Indigenous women in the U.S. Congress. “I learned so much from my mother’s service,” Davids said. “I learned what it means to serve your country. I learned what it means to sacrifice for your country and your community. I learned what it means to be dedicated and to have a purpose, thanks to her. “That’s absolutely a lesson that I brought with me to Congress,” Davids continued. “I know that because of everything our military, our veterans, those who have marched, have done — we need to support you in Congress and I will work every day to make sure that’s true.” The 117th Congress, which began in January 2021, is in its final weeks of work, so time is running out to enact the charter of the NAIV organization. The session should end at the end of December.

Crystal Herriage and Sharice Davids

U.S. Army veteran Crystal Herriage, left, is seen next to her daughter, Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), following the dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, on November 11, 2022. Photo by Indianz. Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

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