‘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.
My bill creating a Congressional Charter for National American Indian Veterans (NAIV) passed the Senate unanimously. We are now on the verge of giving our Native American veterans the recognition they truly deserve and have earned. pic.twitter.com/JTBiP0acR3
— Senator Mike Rounds (@SenatorRounds) November 21, 2022
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.”
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.
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.