‘Long overdue’: Senate passes Local Veterans Organization bill

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

‘Long overdue’: Senate passes Local Veterans Organization bill

The National Indian Veterans Charter is decades in the making

Monday 21 November 2022

By Acee Agoyo

Indianz.Com

WASHINGTON, DC – A bipartisan bill to encourage the work of an organization for Native veterans is slowly nearing final passage as the 117th Congress draws to a close. Last Thursday, the US Senate passed S.1725 to authorize a congressional charter for the National American Indian Veterans, Inc. (NAIV) organization. The bill passed unanimously, meaning it had the support of the entire chamber. “We’re one step closer to giving our Native American veterans the recognition they truly deserve and deserve,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), the sponsor of S.1752, Monday after the passage of his bill. “There are many veterans service organizations chartered by Congress, but none that exclusively serve 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 in the Senate last week, Rounds noted that NAIV has worked in each state to advance the interests of American Indian veterans, Alaska Natives and Hawaii Natives. As COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the Indian country, he said the organization has secured and distributed supplies and equipment to more than 375 tribes in 30 states,” Rounds said Monday. “Congress regularly turns to NAIV for input on issues facing Native American veterans. This charter will help give NAIV a larger platform to continue advocating and serving the more than 140,000 Native American veterans living in the United States.” NAIV was formed in 2004 following discussion during a Senate hearing, in which lawmakers highlighted the lack of a congressional organization for Native veterans. Based on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, the group operates remotely 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. “As such, I am proud that the Senate passed our bipartisan legislation that will create a congressional charter for the National American Indian Veterans Organization.” have the benefits they deserve,” added Lujan. “This Senate approval reinforces our nation’s commitment to Native American veterans who have proudly served throughout American history.”

National Memorial to Native American Veterans

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 November 11, 2022. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Despite the commitment of local veteran leaders, Congress has never chartered the NAIV. The bill, which has yet to be passed by the US House of Representatives, finally advances the effort after nearly two decades. “I am very grateful to Senator Rounds that he never abandoned this law,” said Don Loudner, a citizen of the Crow Creek Sioux tribe who serves as the national commander of the NAIV, on Monday. “Thanks to his efforts and those of the bipartisan team he assembled, we are closer than we have ever been in the past 20 years to having Congress recognize the sacrifices of generations of Native Americans who have heeded the nation’s call and fought in all.” have been at war since the American Revolution,” said Loudner, a Korean War combat veteran. Robert Dunsmore, the veteran service officer of the Sioux tribe on the Cheyenne River, also hailed the passage of S.1752. He served in the US Army and works to meet the needs of native veterans across the country. “This charter is long overdue,” Dunsmore said. “We, as Native American veterans, want to thank the US Senate for moving this forward. We as veterans have asked for this charter since 2004. Hopefully, we as Native American veterans will have a voice on issues affecting Native American veterans. As a tribal veteran duty officer, I fully support this law.”

Non-local supporters also cheer. Ken Teunissen from South Dakota is a recipient of the Purple Heart, the oldest US military decoration. “This is a huge step for our local brothers and sisters who are veterans and have fought alongside us,” Teunissen said. “We must show them the respect that is shown to all veterans. Hopefully they have a voice of their own now.” Movement in the Congressional Charter for NAIV comes days after the formal dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC More than 1,700 Native American veterans, their families and their supporters attended on the afternoon of November 11th attended a ceremony on the National Mall The memorial is located on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). It was completed in November 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only a virtual program was taking place at the time. “The museum is proud to be the home of the Memorial and will fulfill our responsibility to forever welcome and honor veterans and educate people about the exceptional military service of local veterans and active duty members,” said Cynthia Chavez Lamar , a Pueblo citizen of San Felipe who serves as director of the NMAI, said at the ceremony.

John Herrington

John Herrington, a Chickasaw Nation veteran who became the first tribal citizen to fly into space, watches the lighting of the flame at the National Native American Veterans Memorial during a dedication ceremony on the National Mall in Washington, DC on March 11, 2022. Photo by Indianz. Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Chavez Lamar, the first woman to be the NMAI’s permanent leader, called the memorial a “long overdue” tribute to Native Americans, who join the military at the highest rates of any racial or ethnic group, according to US government data. The design itself was created by a Native American veteran – artist Harvey Pratt, who is a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. “Without warriors, we may not be here,” Pratt said before lighting the sacred flame that forms a key part of his design – a large, circular structure located 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 for the “Warrior’s Circle of Honor” were chosen to pay respect to the sacred traditions of tribal nations around the world US Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, also spoke at the dedication ceremony. She is a co-sponsor of HR6402, the House version of the NAIV Charter Act. At the event, Davids recognized her mother’s presence. Crystal Herriage, whose name is Ho-Chunk, served 20 years in the US Army and was a major influence on one of the first two Native women in the US Congress. “I learned so much through my mother’s ministry,” Davids said. “I learned what it means to serve your country. I learned what it means to sacrifice yourself for your country and community. She taught me what it means to be committed and to have purpose.” “That’s definitely a lesson I brought to Congress,” continued Davids. “I know that because of all that our service members, our veterans, those who have gone on, we need to have your back 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 working weeks, so time is running out for the adoption of the charter for the NAIV organization. The session is expected to conclude at the end of December.

National Native American Veterans Memorial – November 11, 2022

Crystal Herriage and Sharice Davids

US 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 November 11, 2022. Photo by Indianz. Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Loren Corpus
A National American Indian Veterans jacket is seen on Loren Corpuz, a US Marine Corps veteran from the Yakama Nation, as he waits to blow his trumpet at the dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, March 11, 2017 November 2022 Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Cynthia Chavez Lamar
Cynthia Chavez Lamar, director of the National Museum of the American Indians, looks toward the US Capitol where a rainbow was seen during the dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC November 11, 2022. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Ralph Zotig and Dennis Zotig
Ralph Zotigh (Kiowa) and Dennis Zotigh (Kiowa / Ohkay Owingeh / Santee Sioux) climb the steps to the stage to sing a song of honor to female veterans, Gold Star mothers and American War Mothers organizations during the dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial sing in Washington, DC on November 11, 2022. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Jefferson Kiel
Jefferson Keel, a veteran and citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, takes the stage during 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)
Wes study
Wes Studi, a Cherokee Nation veteran, served as co-host of the dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial on November 11, 2022 in Washington, DC. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 )
Charla Lowry and Alexis Raeana Jones
Charla Lowry, left, and Alexis Raeana Jones, both citizens of the Lumbee Tribe, pose together after singing the national anthem at the dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial on November 11, 2022 in Washington, DC. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

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