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National American Indian Veterans Congressional Charter Passes with FY24 NDAA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today announced that the congressional charter for the National American Indian Veterans (NAIV) organization has passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024.

Congress grants charters to recognize patriotic and national organizations that operate solely for charitable, literary, educational, scientific or civil improvement purposes. The NAIV serves the needs and interests of Native American veterans in collaboration with its national leadership and 14 regional offices. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are more than 140,000 Native American veterans in the United States. While congressional charters have been granted to Italian-American, Polish-American and Catholic-American veterans groups, no Native American veterans’ organization had received one.

Headquartered in South Dakota on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Reservation, the NAIV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advocating on behalf of tribal veterans. Originally established in 2004, today the NAIV serves the needs of Native American veterans in all 50 states. The NAIV formed as a result of a request by former Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing in 2004.

Rounds and Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) first introduced this legislation, which grants a congressional charter for the NAIV, in the 116th Congress and again in the 117th Congress, where it unanimously passed the Senate. 

“Native Americans serve in our nation’s military at five times the national average, and this charter gives them the recognition they truly deserve and have earned,” said Rounds. “The NAIV works closely with Tribal Veterans Service Officers to make certain Native American veterans receive proper benefits and resources. Congress regularly looks to the NAIV for input when addressing issues facing Native American veterans. This charter will help give the NAIV a larger platform to continue advocating for and serving the more than 140,000 Native American veterans living in the United States. I am pleased to have had it included as part of this year’s NDAA.”

“Native Americans serve in our nation's Armed Forces at greater rates than any other demographic,” said Luján. “We owe a great debt to Native American veterans for their service and sacrifice. I’m glad Congress is finally recognizing their service with a Congressional Charter for the National American Indian Veterans (NAIV). The NAIV is a critical resource that delivers assistance, and securing this charter ensures that Native veterans can access the benefits they have rightfully earned.”

This legislation has been endorsed by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, Coalition of Large Tribes, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Military Order of the Purple Heart, Korean War Veterans of America, National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Gold Star Mothers, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Navajo Nation, Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Seminole Nation, Blackfeet Nation, Crow Nation, Eastern Shoshone Tribe, Fort Belknap Indian Community, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, Northern Arapaho Tribe, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Spokane Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Jena Band of the Choctaw Indians, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Mohegan Tribe, Catawba Nation, Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.


“On behalf of the men and women members of the National American Indian Veterans, Inc., I want to say how happy we are that legislation to grant NAIV a federal charter is included in the NDAA,” said Don Loudner, National Commander of NAIV. “Native veterans have served our country from Valley Forge to Afghanistan and with this action, Congress has shown Native American veterans past and present the respect that is so well-earned. We want to thank Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) and the many Republican and Democrat Senate co-sponsors in really grinding this effort out and getting it done. We are very much in your debt and look forward to continued collaborations on behalf of Native veterans.”

“Granting congressionally chartered corporation status to National American Indian Veterans is a declaration to the world that the United States Congress supports and lifts up the important work of this organization,” said Frank Star Comes Out, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. “It is a public recognition that reflects and recognizes the organization’s years of hard work, and assures all of the authenticity and quality of the organization’s services. Elevating NAIV to the status of congressionally chartered corporation provides long-overdue parity of recognition for Native veterans. The Oglala Sioux Tribe is proud to be a long-time partner of Senator Rounds, who has loyally introduced and re-introduced this legislation, and congratulates the Senator on his work to ensure that this veteran-oriented provision is appropriately included in the National Defense Authorization Act. As a Marine Corps veteran myself, I applaud Senator Rounds for this action and thank him for his continued advocacy for Native veterans.”

“The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is proud to support Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in creating a congressional charter the National American Indian Veterans (NAIV),” said Ryman LeBeau, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. “It is a great honor to Headquarter the National American Indian Veterans on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and serving the needs of our brave Native American Veterans across the nation.  We honor the sacrifices made by our ancestors before us, and our warriors – the Veterans who unwaveringly answer the call to stand up to protect the people and our future generations. We commend all who have worked to move in support of the National American Indian Veterans Charter Bill.”

“On behalf of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, specifically our veterans, we thank you for your hard work and dedication regarding those who served in the Military,” said Clyde J.R. Estes, Chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. “We respect and support the efforts of the National Commander of NAIV (National American Indian Veterans) Don Loudner and Senator Rounds to create a Congressional Charter (NAIV) for Native Veterans across our Tribal land. Your patriotism and desire to honor and pay tribute to our Veterans who served our country with the highest acts of gallantry is commendable.”

“The Crow Creek Sioux tribe is in support of Sen. Rounds and the introduction of a federal charter bill for the National American Indians Veterans,” said Peter Lengkeek, Chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. “Securing this charter means full representation of the Native American Veterans and the honor and the acknowledgment of the level of service of this country's indigenous population. We commend Sen. Rounds for his efforts to include this legislation into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).”

“I would like to thank all the Native American Veterans from past and present for their patriotism and dedication to serving our country,” said Christian Skunk, Council Member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. “I would like to thank Senator Rounds for working to include this legislation into NDAA and securing its final passage.”

“This Federal Charter is something that I have been working on for several years and it is long overdue,” said Ken Teunissen, Past Vice Chair of the South Dakota Veterans Council and Past Region III Commander of Military Order of the Purple Heart. “Securing this charter will mean greater representation for American Indian veterans on both the state and federal level. Recently, the South Dakota Veterans Commission disbanded and the South Dakota Veterans Council assumed the duties of leading veterans advocacy in South Dakota. When that happened American Indian veterans lost their representation because the National American Indian Veterans organization does not have a Federal Charter, which according to the Bylaws of the South Dakota Veterans Council is required. I am glad we were able to get this done for our Brothers and Sisters in Arms.”

“As a 10-year member of National American Indian Veterans, I appreciate Senator Rounds’ continued efforts to get NAIV our charter recognition,” said Geri Opsal, Tribal Veterans Service Officer of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate on the Lake Traverse Reservation. “Having a Congressional Charter will allow us to advocate for Native American veterans across the United States. Many tribal nations face similar healthcare or housing challenges, including helping tribal veterans. This recognition will help us reach more Native American Veterans and help to strengthen each other.”

“This charter is long overdue," said Robert Dunsmore, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Veterans Service Officer. “We as American Indian veterans want to thank the U.S. Senate for moving this forward. We as veterans have been asking for this charter since 2004. We as American Indian veterans hopefully will have a voice on matters that pertain to American Indian veterans. As a tribal veteran service officer, I fully endorse this bill.”