Rounds, Luján and Johnson Introduce National American Indian Veterans Charter Bill
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today led a group of 36 senators in introducing bipartisan legislation to create a congressional charter for the National American Indian Veterans (NAIV).
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, as of today, no Native American veterans’ organization has 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 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 would give them the recognition they truly deserve and have earned,” said Rounds. “There are many congressionally-chartered veterans organizations, but none that solely represent the interests and needs of Native American veterans. Our bill would change that by recognizing the mission of the NAIV with a congressional charter. 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.”
“Native Americans have served our nation honorably in the Armed Forces – often times at higher rates than any other demographic,” said Luján. “I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to create a Congressional Charter for the National American Indian Veterans Organization. NAIV is a crucial resource for Native veterans that delivers critical assistance and ensures that they have access to the benefits that they have earned. As a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I’ll continue fighting to fulfill the commitment our nation made to Native veterans.”
Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).
“Polish American, Italian American, Jewish, and Black veterans’ groups all have established Congressional Charters, yet no Congressional Charters have been designated for Native veterans’ organizations,” said Johnson. “Native Americans serve in our military at five times the national average, establishing federal recognition for NAIV is the right thing to do.”
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.
“This bill is very important to American Indians and I want to thank Senator Mike Rounds for introducing it and Senator Luján for serving as the lead Democratic co-sponsor,” said Don Loudner, a Native veteran, enrolled member of the Hunkpati Sioux Tribe (Crow Creek Sioux Tribe), and National Commander of the National American Indian Veterans, Inc. “The bill doesn’t ask for any federal money; it only asks that the Congress recognize the sacrifices of generations of American Indians who have answered the nation’s call and fought in every war since the American Revolution.”
“On behalf of the Lower Brule community, 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 would mean full representation of the Native American Veterans and the honor and the acknowledgment of the level of service this country's indigenous population. We commend Sen. Rounds for his efforts.”
“A congressionally chartered national Native American veterans organization could be an important voice for Native American veterans, advocating for their needs and priorities and providing valuable services and programs to support their well-being,” said Scott Herman, President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “A nationally chartered veterans organization would have more authority and resources to address the concerns of Native American veterans on the state and federal level. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe supports Congressional authorization of a charter for Native American veterans dedicated to serving the needs of Native American veterans.”
“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. It’s time we got this done for our Brothers and Sisters in Arms.”
“I would first 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 also like to thank Senator Rounds for reintroducing this piece of legislation and hope that congress will pass it, as it has no fiscal impact and because of all the work that the National American Indian Veterans Inc. (NAIV) has done over the past couple of decades. From providing services to help our Native American Veterans, to education others on the unique circumstances that our veterans face.”
“As a 10-year member of National American Indian Veterans, having a Congressional Charter will allow us to advocate for our own Native American brothers & sisters across the United States,” said Geri Opsal, Tribal Veterans Service Officer of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate on the Lake Traverse Reservation. “We all face many of the same Veteran healthcare or housing issues across the Tribal Nations. To be able to have this recognition and reach a broad range of Native American Veterans will allow us to strengthen each other across America.”
"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."
"On behalf of the Coalition of Large Tribes, which represents the interests of the more than 50 tribes that have reservations of 100,000 acres or more, we want to thank Senator Rounds and Senator Luján for their tireless efforts in recognizing our veterans who have served in the United States Air Forces for over 200 years," said Marvin Weatherwax, Jr. , Member of the Blackfeet Nation Tribal Business Council and Chairman, Coalition of Large Tribes. "It is with Honor and a good heart we support and endorse the National American Indian Veterans Incorporated (NAIV). Native veterans despite our exemplary record of very high per capita and decorated service, have been overlooked and given short shrift in recognition and benefits. The Senators' efforts to honor NAIV begins to treat Native veterans equitably with others who have honorably served the United States. These efforts by Senators Rounds and Luján are unparalleled and speak to the deep respect they both have for the contributions of Native veterans and all veterans."
Rounds and Luján were joined by 34 of their colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation, including 17 Republicans, 15 Democrats and two Independents. The original cosponsors of this legislation are Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Angus King (I-Maine), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.).
“Native American veterans have served our state and our country with the highest honor in the U.S. military,” said Thune. “I am glad to join Senator Rounds in reintroducing this resolution that would give a voice to the unique needs and priorities of Native American veterans.”
“The National American Indian Veterans organization supports tens of thousands of veterans who have served our country – advocating for their interests, bringing them together, and commemorating their sacrifice to defend our freedoms,” said Bennet. “I’m grateful for its continued service, and proudly cosponsor this legislation to create a charter so NAIV can continue its mission to support Native American veterans in Colorado and across the United States.”
“By creating this congressional charter, the National American Indian Veterans, Inc. will receive due recognition for the important services they provide to Native veterans,” said Rubio. “I’m proud to join this effort to ensure that the needs of Native Americans who bravely fought for our country are properly met.”
“Serving in the armed forces at higher rates than any other demographic, Native American veterans have honorably answered the call and defended our nation in every war since the American revolution,” said Cramer. “Every U.S. veteran deserves the benefits they earned. A Congressional Charter recognizes the National American Indian Veterans dedication to attaining much-needed assistance, care, and resources for our Native American heroes.”
“We owe our Native American veterans endless gratitude for their dedicated service to our great nation,” said Scott. “I am proud to stand with my colleagues in support of the National American Indian Veterans Charter Act to give these brave men and women the recognition they deserve.”
“We owe Native American veterans an immense debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they have made for our country,” said Rosen. “The National American Indian Veterans (NAIV) organization is dedicated to advocating for the interests and needs of these veterans and I’m proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation to federally recognize NAIV.”
“Native veterans in Nevada deserve access to the benefits and recognition they’ve earned defending our country, and I’m proud to help grant a federal charter to the National American Indian Veterans group,” said Cortez Masto. “I’ll always fight to get our veterans and Tribal communities the resources and support they need.”
"We recognize the sacrifices, bravery, and triumphs of American Indian veterans by creating a Congressional Charter for the National American Indian Veterans," said Sinema. "Our Congressional Charter represents a small token of gratitude and appreciation for the incredible American Indian veterans who have sacrificed so much to keep us safe and secure."
Click HERE for full bill text.