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Rounds, Luján Introduce Bill to Create a Congressional Charter for the National American Indian Veterans (NAIV) Organization

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to create a Congressional Charter for the National American Indian Veterans (NAIV). Headquartered in South Dakota on the Cheyenne River Reservation, the NAIV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advocating for tribal veterans.

Originally started in 2004, today the NAIV serves the needs of Native veterans in all 50 states. NAIV formed as a result of a request by Senators Akaka, Inouye, and Nighthorse-Campbell during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in 2004.

“There are many congressionally chartered veterans service organizations, but none that solely represent the interests and needs of Native American veterans,” Rounds said. “Our bill would change that by recognizing the mission and authority of the National American Indian Veterans, Inc. (NAIV) with a congressional charter. NAIV works closely with Tribal Veterans Services Officers to make certain the Native veterans receive proper benefits and resources. Congress regularly looks to NAIV for input when addressing issues facing Native veterans. This charter will help give NAIV a larger platform to continue advocating for and serving the more than 140,000 Native 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. 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,” said Luján. “As a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I’ll continue fighting to fulfill the commitment our nation made to Native veterans.”

“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.”

“This Federal Charter is something that I have been working on for several years and it is long overdue,” said Ken Teunissen, Vice Chair of the South Dakota Veterans Council and the Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Region III. “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.”

A congressional charter is a law passed by Congress that recognizes the mission and authority of a group or organization. The NAIV serves the needs and interests of Native veterans in collaboration with its national leadership and 14 regional offices throughout the state. According to the VA, in 2020 there are more than 140,000 Native 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 veterans’ organization has received a Congressional Charter.

Additional original cosponsors include U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)

Full bill text can be found here.