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Ben Nighthorse Campbell: Making our homeland safe and secure for all Americans

From many, one. "E pluribus unum." It has never been more true than now as the Senate considers legislation to establish the Department of Homeland Security and to enhance our national capacity to prevent the kind of terror that threatens us all because we are Americans. Make no mistake: whether you are a single mom in an urban area or a family living out in a rural area, you are potentially targeted because you are American.

To help head off terror threats that may come across our national borders and to prevent sabotage and destruction to assets and infrastructure across the country, the new department will seek to coordinate with states and local governments in all facets of our new national mission.

The new department's mandate will be multi-faceted and complex: promoting homeland security, preventing domestic terrorism, reducing the vulnerability of our national assets, and mitigating the effects of terror should they take place. Like many in Congress, I believe this effort should be aided by every resource at our collective disposal, including those of Indian tribes, tribal law enforcement agencies, and tribal health care systems.

Like states and local governments, Indian tribes have a vital role to play in terms of law enforcement, emergency response, border control, and infrastructure protection. I think most agree that if tribes are not part of the fabric of our national security structure, a significant hole would be left in our nation's security plan.

From Valley Forge to Afghanistan, Native people have heeded the call to serve and defend our country and way of life in numbers greater than any other group. Here at home, Native people stand ready again to answer the call of duty and help protect America and our way of life.

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Americans were captivated last summer by the true story of the Navajo Code Talkers through the release of the motion picture "Windtalkers." Just as these brave Navajo men provided a unique and decisive contribution to the American effort to defeat the Japanese Empire in the Pacific Theater in World War II, tribal participation can and will yield similar results on the home front.

Many people do not know just how important it is to have tribal involvement. The threat of terrorists entering the United States is still with us. There are more than two dozen Indian tribes with hundreds of miles of lands adjacent to our borders with Mexico and Canada. Just last week national newspapers ran stories of serious border incursions by criminal elements across the lands of the Tohono O'odham Tribe in southern Arizona.

In addition to border issues, many tribal lands have assets such as dams, reservoirs, electrical generation plants, waste systems, and other physical infrastructure. If these assets were sabotaged or disrupted the health and lives of nearby residents ? Indian and non-Indian ? would be threatened.

Native people are Americans first ? and want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of their countrymen in defending American lives and homelands and the threats now before us. If they are given that opportunity and included in the homeland security legislation now pending, we will be a safer, more secure America.

Now is the time for Americans ? all Americans ? to come together as one people and do the job we need to do.

Among other key committee assignments, Sen. Campbell, R-Colo., is the vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; and is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.