On December 17 at age 88, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the second longest serving member of the Senate, walked on. In honor of the life of nine-term senator since January 1963, the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) issued the following statement yesterday:
"With a heavy heart, we thank Sen. Inouye for his contributions to Indian country and deeply mourn his passing," said Barry Brandon, executive director of NAFSA. "He was a vigilant advocate for the rights most important to our tribal communities and a giant in Indian country in many regards. Generations to come will look to Sen. Inouye as one of the great leaders of the Senate and one of the best friends that Indian country has ever seen."
Since 1978, Inouye has been a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and an active participant on the issues most important to Indian country. He served as Chairman of the Committee from 1987-1994. Beginning in 1994, the senator served as vice-chairman until June 2001, when he once again assumed the Chairmanship. While a senior member of the Committee, he was a strong advocate for furthering the United States' government-to-government relationship with the sovereign governments that represent America's native communities.
In the 100th Congress, under Inouye's leadership, the Indian Affairs Committee held more hearings and reported more legislation to the full Senate than any other Senate committee. Under his steady leadership, landmark legislation was guided through the upper chamber, including the reauthorizations of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, the Indian Education Act, the Native American Languages Act, and the Native American Programs Act. Additionally, he oversaw the enactment of the Indian Finance Act, the Indian Land Consolidation Act, the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act, the National Museum of the American Indian Act, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act, the Native Hawaiian Education Act, the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act, and scores of Indian water rights and land claims settlement laws.
Inouye was born on September 7, 1924, in Honolulu, Hawaii to Japanese immigrants. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, Inouye was elected to the House and was elected to the Senate three years later. Inouye will be proudly remembered as the man distinguishable for serving in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated entity of Japanese Americans, during World War II. Inouye earned a total of sixteen medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.
The Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) formed in 2012 to advocate for Native American sovereign rights and enable tribes to offer responsible online lending products. Through the protection of consumer rights and sovereign immunity, NAFSA provides vital services to tribally operated lenders serving the under-banked with better short term financial services, furthering economic development opportunities in Indian Country.