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NCAI: Inouye ‘A Distinguished Warrior;’ and Other Reactions From Indian Country

Following the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), leaders and members of Indian country reflect upon the leadership the senator maintained.
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One of Indian country’s most reliable allies in the Senate walked on December 17, and as news of Sen. Daniel Inouye’s (D-Hawaii) passing spread across Turtle Island many shared their thoughts on the impact the decorated World War II veteran had on Native communities.

Some of those comments are below:

The National Congress of American Indians – “Senator Inouye was one of the most honorable and courageous man modern Indian country has known. He was a distinguished warrior, and he served his country and people with dignity and a strong sense of advocacy. As a member and chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs he championed the rights of Native peoples, and we will always remember him for holding the line on numerous issues critical to cultural protection and tribal sovereignty. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time. This country has lost a true patriot and statesman.

“In the words of our Native Hawaiian brothers and sisters we say Mahalo nui loa for his service and commitment and will forever remember this son of Hawaii as a great leader.”

Ben Shelly, president Navajo Nation – “On behalf of my wife Martha Shelly, Navajo Vice President Rex Lee Jim, and the Navajo people, I send my deepest condolences to the family of Sen. Daniel Inouye.

“We are saddened by the loss of a true American hero who served the country and state of Hawaii with honor and dignity. Sen. Inouye was strong, proud, a patriotic leader, and a champion for Indian country. Introducing numerous pieces of legislation throughout his career in the Senate, he was a warrior, and a forceful advocate to advance Native American issues.

“In 1987, Sen. Inouye, along with Sen. Pete Domenici, organized an economic summit on the Navajo Nation bringing together leaders in politics and industry, including Oleg Cassini, to develop a strategic, long-term economic plan. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Sen. Inouye worked to fund Navajo projects and advocated fiercely for federal Indian programs, veterans, and the Navajo Code Talkers.

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“Sen. Inouye was a gentleman who could work with his colleagues regardless of their political affiliation to move this country forward. He was a joy to work with and to be around. It was an honor to know him as a man, personally. He will be missed.”

David Roosevelt, Chairman Cabazon Band of Mission Indians – "When there is a passing of such a citizen, who has been at the forefront of military and political campaigns, and he retains such a humble demeanor, you stand in awe and in honor of such a citizen and special human being. His memory will be sealed with respect and pride by our people and our country. Our thank you is extended to his family and we wish peace to them."

Brian Patterson, Oneida Indian Nation, president of United South and Eastern Tribes – “I think if a man could exemplify my constant refrain that relationships are paramount and everything else is derivative, I would point to Sen. Inouye. He’s a man who really understood the concepts of the importance of relationships and not only of those he represented and the lives he touched within Indian country, but also he really understood that concept in advancing the concerns of Native Hawaiians as well as all Americans. So it’s truly a sad day for Indian country. We lost, first and foremost, a friend.

“Sen. Inouye drew positive lessons from his life experiences, even his difficult lessons. We know that he was a hero, his actions were heroic. He valued every person without regard to race, color or creed. Any time I interacted with him he always took the time to express concern and express regard no matter what the issues. As far as Native Americans, he literally ushered in a new era of tribal relations with Congress and was forever one of Indian country’s staunchest allies.

“I met Sen. Inouye in his office in 1993 when we delivered to him a two-row wampum belt and I still have that picture in my office. Why is that important to reflect? It’s in this regard: treaties. Sen. Inouye I know read the treaties and he understood the commitment the United States made to its Indigenous Peoples and he lived his personal and political life accordingly. I can’t tell you how many times I’d see him and his wife and family out in Indian country for a particular event. On a personal level, he visited many reservations and became a friend of Indian people throughout the country. On a political level, he chaired the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and constantly fought for the advancement of our tribal rights and urged tribal leaders to demand more from the federal government to fulfill those rights. His great opening remarks (at national speeches), “Honorable clan mothers, honorable chiefs, esteemed leaders of your great nations,” will always touch my heart. He pursued justice for all Americans. He will be sorely missed.

“Our USET family offers a warm safe Aloha to his family and prays for many blessings on his journal to the spirit world.”

Tony Foster, chairman Quileute Tribal Council – “Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of Senator Daniel Inouye. Senator Inouye was a strong and wise man, whose love of his native homeland was at the forefront of all of his endeavors. He was a warrior for all tribes and stood firm in supporting their rights as sovereign nations. We will forever honor his life and his legacy."