WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., have cosponsored legislation to grant the first-ever congressional charter to an American Indian group to represent the interests of Native American veterans.
The bipartisan National American Indian Veterans Charter Act (S.1554) would create a congressional charter for the National American Indian Veterans (NAIV). A charter would give NAIV a stronger base to advocate for benefits and resources for the more than 140,000 Native American veterans in the United States, including members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
“Our Native American veterans have earned our gratitude for their sacrifice and service in our Armed Forces,” Wicker said. “This long-overdue charter would help focus Congressional efforts to get these heroes the support they deserve.”
“Native Americans have a long history of serving bravely in our Armed Services. A congressional charter would not only recognize their patriotism, but also give them new avenues for working with Congress and policymakers to secure the support needed by Native veterans,” Hyde-Smith said.
“As this country’s first people, Native Americans hold great pride in serving in the United States Military. American Indians and Alaskan Natives serve at five times the national average, and this bill to grant a federal charter to the National American Indian Veterans (NAIV) is long-overdue. I would like to commend Senator Roger Wicker and Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith for co-sponsoring this bill and recognizing how important it is to honor the sacrifices and achievements of Choctaw veterans and Native veterans across the country. On behalf of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and our distinguished Choctaw veterans, I am proud to endorse this legislation,” said Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Cyrus Ben.
A non-profit, non-partisan organization established in 2004, the NAIV serves the interests and needs of Native veterans in all 50 states. It provides charitable, literary, educational, scientific, patriotic, and civil improvement to Native American Veterans whose unique needs are not represented adequately by other organizations.
Congress has previously granted congressional charters to Italian-American, Polish-American and Catholic-American veterans’ groups, but no Native American veterans’ organization has received one.
U.S. Senators Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., introduced S.1554, which has been endorsed by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Korean War Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Gold Star Mothers, scores of Native American tribes, and veterans’ organizations. Wicker and Hyde-Smith are among 37 cosponsors.