South Dakota lawmakers support tribal military veterans

A congressional charter would be created for the nonprofit, nonpartisan National American Indian Veterans (NAIV) organization under a bipartisan, bicameral bill backed by U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and John Thune (R-SD), as well as U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD).

“Native Americans serve in our nation’s military at five times the national average, and this charter would give them the recognition they truly deserve and have earned,” Sen. Rounds said. 

Sen. Rounds on May 11 sponsored the National American Indian Veterans Charter Act, S. 1554, alongside 35 original cosponsors, including Sen. Thune and U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM). Rep. Johnson on the same day sponsored the same-named H.R. 3235, with four original cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Sharice Davids (D-KS).

“Native American veterans have served our state and our country with the highest honor in the U.S. military,” said Sen. Thune. “I am glad to join Sen. Rounds in reintroducing this resolution that would give a voice to the unique needs and priorities of Native American veterans.”

Sen. Rounds also pointed out that there are many congressionally chartered veterans organizations, but none that solely represent the interests and needs of Native American veterans. “Our bill would change that by recognizing the mission of the NAIV with a congressional charter,” he said.

In fact, Rep. Johnson said that Polish American, Italian American, Jewish, and Black veterans’ groups all have established congressional charters, “yet no congressional charters have been designated for Native veterans’ organizations. Establishing federal recognition for NAIV is the right thing to do.”

The NAIV serves 140,000 Native American military veterans in collaboration with its national leadership and 14 regional offices, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“The NAIV works closely with Tribal Veterans Service Officers to make certain Native American veterans receive proper benefits and resources. Congress regularly looks to the NAIV for input when addressing issues facing Native American veterans,” added Sen. Rounds. “This charter will help give the NAIV a larger platform to continue advocating for and serving the more than 140,000 Native American veterans living in the United States.”

The legislation has been endorsed by numerous Native American tribes and nations, as well as the Coalition of Large Tribes, the National Congress of American Indians, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Korean War Veterans of America, the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Gold Star Mothers, and Jewish War Veterans of the USA, among many others.