Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye was being remembered Tuesday as a World War II combat veteran, as the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and as the highest-ranking Asian American politician in U.S. history.
But the Native American community is remembering the 88-year-old Inouye as the longtime chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
The National Congress of American Indians issued a statement:
Senator Inouye was one of the most honorable and courageous men modern Indian Country has known. … 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.
A list of the Native American legislation passed under his watch, from Indianz.com:
During Inouye's leadership, a slew of significant Indian bills became law. They included the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1987, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, the Tribal Self Governance Act of 1994, the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994, the Native American Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment of 2001, the Indian Financing Act of 2002 and the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2002. He also helped pass numerous bills that benefited individual tribes.
Inouye also was behind the Native American Languages Act of 1990, which focused on language preservation. That action ushered in an era of bilingual education, particularly in the tribal lands of the Southwest.
Inouye joined Congress as Hawaii's Representative in 1959, and joined the U.S. Senate in 1963. He died of respiratory complications Monday at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. According to his office, his final word was "aloha."