Laurel Leader-Call

Congressional charter boosts advocacy for Native American veterans

Miss. Band of Choctaws chief lauds legislation

May 29, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mississippi Republican U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith have cosponsored legislation to grant the first 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. 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.”

Hyde-Smith added, “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.”

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Cyrus Ben said that NAIV is needed — and overdue.

“As this country’s first people, Native Americans hold great pride in serving in the United States military,” he said. “American Indians and Alaskan natives serve at five times the national average, and this bill ... is long-overdue.”

Ben commended Wicker and Hyde-Smith for co-sponsoring the 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.”

U.S. Sens. 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.