Native American Veterans’ Memorial amendments get hearing
Staff Reports Claremore Progress
The Native American Veterans’ Memorial Amendments Act, H.R. 2319, received a hearing Tuesday in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs.
A Cherokee and member of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs, Congressman Markwayne Mullin introduced the legislation.
“As a Cherokee and the grandson of a World War II veteran, I was proud to have the opportunity today to talk about the contributions of Native Americans,” said Mullin. “I tell people all of the time that the Cherokee Nation are a proud people. As Americans, we have an obligation to serve this country and take pride in being Americans.”
The legislation would amend the Native American Veterans’ Memorial Establishment Act of 1994 to allow the National Museum of the American Indian to construct a memorial to Native American veterans on the museum’s grounds. Current law authorizes the memorial inside the confines of the museum but it is widely agreed that there is insufficient space within the facility to construct a proper tribute to our Native American veterans.
The bipartisan bill also allows the museum to raise money for the memorial, which cannot be paid for with taxpayer funds. U.S. Rep. Cole (OK-4), a Chickasaw, is one of the 14 cosponsors of the legislation.
During the subcommittee hearing, Mullin introduced Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden. Crittenden is a Vietnam Veteran and served in the U.S. Navy. Deputy Chief Crittenden’s family has a long service of military service, including a great uncle who served in World War I and an uncle who served in the Korean War. Deputy Chief Crittenden’s father served during World War II.
Mullin asked Deputy Chief Crittenden about the rate of service by Native Americans and what Crittenden learned during his own time in the service about other Cherokee Nation members or the service of other Native American men and women.
“The Native American Veterans’ Memorial is important because Native Americans serve at a higher rate than any other racial group in this country, and we serve in the Navy more than any other branch,” Crittenden told the subcommittee. “Throughout the centuries, many fine young Native men and women have served. To all of them, through the generations, we owe a debt of gratitude.”
Crittenden testified that the Cherokee Nation has invested $1.6 million in building its own Veterans Center and set aside time each month during Tribal Council to honor three men or women with a Warrior Award.
“Recently, upon receiving this award, a veteran told me it has been 44 years since he had served,” Crittenden said. “No one outside his family had thanked him. Honoring and taking care of the very people who keep us free is our way of showing appreciation where it is deserved.”
Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) thanked Mullin for introducing the legislation and told the subcommittee the legislation will provide a broader avenue of fundraising sources for the memorial and allow the NCAI and the National Museum of the American Indian to partner together to make the memorial a reality.