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May 14, 2014

Symposium "Looking to the Future: The Life and Legacy of Senator Daniel K. Inouye" Honors a Champion of American Indian Rights and Sovereignty

The Honorable Senator Daniel K. Inouye. Official portrait, 2008. Courtesy of the U.S. Senate

You don't have to be a student of history to know that Washington, D.C., can have short, selective memory. So it's hardly too soon to take a day to remember the remarkable contributions of the Honorable Senator Daniel Inouye (1924–2012) and to talk about how to continue his work on behalf of Native peoples.

On Thursday, May 15, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is hosting the symposium "Looking to the Future: The Life and Legacy of Senator Daniel K. Inouye." Speakers include John Echohawk, director of the Native American Rights Fund; Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives; and Lionel Bordeaux, president of Sinte Gleska University. The symposium will be webcast live. The complete program and symposium presenters, and a longer biography of Sen. Inouye are available online. To read more about Sen. Inouye's relationship to the National Museum of the American Indian, see "A Warrior Chief among Warriors: Remembering U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye" by Liz Hill (Red Lake Ojibwe), from the Spring 2014 issue of American Indian Magazine.

Daniel Inouye served in the U.S. Congress continuously since Hawaiian achieved statehood in 1959, as congressman from 1959 to 1962, and as senator from 1963 until his death. Throughout his career, he championed the interests of Hawai‘i’s people. He left a lasting imprint on his home state through his efforts to strengthen Hawai‘is infrastructure, diversify its economy, and protect its natural resources. 

The signing of the memorandum of understanding transferring the superb collections of the Museum of American Indian, Heye Foundation (MAI), in New York to the Smithsonian Institution. From left to right: Suzan Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee), member of board of trustees, MAI; Roland Force, director MAI; Senator Daniel K. Inouye, chief supporter of legislation to create the National Museum of the American Indian; and Robert McCormick Adams, ninth secretary of the Smithsonian. WAshington, D.C., May 8, 1989. Photo by Laurie Minor-Penland, Smithsonian Institution 

For 35 years, Senator Inouye also served on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, assuming the chairmanship of the committee in 1987, later serving as vice chairman, and securing the committee’s status as a permanent standing committee of the Senate. During his tenure he helped pass landmark legislation affecting almost every aspect of life in Native America, including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act, the Native Hawaiian Education Act, the National Museum of the American Indian Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Native American Languages Act, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act, and scores of Indian water rights and land claim settlement acts, as well as reauthorizations of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Native American Programs Act, the Indian Education Act, the Indian Finance Act, the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act, Indian provisions of the Energy Security Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, and appropriations for Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian programs. 

For all of these accomplishments and for his sincere dedication to the values of Indian country, the preservation of Native culture and religious freedom, and his genuine respect for the indigenous people of America, the senator is revered throughout Native America. 

The symposium webcast will be archived on the National Museum of the American Indian YouTube channel. We'll post that link as soon as it becomes available. 


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