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Native American veterans memorial gets legislative push

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced legislation Thursday to reauthorize the construction of a Native American veterans memorial on the Mall. A quirk of the original legislation, passed in 1994, allowed for the construction of the memorial but did not allow the National Museum of the American Indian to raise funds — a predicament for a memorial required to be built with private funds on the museum’s property. The new legislation allows the Smithsonian Institution to engage in fundraising and removes the responsibility from the National Congress of American Indians, a nonprofit organization originally tasked with finding resources. The legislation was first proposed by the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

“American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians served in all of the American wars since the Revolutionary War,” Schatz said during a media call. “It is critical that we recognize their bravery and patriotism with a fitting memorial.”

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz speaks at a news conference accepting an endorsement from the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers union in Honolulu on Friday, May 3, 2013. Schatz introduced legislation Thursday to reauthorize the construction of a Native American veterans memorial on the Mall. (Oskar Garcia/AP)

Advocates noted that veterans memorials on the Mall do not recognize the contributions of Native Americans in American wars. Robert Holden, director of the National Congress of American Indians, said that while the Three Servicemen Statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial represents Caucasian, African American and Hispanic service members, it excludes Native Americans, and does not fully depict their contributions.

Planning for the size and scope of the memorial will begin if the legislation passes. The memorial would be on museum property, but the exact location has not been determined.

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