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Rounds-led legislation could charter Native veterans organization

Sen. Rounds during a Senate committee meeting
Sen. Rounds during a Senate committee meeting

South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds has introduced bipartisan legislation to establish a Congressional charter for the National American Indian Veterans group.

It’s the third year Rounds and New Mexico Democratic co-sponsor Ben Ray Lujan have submitted the legislation.

Support for the proposal has increased within the Senate since it was last introduced, according to Rounds. He said he feels good about its chances in this Congress.

“Last year we were able to have nine original co-sponsors," Rounds said. "This year we have 34 original co-sponsors including myself, so I think we’re moving in the right direction. The reason we have those other co-sponsors is because Native Americans across the country are notifying their senators and asking them to get on this bill with us.”

Rounds said it’s about putting Native veterans on equal footing with their peers.

"There are about 140,000 Native American veterans in the United States today - they do not have a Congressional charter for their organization," Rounds said. "We have other Congressional charters that have been granted in the past, we have the Italian American, the Polish American and Catholic American veteran groups, but we don’t have a Native American veterans’ organization that has received a Congressional charter yet.”

But D.C. isn’t the only place the proposal has support.

“Not only do all of the tribes of South Dakota offer their support for this legislation, but the Coalition of Large Tribes also supports this endeavor," Rounds said.

The bill would need to pass both the Senate and House and be signed by President Biden before a charter can be established.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture