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Indian Affairs hearing on Reclaiming Our Image and Identity for the Next Seven Generations

Statement of Chairman Daniel K. Akaka

Thu, November 29, 2012

Aloha, and thank you for being with us today for the Committee's oversight hearing on Reclaiming Our Image and Identity for the Next Seven Generations.

Over the past few decades, November has been a time to recognize and honor the contributions Indigenous peoples have made to the United States.  At the federal level, what began as a day to honor Native peoples grew into a week and now is the entire month of November.  President George H.W. Bush declared 1992 the "Year of the American Indian."

But for Native peoples, every day is Native Heritage Day, every month is Native Heritage Month, and every year is the Year of the American Indian.  Tribes celebrate their vibrant cultures with centuries old ceremonies, feasts, powwows, and other celebrations throughout the entire year.  Native languages are spoken, traditional foods are eaten, songs and dances are shared, and most importantly, these traditions are passed on to the next generation.

The month of November provides Native peoples the opportunity to educate by sharing their history and culture with a larger audience.  Many times this begins with breaking down the harmful stereotypes of Native peoples perpetuated in many movies, television shows, and by native-themed mascots. 

Through continuous outreach and education, we will continue reclaiming our image and identity.  Indian country is privileged to have countless ambassadors, past and present, and many who are here today to shine a positive light on Native cultures and identity. 

As we tell our stories, more people learn about our contributions to government, the military, science, sports, and many other fields.

As we tell our stories, people learn about how the Iroquois Confederacy influenced the Founding Fathers in drafting the United States Constitution with the concepts of freedom of speech, separation of powers, and checks and balances.  

As we tell our stories, people learn about the contributions Natives have made to the United States Armed Forces, including the work of the Code Talkers in World War I and World War II. 

As we tell our stories, people learn about our contributions to science including the work of Mary Golda Ross, the first Native American female engineer and one of the most prominent scientists of the space age.

As we tell our stories, people learn about the Big Kahuna, Duke Kahanamoku, a Native Hawaiian who is a five time Olympic medalist in swimming and a member of the Surfing Hall of Fame.  And Chris Wondolowski from the Kiowa Tribe who became the Most Valuable Player of Major League Soccer today.

Though I am retiring soon, I know Indian country is in good hands because of the leaders here today, the hundreds that have participated in the Committee's events over the last two years, and many more that are doing tireless work in their communities.

Throughout my time in Congress I've had the opportunity to witness the beauty of traditional native dances, hear the uniqueness of our Native languages, and see the capabilities of tribal governments.  It has been a pleasure that I will forever cherish.

In closing, Native Hawaiians don't say goodbye, we say a hui hou.  Until we meet again.  To everyone here today - I extend my heartfelt blessings to you, your families, and to the United States of America.  It is with much aloha that I say to you now - a hui hou.


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