Tester Aims to Fight Homelessness Among Native Veterans

 A homeless veteran who declined to be identified speaks with an outreach worker, not pictured, under an overpass during a winter storm in Philadelphia, Wednesday, January 26, 2011.

A homeless veteran who declined to be identified speaks with an outreach worker, not pictured, under an overpass during a winter storm in Philadelphia, Wednesday, January 26, 2011.

 

Source: Jon Tester’s Office Release

 

Senator Jon Tester is helping to launch a new initiative to fight homelessness among Native American veterans.

Native Americans volunteer for America’s military at some of the highest rates in the nation, but Indian veterans often struggle to get the support services they earn – including safe, affordable housing.

Tester, Montana’s only member of both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Indian Affairs Committees, is working to change that by helping to add a provision to a funding bill that calls for new initiative to reduce homelessness on tribal lands.

Tester’s initiative would make HUD-VASH funds – which help veterans find housing arrangements where they also are able to receive additional resources to address the root causes of homelessness – available to Native Americans living on tribal lands. It is estimated that at least 2,000 veterans served by VA homeless programs live on tribal lands.

“Native Americans are some of this nation’s most dedicated military men and women, and they shouldn’t have to struggle with homelessness when their service is over,” Tester said. “This initiative will help more veterans get a roof over their heads and the support they need to get back on their feet and contribute to our communities.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides the housing vouchers through the HUD-VASH program and works with local housing and support groups to provide eligible homeless veterans with services that aid recovery from physical and mental health conditions resulting from homelessness. However, tribally-designated housing entities are currently ineligible to receive and administer these vouchers.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Tester pushed for HUD-VASH funds to be made available to tribal housing authorities to assist Native American veterans in securing safe, reliable housing. The committee is responsible for funding the federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Tester became the Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee earlier this year. Since then, he has held hearings on Indian health, tribal transportation, Indian education, energy development, and trust lands.

The funding bill, which passed the Appropriations Committee recently, will next be considered by the full Senate.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/06/11/tester-aims-fight-homelessness-among-native-veterans-155242

Cherokee veterans gain care options

New agreement links tribal service to VA health system

By Anita Reding, Muskogee Phoenix Staff Writer

Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., left, and Principal Chief Bill John Baker sign the reimbursement agreement Friday. Next to Baker is James Floyd, the director of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center. Watching from behind are Gayla Stewart, left, the victim witness coordinator for the regional U.S. Attorney’s Office; Dr. Ricky Robinson, the director of the Cherokee Veterans Center; Vickie Hanvey, the Cherokee Nation self-governance administrator; Jacque Secondine Hensley, the Native American liaison for Gov. Mary Fallin; Connie Davis, the executive director of Cherokee Nation Health Services; Tribal Council Speaker Tina Glory-Jordan; Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden; and John Alley and Bunner Gray, Indian health liaisons for the VA center.

Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., left, and Principal Chief Bill John Baker sign the reimbursement agreement Friday. Next to Baker is James Floyd, the director of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center. Watching from behind are Gayla Stewart, left, the victim witness coordinator for the regional U.S. Attorney’s Office; Dr. Ricky Robinson, the director of the Cherokee Veterans Center; Vickie Hanvey, the Cherokee Nation self-governance administrator; Jacque Secondine Hensley, the Native American liaison for Gov. Mary Fallin; Connie Davis, the executive director of Cherokee Nation Health Services; Tribal Council Speaker Tina Glory-Jordan; Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden; and John Alley and Bunner Gray, Indian health liaisons for the VA center.

TAHLEQUAH — Veterans who are members of the Cherokee Nation can now choose from several locations to receive health care.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker signed a reimbursement agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday.

The Cherokee Nation is one of several tribes that have contracts with the VA, said James Floyd, director of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee.

The contract allows the tribe to be reimbursed by the VA for services rendered to Native American veterans using Cherokee Nation health centers for primary care. The contract also allows the Cherokee Nation and the VA to share patient information and charts. The VA will provide medication for veterans.

Now that the contract has been signed with the Cherokee Nation, veterans’ care can be tied to the VA system, Floyd said.

The contract will make it possible for veterans with the Cherokee Nation to receive vital services and not have to travel as far as they have been, said Baker.

“I think it’s a win, win, win for the veterans, for the Cherokee Nation and for the VA hospital,” Baker said.

The agreement with the Cherokee Nation provides health care at W.W. Hastings Hospital and eight clinics. The Cherokee Nation also is planning to build a hospital in Bartlesville, Baker said.

The initial users who can benefit from the contract total 4,500, and that number could easily increase by 1,000, Floyd said.

There are 37,000 users at the Muskogee medical center, and Native Americans are the second highest population group, he said.

“This helps us to grow as a system and to grow from within the tribe as well,” Floyd said.

Some veterans who are members of the Cherokee Nation have not used services at the VA, and this offers them an opportunity to be a part of the VA, he said.

“We are excited to partner with the Cherokee Nation in providing health care to our American Indian veterans,” Floyd said. “This agreement will allow for better coordination of care, allows tribes and IHS (Indian Health Service) to expand care for their users, shortens wait times for medical care and increases access at VA facilities for all veterans.”

Debra Wilson of Briggs is a member of an advisory committee with the VA. Many Native American veterans will be more comfortable receiving medical care at Cherokee Nation facilities, she said.

“This is something we have looked forward to for a really long time,” said Wilson, one of several veterans who witnessed the signing of the agreement.

Don Stroud of Tahlequah said he uses the Cherokee Nation Health System, and the funding that will be provided by the contract will benefit the veterans initially, “but it’s also going to impact the care that’s available for all the patients in the health system.”

“The less money spent on us, the more money available to treat that next little kid that comes in and needs the care, or the next one of our elders that comes in and needs some medication,” he said.

The funds will be there to help them because another source of funding will be available, which will equal things out, he said.

Event honors role of Native Americans in war

Times Daily
Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 1:00 am

 

By Bobby Bozeman, Staff Writer

War history and the American South often lead to thoughts of gray and blue uniforms and the brother versus brother imagery of the Civil War.

Native Americans representing a variety of tribes will provide educational insight into their participation in the War of 1812 during a three-day event at Natchez Trace Parkway. Photo: Times Daily

Native Americans representing a variety of tribes will provide educational insight into their participation in the War of 1812 during a three-day event at Natchez Trace Parkway. Photo: Times Daily

But war in the South was more than just Confederates fighting Union forces. The British Empire also fought United States forces in the South in the War of 1812. Those skirmishes often involved Native American tribes.

Susanne Hamlin, executive director of Colbert County Tourism, said the role of Native Americans in the War of 1812 will be commemorated Thursday through Saturday at Colbert Ferry Park on the Natchez Trace Parkway, north of Cherokee.

The Trace was one of the key supply lines during fighting in the South.

“We’re really excited about it,” Hamlin said. “It’s the bicentennial of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which started last year.”

Hamlin said about 1,000 students will take part in the living history events Thursday and Friday. The event will be open to the public Saturday.

“There will be stations where everyone who attends will be able to see the various American Indian tribes,” Hamlin said. “They will be portraying the chieftans and telling how they worked with or against Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812.”

Hamlin said the event will be a learning opportunity for adults and students who didn’t realize Alabama had an involvement in the War of 1812.

“Most people don’t realize that since we weren’t a state, we had much involvement,” she said. “Andrew Jackson traveled down the Trace where American Indians were located.”

On Saturday, vendors will display and sell handmade arts and crafts from that period. Food vendors will be on hand, with several serving traditional period food.

At 7 p.m. Friday, a banquet will feature representatives of the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw nations at the Round House at the Tuscumbia Depot in Tuscumbia.

Tickets to the banquet are $20 and available at Colbert County Tourism office and Cold Water Books, both in Tuscumbia, and the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism office in Florence.

“This is the first time we’ve had an opportunity to do this on a site as close as possible to where it would have happened,” Hamlin said.

Bobby Bozeman can be reached at 256-740-5722 or bobby.bozeman@TimesDaily.com. Follow on Twitter@TD_ BobbyBozeman.

Want to Go?

What: Native Americans Role in War of 1812 commemoration

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Colbert Ferry on the Natchez Trace Parkway, mile marker 327.3.

Cost: Free

Details: 256-383-0783 or colbertcountytourism.com

AZ lawmaker: Designate highways to honor Native American vets

Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron, wants to add designations to four northern Arizona highways honoring Native American veterans. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Arianna Grainey)

Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron, wants to add designations to four northern Arizona highways honoring Native American veterans. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Arianna Grainey)

Arizona, Navajo Nation, highways, Jamescita Peshlakai, U.S.89, U.S.160, SR264, I-40

By: Jordan Young, Cronkite News Service March 27, 2014

As a member of the Navajo Nation and an Army veteran, a state representative says Arizona needs to do more to honor Native Americans who have served and sacrificed for their country.

Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron, said one way to start would be adopting new names honoring Native American veterans for portions of highways that pass through Navajo and Hopi land in northeastern Arizona. They are U.S. 89, U.S. 160, State Route 264 and Interstate 40.

She said the designations would help connect tribes and the rest of the state.

“It really creates a live, real awareness of people that travel those roads when they’re there immediately,” she said. “It’s not just in a textbook, it’s just not a number, 89, 160, 264. It’s not just a number, it becomes a real life place. It becomes what it is, which is Native American country.”

She introduced four memorials this year that would urge the Arizona Department of Transportation to make these changes: for U.S. 89, Native American Veterans Highway; for U.S. 160, Native American Women Veterans Highway; for State Route 264, Native American Code Talker Highway; and for I-40, Navajo Code Talker Trail.

While the measures weren’t heard in committee, Peshlakai said she will urge U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff, to work in Congress to have I-40 between the New Mexico state line and Flagstaff designated as Navajo Code Talker Trail.

Jennifer Johnson, communications director for Kirkpatrick, said that while she couldn’t comment on Peshlakai’s proposal to the state Legislature the congresswoman supports efforts to honor Native American veterans.

“Native Americans have served our country in a higher proportion than any other group. So there’s more Native Americans, percentage-wise, than any other group or subset that you could slice out,” Johnson said.

In 2003, Gov. Janet Napolitano signed legislation to designate I-40 through Arizona as Purple Heart Trail. Peshlakai said doesn’t intend to appear disrespectful to that designation by taking the issue to Kirkpatrick.

“It might just be a small strip between Winslow and Flagstaff, but I just don’t know. I would have to really talk with her,” Peshlakai said.

Terry Hill, a retired Army command sergeant major who serves as committeeman for the Show Low-based White Mountain Area Veterans of Foreign Wars, said that while he would love to see Native American veterans honored he wouldn’t want the designation Purple Heart Trail removed from any stretch of I-40.

“Somebody would have to really talk to me and give me a good argument for the VFW to support it,” he said.

Hill said designating part of the road as both Navajo Code Talker Trail and Purple Heart Trail might be acceptable.

In a statement shared by a spokesman, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly noted that New Mexico’s Route 264 is already called Navajo Code Talker Highway.

“I do support all veterans, men and women because I have veterans in my family,” he said.

Rick Abasta, the Navajo Nation’s communications director, said he believes Shelly would support renaming part of I-40.

“He’s definitely a major supporter and stands behind the Navajo Code Talkers,” Abasta said. “Anything that would honor them in that way would certainly be a blessing.”

Proposed:

• Navajo Code Talker Trail: Interstate 40 New Mexico and Flagstaff.

• Native American Veterans Highway: U.S. 89 between Utah and Flagstaff.

• Native American Women Veterans Highway: U.S. 160 between New Mexico and U.S. 89.

• Native American Code Talker Highway: State Route 264 between Tuba City and Window Rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alaska Senate committee supports Native American veterans memorial

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. will be the site of an American Indian Veterans Memorial. A resolution supporting the memorial cleared an Alaska Senate committee on Tuesday. (Photo by cayusa/Flickr Creative Commons)

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. will be the site of an American Indian Veterans Memorial. A resolution supporting the memorial cleared an Alaska Senate committee on Tuesday. (Photo by cayusa/Flickr Creative Commons)

By Casey Kelly, KTOO News

The Alaska Legislature could join the chorus of voices calling for an American Indian Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. An Alaska Senate committee on Tuesday passed a resolution supporting the project.

Native Americans have fought in every United States military conflict since the Revolutionary War, and have some of the highest per capita service rates of any ethnic group.

Since Alaska became a U.S. territory and later a state, Alaska Natives have served their country as well. During World War II, the Alaska Territorial Guard included more than 6,000 volunteer soldiers from more than 100 communities.

“American Indians have established a long and distinguished legacy of military service,” said Kalyssa Maile, an intern in the office of Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage. ”Senate Joint Resolution 19 affirms the Alaska Legislature’s support of Alaska Native and Native American veterans, and recognizes their great sacrifices for our country.”

Wielechowski sponsored SJR19, approved Tuesday by the Senate State Affairs Committee. He said the American Indian Veterans Memorial is supported by the Alaska Federation of Natives, the National Congress of American Indians and Vietnam Veterans of America, among other groups.

“There were several people that came up from Florida to attend AFN and push for this resolution,” Wielechowski said. “I attended the Vietnam Veterans of America national conference in Florida last year and they were there. I spoke with people there. They were urging us to do this as well.”

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 19, which supports construction of an American Indian Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 19, which supports construction of an American Indian Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Congress approved the Native American Veterans’ Memorial Act in 1994, but the project didn’t go anywhere. Stephen Bowers, a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and a Vietnam veteran, started lobbying Native American groups to support the memorial in 2011. Bowers says it’s long overdue.

“It’ll mean that finally someone is recognizing the fact that the American Indians fought for this country and against the European invaders back since 1492,” he said.

While Bowers says many supporters want the memorial to be built near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, President Obama late last year signed legislation to place it at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, two miles away. Bowers says the location isn’t as important as getting a memorial concept approved, a process he says will take several years.

“When they built the National Mall, they didn’t make it easy for organizations or for anyone to put a statue or a memorial on the mall,” said Bowers.

He expects the National Museum of the American Indian to sponsor a contest and form a committee to shepherd the project through the design phase.

Senate Joint Resolution 19 now heads to a vote on the floor of the Alaska Senate.

The Washington Redskins Had An Incredibly Awkward Tribute To Native American Veterans

navajo-code-breakersCork Gaines, November 26, 2013, Business Insider

The NFL is using the month of November to salute members of the military and veterans.

The Washington Redskins decided to use this as an opportunity to honor both the military and Native Americans during the Monday Night Football game.

During a commercial break, a video tribute (see video below) was shown honoring the Navajo Code Breakers of World War II. The video, which was only shown in the stadium and not on ESPN, included old clips of both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush speaking about the veterans. After the video, four of the veterans were shown on the field.

The timing of the tribute raised a lot of eyebrows as it felt like a forced moment in the middle of the current controversy surrounding the team’s continued use of a name that many deem to be racially insensitive. The inclusion in the video of a Native American reciting “Hail to the Redskins!” felt scripted and the veterans on the field wearing jackets with Redskins logos added to the awkwardness of the moment.

Here is video of both the clip shown in the stadium and the scene on the field…

 

Recognition for Service by Native Americans May Finally Be Coming

Indian Country Today Media Network

Native Americans, including American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, serve at a higher rate in the U.S. Armed Forces that any other group and have served in all of the nation’s wars since the Revolutionary War honorably and courageously. Twenty-eight Natives have won the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration. The Navajo, Comanche, Choctaw, Tlingit and other Native nations created codes that enemies couldn’t break, turning the tide in both world wars.

And yet, among all the memorials and monuments on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., there is not one that recognizes the contributions of Native warriors. But that, hopefully, will soon change.

On May 23, Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced a bill, S. 1046, Native American Veterans’ Memorial Amendments Act of 2013, that would facilitate the construction of a Native American Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), and Jon Tester (D-Montana) are original co-sponsors.

“Every Memorial Day we honor the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces, and [this] legislation would allow for construction of a memorial on the National Mall so that people from across the country can honor the extraordinary contributions and sacrifices of our Native American veterans,” said Schatz, after introducing the bill.

“Our Native veterans have sacrificed their lives for this country and it is important that we recognize their bravery and patriotism with a fitting memorial.  I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Indian Affairs Committee and in the United States Senate to get this bill passed and finally have a National Native American Veterans Memorial in our nation’s capital.”

Schatz’s bill would clarify the Native American Veterans’ Memorial Establishment Act of 1994, proposed by then-Senators Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), amending the bill to allow for the completion of the long-standing project. The 1994 act okayed the construction of the memorial, but didn’t provide for the funding of it.

According to the National Congress of American Indians, the project has encountered a number of obstacles since the legislation’s passage, including limitations placed on the involvement of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). The new language removes a number of technical barriers that have hindered completion and allows for the memorial to be built adjacent to NMAI, not inside the museum as originally proposed. Additionally, NMAI would be able to participate in raising funds for the effort.

“It is essential that we fulfill Senator Inouye and Indian Country’s vision for a memorial to honor the service and sacrifice of our Native American service members. NCAI supports the amendments to the Native American Veterans’ Memorial Establishment Act of 1994, which will make the memorial a reality and allow for it to be built on the property of the National Museum of the American Indian,” said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI and a decorated veteran, in a press release. “Most importantly, this bill allows for more flexibility for tribal nations and the United States to work together to honor the contributions and sacrifices of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian military service members and veterans. As a Native veteran myself, I look forward to the day my fellow veterans are recognized for their contributions to protecting the sovereignty of tribal nations and the United States.”

Increased efforts for a memorial honoring the military service of Natives on the National Mall can be traced back to the 1980s when the well-known The Three Soldiers sculpture was unveiled near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Depicted are three American soldiers: one white, one black and a Hispanic. The exclusion of a Native American was seen as disrespectful by Indian country.

'The Three Soldiers' sculpture does not recognize the contributions of Native service members.
‘The Three Soldiers’ sculpture does not recognize the contributions of Native service members.

Robert Holden, director of the National Congress of American Indians, said that the sculpture excludes Native Americans, and does not fully depict their contributions. During the Vietnam era, for example, more than 42,000 Native Americans served in the military and 90 percent of those service members were volunteers. Holden also said during a press conference call that the national organization was told that the Hispanic figure in the sculpture was meant to represent not only Hispanics but also Native Americans: “that is not satisyfing.”

“Given that Native American people are not currently acknowledged anywhere in the National Mall,” said Holden, “I think Native Americans are seeking that recognition—that Native people are true patriots and have been really since the American Revolution.”

In the press conference call, NMAI Director Kevin Gover said he didn’t know how much the memorial will cost. But he said the entire project will be funded by private sources. “We are grateful to Senator Schatz for his interest, and Senators Inouye and Akaka for their contribution. And we look forward to working with Senator Schatz as we move forward, empowering the National Museum of the American Indian to be directly involved in the process of erecting this memorial,” said Gover.

Gover also said he didn’t know where the memorial will be placed. The museum will solicit proposals from artists. There are several possible locations, he said, “But artists being who they are may see other places.”

Regardless of where it stands, the memorial would be meaningful for Native peoples, said Native Hawaiian veteran Allen Hoe during the conference call.

“Native Americans, Alaskans, and Hawaiians have a traditional belief in honoring our warriors,” he said.

“Native Americans have fought bravely and been a critical part of the American military for generations,” Senator Tester said recently.  “It’s long-past time we honor their sacrifices with the recognition they earned.  This memorial is one more way we can pay our respects and say ‘thank you’ for their courageous service to our country.”

To track the progress of Schatz’s bill in Congress, click here.

 

Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/05/27/recognition-service-native-americans-may-finally-be-coming-149551

U.S. House Acts to Help Native Veterans

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The U.S. House of Representatives passed bills May 21 that will impact Native veterans. It’s a fitting time to move on this legislation, as May is National Military Appreciation Month.

The Improving Job Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2013, HR 1412, directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a public relations campaign, advertising in national media outlets, to promote VA on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs available to veterans as highly efficient and cost-effective ways of obtaining jobs.

The American Heroes COLA Act, HR 570, requires that whenever there is an increase in benefit amounts payable under title II (Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance) of the Social Security Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall increase by the same percentage the amounts payable as veterans’ disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled adult children, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.

The Helping Heroes Fly Act, HR 1344, directs the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Transportation Security Administration) to develop and implement a process to provide expedited passenger screening services for severely injured or disabled Armed Forces members and veterans.

On May 20, the House also passed the latest version of the Stolen Valor Act, HR 258, a law that will make it a crime to don the medals and ribbons that soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen are awarded for combat actions.

All four bills now head to the Senate. It’s hoped that they will be signed into law by or on Memorial Day, May 27.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/05/22/us-house-acts-help-native-veterans-149466