NIEA Remembers Native Education Champion Daniel Inouye

NIEA News Alert


Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye
Sen. Daniel Inouye earlier this year at NIEA's Legislative Summit
On behalf of our more than 4,000 members and advocates, National Indian Education Association extends its condolences to the family of Daniel Inouye, United States Senator for Hawaii and champion of advancing excellent education for our American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children. One of the longest-serving senators in United States history, the legislative body's President Pro Tempore, and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Inouye, 88, passed on last night surrounded by his family.


"Sen. Inouye was one of the foremost champions for Native education, and a strong believer in nurturing the potential of our children," says NIEA President Dr. Heather Shotton. "There are no words that can comfort a family during the loss of a loved one. At the same time, we hope that Sen. Inouye's family is comforted by the powerful legacy he has left behind, one to which we should all aspire to match in our own lives. We will keep the Inouye family in our prayers."


During his lifetime, Inouye showed heroism and courage that few others can match. The son of Japanese immigrant parents, he was a medical volunteer at Pearl Harbor in 1941 when the naval base was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Navy. Two years later, he left his studies at the University of Hawaii to volunteer for the U.S. Army, serving as a member of the famed 442nd Regiment that fought bravely for the United States against the Axis forces in the European campaign. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and later the Medal of Honor after he led an assault on Nazi fortifications near San Terenzo, Italy. During that battle, Inouye continued the charge even after bullets ripped through his stomach and right arm; his arm would eventually be amputated at a field hospital without proper anesthesia.
Inouye's quote from the Japanese-American War Monument in Washington, D.C.
From championing Japanese-Americans wrongly interned by the federal government during World War II, to defending Native communities, Inouye was a champion of Native and non-Natives alike.
After returning from war, Inouye earned his baccalaureate degree at the University of Hawaii, and graduated from George Washington University Law School in 1953. That year, Inouye began his political career by winning a seat in Hawaii's territorial legislature. Five years later, he was elected to Congress, the first to represent the newly-admitted state. Then in 1963, Inouye succeeded Oren Long in the United States Senate, where he would serve the rest of his career and become a champion for the rights of Natives and non-Natives alike.


During his tenure in the Senate, Inouye served as chairman of what is now the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Through his role, he helped craft and pass legislation that improved education for our Native students. This included the Native Hawaiian Education Act (NHEA) - now part of the No Child Left Behind Act/Elementary and Secondary Education Act - which made improving education for Native Hawaiian students a priority in federal education policy. This year alone, through NHEA, the federal government has provided more than $10.6 million in funding to Native Hawaiian education programs.


Inouye also co-sponsored what became the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, which in the six years since its passage has provided more than $50 million to Native language immersion programs that help preserve our cultures and support student success. Before his death, Inouye co-sponsored the Native Culture, Language and Access for Success in Schools (CLASS) Act, currently under congressional consideration, which will help address many of the systemic problems in Native education.


NIEA appreciates the powerful work that Sen. Inouye has done on behalf of all of our Native children.