Chris Stearns: Ted Kennedy touched Indian lives
"Sen. Edward M. Kennedy passed away at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Mass. Aug. 26. He was 77. Kennedy was a larger than life political icon, the last surviving brother of President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

He was known throughout Indian country as a leader, a fighter, and by his nickname, “the Liberal Lion of the Senate.” Kennedy leaves behind a legacy of legislative achievements that strike at nearly every facet of Native American lives.

Kennedy cut his teeth on Native American issues when he assumed the chairmanship of the Senate Special Subcommittee on Indian Education in early 1969. His older brother, Robert F. Kennedy, served as the subcommittee’s first chairman, prior to his assassination in 1968.

Kennedy called his subcommittee’s groundbreaking 1969 report “a major indictment” of the federal government’s policies on Indian education, policies which he believed led to “poverty and despair,” and a situation Kennedy deemed “a national tragedy and a national disgrace.” His involvement in nearly every major education law, from Head Start to Bilingual Education to No Child Left Behind, demonstrated his commitment to education, especially among Native Americans.

The subcommittee’s investigations had a deep impact on the Navajo Nation. Former Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah said he could never forget “the passion of this great man” who was able to speak up for “people who may not have always been able to speak up for themselves. Ted Kennedy did a wonderful job of speaking for them and putting their concerns in the right perspective. I always admired him. His heart was in the right place and he will long be remembered by the Navajo and Indian people as a man who fought for our rights and our rightful place in life.”"

Get the Story:
Indian country mourns loss of Sen. Edward Kennedy (Indian Country Today 8/31)

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