From the day Senator Daniel K. Inouye first stepped foot into Indian Country he has been known as a friend, a brother and a champion of our people—to all indigenous people, in every state, in every region, in every sovereign native nation and every council chamber, here in the United States and around the globe.
Beyond all doubt, he was the best and greatest friend the tribes ever had in the halls of the United States government. But he was never one to restrict his support for our people to these marbled halls. Better than any other leader in the history of the United States, he reached out to us and embraced us on our own terms, on our traditional homelands, and with a deep and abiding respect unlike any we have ever experienced.
Senator Inouye achieved unbelievably great heights in his life. A hero in battle and Congressional Medal of Honor winner. The most senior of all senators. The most courageous of orators. A man of his word. A man of deep integrity and honor. An educator and builder of incredible projects and the leader of historic and critically important events. He overcame obstacles in his life that would have utterly defeated any lesser person, and he left his indelible mark upon the very top of countless mountainous achievements. And yet this giant of a man somehow always found time to pay respect to the humblest among us, and his pursuit of the cause of the downtrodden or less advantaged has been nothing less than legendary.
Were the United States Senate to consist of 100 Daniel K. Inouye’s, there is not a single challenge in the world, now or ever, that the body could not easily resolve.
We, the indigenous people of this land, are proud to have known and to have worked with this great and eminent man, and we thank you for helping him to share his life with us. If we have anything to say about it, his name will echo forever in the hearing rooms and chambers of the United States Congress, just as it surely will in the hearts and minds of our people. His legacy will live on, as it must. His spirit is the hallmark of goodness and positive progress and the love and kinship we feel for him is of such power and grace that it shall never die.
Thank you Senator, for all that you have done. May all of your family and friends know they have friends forever among the tribes, and may your splendid spirit be warmly welcomed in the Next World by your loving and approving ancestors.
Fawn Sharp serves as chairwoman of the Quinault Nation of Washington and as president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.
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