NCAI Remembers Sen. John McCain for His Service to Indian Country

Sen. John McCain last spoke to the National Congress of American Indians at its annual conference in October 2016.

Published August 27, 2018

WASHINGTON — After the death of U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) on Saturday, August 25, 2018 after a 13-month battle with brain cancer, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Jefferson Keel released the following statement:

“The National Congress of American Indians gives honor to the life of Senator John McCain and celebrates the time we had with him as a tireless champion for Indian Country and tribal sovereignty. The Senator dedicated many years to Indian Country,” said Keel. “Serving as longtime member and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, he met frequently with tribal leaders on the Hill, in their community, and at our gatherings. In his last speech at NCAI in October 2016, Senator McCain said, ‘We must listen more to you, and get out of the way of tribal authority.’ As we close out the day, we extend our sincere condolences with the family of Senator John McCain.”

McCain’s outstanding commitment to Indian affairs was demonstrated by his long service on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, serving twice as the Chairman from 1995-1997 and again from 2005-2007.

Throughout his tenure, McCain worked closely with NCAI and tribes as he advocated for tribal sovereignty and self-governance. His latest bill, the Native American Education Opportunity Act, was introduced in March 2016, and since then, he has worked with NCAI and the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) to refine and strengthen the bill which will expand authority for tribes that run and operate Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools to exercise self-determination in Indian education. Of the bill, Senator McCain said in a statement:

“It is unconscionable to leave Native American students stranded in failing schools when we can create the option of expanding educational opportunities on Indian reservations now.”

In the year 2000, NCAI honored him at the NCAI Leadership Awards for his service to Indian Country. In 1993, despite his public thoughts on gaming he stood with tribal nations to support self-determination, he sponsored the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act with Senator Inouye. That same year, he co-sponsored and introduced the Tribal Self-Governance Act. McCain has a long list of legislation extending Indian Country’s agenda including: (1) expanding the AMBER Alert warning system to include reservations with the Ashlynne Mike Amber Alert in Indian Country Act; (2) the Water Settlement Act of 2004 completing 10 water settlements for tribes in Arizona; and (3) to finalize the construction of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Indians among others.

McCain held strong personal convictions and voted where he believed would be the best for the country, sometimes outside of party lines, not an easy undertaking.

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