WASHINGTON — The Senate unanimously approved legislation to bring a Native American war memorial to the National Mall.
The bill would allow needed flexibility to fulfill a two-decade-long dream for a national monument honoring the valor of Native American veterans, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said Friday.
"This bill is needed to facilitate construction of a long-awaited Native American’s memorial on the National Mall," Schatz said. "This memorial has languished for almost 20 years since the passage of the original Native American Veterans Memorial Establishments Act."
The Senate approved the bill late Thursday by unanimous consent. It had previously cleared the House and now goes to President Obama, who perhaps will sign it into law while on vacation in Hawaii.
The bill allows for the memorial to be erected on the grounds of the National American Indian Museum. As well, it would allow the museum to help raise private funds needed for its construction.
The 1994 law establishing the memorial left the fundraising duties to the National Congress of American Indians, and required the memorial to be placed inside the museum.
Schatz worked with Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., on the bill. Mullin, a Cherokee native, issued a statement Friday praising Congress for passage of the bill.
"Congress took another step in recognizing the sacrifice given by countless veterans throughout Indian Country," Mullin said. "The stories their lives tell play a significant role in the history of our nation."
Schatz said the memorial would ensure that future generations "commemorate the exceptional commitment to freedom and democracy" made by native Hawaiians, Alaska natives and American Indians.
There were more than 154,000 Native American veterans in 2012, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Those included: 14,348 in Oklahoma, 9,556 in Texas and 1,764 in Arkansas.