Through Levi Rickert
Former Michigan Democratic Congressman Dale Kildee, whose name appears on 134 pieces of legislation that directly impact Native Americans, died on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. Kildee, who served a district in Michigan that included the city of Flint, served 18 terms in Congress from 1977 – 2013. While in Congress, Kildee became an expert on Native American politics and co-founded the Congressional Native American Caucus. Representative Kildee was 92 years old.
“For most of my public career, both in the Michigan State Legislature and in the United States Congress, I have had the honor and privilege of working with Indian tribes to bring justice to the Indian country.” Mr. Kildee said after leaving Congress in 2013.
Former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Northern Cheyenne, (R-CO), who served with him while in the House of Representatives remembers Kildee as a friend and lawmaker who worked hard on behalf of the Indian country.
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“He was a wonderful man and a good friend, who will be sadly missed,” Campbell told Indigenous News Online. âHe carried a copy of the Constitution in his suit pocket and took it out when he needed to refer to it in a debate. We should have more people in Congress like him now. He has done a lot for the good of the nation.
For Kim Teehee, director of government relations for the Cherokee Nation and senior vice president of government relations for Cherokee Nation Businesses, Kildee’s passing is significant. She worked for Kildee for 11 and a half years as the first senior advisor to the bipartisan group of the Congressional Native American Caucus from 1998 to 2009.
âI knew the day would come, but I still wasn’t ready to learn that Dale had passed away. My mind is flooded with precious memories. When I was selected for a White House nomination in the Obama administration, it galvanized support in Congress and helped secure my historic position. He was a gentle soul with the spirit of a warrior. He believed in civil discourse. He despised meanness, âTeehee told Native News Online in an email.
Teehee recalled how Kildee embraced tribal relations as a member of Congress, which led him to co-found the Congressional Native American Caucus. He did so, Teehee says, after anti-Indian measures began to pass through the House to be stopped in the Senate.
âHis engagement began when his father took him as a child to a country in Michigan where a tribal village once stood, but was reduced to ashes when people refused to leave. He never forgot this story or the other injustices suffered by Aboriginal people, âTeehee said.
âHe knew that a bipartisan caucus was needed to educate members of Congress on the issues of Indian countries. What started out as a 15-member caucus has grown to over 100 members. My job was to overcome partisan divisions with House leaders, caucus members, committees and tribal leaders. As the caucus co-chair, Dale successfully pushed forward legislation on a myriad of topics ranging from education, health care, transportation, housing loans, âTeehee continued.
Current Congressional Native American Caucus Co-Chairs, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) released the following statement after Kildee passed away last Thursday:
âSince its inception, the Congressional Native American Caucus has embraced the bipartisan virtue that Dale Kildee has lived throughout his life. He was a great champion of the Indian country and he worked tirelessly to remind his colleagues that our US constitution recognizes tribal sovereignty. We remain committed to this goal and honor its commitment to the Indian country by continuing our strong government-to-government relationship with the tribal nations. “
While serving in the Michigan House of Representatives, Kildee was instrumental in enacting the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver, which allows Native American students from Michigan who have resided in the state for at least a year and citizens tribals from a federally recognized tribe to attend a Michigan State institution of higher education without paying tuition.
Aaron Payment, president of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and archivist secretary of the National Congress of American Indian, remembers Kildee for the work he did on behalf of tribes seeking recognition in the federal recognition process.
“Representative. Kildee was one of the earliest and most ardent advocates of positive federal Indian policy in modern times. He was also a champion of federal tribal recognition supporting several tribes in Michigan who sought federal recognition,” Payment told Native News Online. “He was a co-founder of the Congressional Native American Caucus long before American Indians were elected to Congress to promote a coalition of tribal supporters to come together. He was also a personal friend who listened and could move mountains to help tribal leaders advocate for respect for the treaty and the duty of trust. I feel a personal debt to Dale Kildee for his friendship and advocacy. “
Frank Cloutier, director of public affairs for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, said part of the tribe’s trust land in eastern Michigan is in part of the Kildee District and has enjoyed working with it. him.
âDale Kildee was a man who could see past the differences in people, the color of their skin, and the many stereotypes of minorities. He understood constitutional equality in our human race. A champion for many and a true champion of education in Indian country. He will be truly missed. Good luck my friend, you deserve your rest, âsaid Cloutier.
Kildee’s influence was felt all over Indian country. The USET Sovereignty Protection Fund (USET SPF), a not-for-profit intertribal organization defending the interests of 33 federally recognized southern and eastern tribes, said after his death:
âCongressman Kildee will be remembered as a true friend and ally of the tribal nations. On behalf of the entire USET / USET SPF family, we express our gratitude to him for his constant work in protecting and promoting our inherent sovereign rights and authorities, as well as our deepest condolences to his family, friends and all whose life was touched by him. We send blessings and prayers as he sets out on his journey into the spirit world.
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