Cantwell Delivers Floor Speech in Remembrance of Sen. Daniel Inouye
Cantwell highlights Sen. Inouye’s impact on Washington state: From Puyallup Land Claim Settlement to Nisei Veterans
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) delivered remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate in remembrance of U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who passed away on December 17.
Watch a video of Senator Cantwell’s floor speech.
During her remarks, Cantwell highlighted how Senator Inouye worked to reach the Puyallup Land Claim Settlement, the second largest Native American land claim settlement in U.S. history. The deal led to tremendous growth for Pierce County, the Puyallup Tribe and the Port of Tacoma.
Cantwell also highlighted Inouye’s work on the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, and how he joined Cantwell in April 2012 at VECA (Veterans Electrical Contractors Association) to learn more about how the law was helping the Seattle business hire area veterans. Senator Cantwell also remarked on Senator Inouye’s work to honor Japanese-American veterans with a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in Washington, D.C., which many Nisei veterans from the Pacific Northwest attended.
Excerpts from Senator Cantwell’s remarks:
- “We certainly in the state of Washington benefited greatly from Senator Inouye's incredible help and support. I know that he traveled to our state many times at my request and participated in many different events, but probably one of the most important things that he did for us in the state of Washington was the Puyallup Land Claim Settlement and how Senator Inouye led the fight, as the chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, to make sure that the right thing was done.”
- “Together with Congressman Norm Dicks, we had a very difficult situation. The Puyallup Tribe, the Port and City of Tacoma and others all had a difficult dispute going on. The end result was the second largest Native American land claim settlement in U.S. history. And the deal led to tremendous economic growth for the tribe, for the Port, and for the surrounding communities.”
- “But he also has helped us on many other issues – protecting salmon and our other fisheries, fighting for Native Americans, supporting strong defense and veterans issues. He certainly will be remembered in the Northwest as a true friend.”
- “Back in April of this year Senator Inouye and I visited a company in Seattle, VECA, who hire primarily veterans, and I can tell you they were so happy to meet him. They were so excited to see one of our nation's true heroes and honor him by talking about the services that they were trying to give back to our country.”
The full text of Senator Cantwell remarks as delivered follows:
Thank you, Mr. President.
I rise to salute my colleague, Senator Dan Inouye, and remember him for his great service to our country. Like so many of my colleagues, I come down to the floor with a great deal of sadness but also admiration for the incredible life that Danny Inouye led.
He certainly was a giant among Senators.
And the work that he did, everything from investigating Watergate to fighting for Native Hawaiian rights, to everything he did in the United States every day will be remembered as a man who fought for justice.
When I think about Danny Inouye and the mentoring he has done for me and my colleague Senator Murray and for the state of Washington, I can tell you he will be sorely missed.
You know, we know something about long-term senators in the state of Washington. And certainly Danny Inouye, and Scoop and Maggie were all friends. He was also a friend to Washington state.
He forged a great relationship with Scoop and Maggie that started when Scoop Jackson actually championed statehood for Hawaii starting as early as the late 1940s and he played a key role in supporting it and passing it into the Hawaii Statehood Act and that is something that Danny Inouye was so appreciative of and they forged a great relationship.
And then, Senator Inouye and Senator Magnuson were great friends and mentors and I had the opportunity many, many years ago to hear both of them at Senator Magnuson’s house in Seattle reminisce about their days together.
Some of those stories I could share on the floor and some I couldn’t. But they were long-time friends and the one story that is written about in Warren Magnuson’s biography by Shelby Scates is a story about how the two of them both appropriators when Mount St. Helens blew up, Senator Magnuson went to Senator Inouye and said, “We need about a billion dollars to help for the cleanup of Mount St. Helens.”
So if you can imagine in 1980 what a tremendous amount of money that would be. Senator Inouye's response was: “Senator Magnuson, we have volcanos blowing up all the time in Hawaii and we never get a dime.” And Magnuson's response was: “Just wait, it will be your turn soon.”
So these are two incredible individuals that forged a relationship, and along with Jackson, were some of the big giants of our day in the United States Senate. And we certainly in the state of Washington benefited greatly from Senator Inouye's incredible help and support. I know that he traveled to our state many times at my request and participated in many different events, but probably one of the most important things that he did for us in the state of Washington was the Puyallup Land Claim Settlement and how Senator Inouye led the fight, as the chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, to make sure that the right thing was done.
Together with Congressman Norm Dicks, we had a very difficult situation. The Puyallup Tribe, the Port and City of Tacoma and others all had a difficult dispute going on. The end result was the second largest Native American land claim settlement in U.S. history. And the deal led to tremendous economic growth for the tribe, for the Port, and for the surrounding communities.
Senator Inouye, as I said, was the chairman of the Select Committee on Indian Affairs in 1980 when the Puyallup Tribe successfully sued to assert its claim for land around its reservation. And this land included the Port of Tacoma, many parts of downtown Tacoma, the towns of Fife and Puyallup.
And because of his strong commitment to Native American rights, the Puyallups trusted Senator Inouye to serve as an intermediary between the parties involved in the negotiations and to try to resolve this dispute. He made around a dozen trips to Washington state at key moments at this negotiations. If you could imagine a senator who has to represent his state, be a leader on the Appropriations Committee, would spend so much time on one particular dispute.
During one tense session at a Tacoma hotel, Senator Inouye described his role as “messenger boy” running between tribal negotiators on the second floor and non-Indian negotiators on the fifth floor. By his own estimate, he shuttled between those two floors 21 times.
His tireless commitment helped work and keep the negotiations moving along and finally in 1988 a deal was struck and the settlement was passed into law in 1989. The tribe relinquished claims to land it had originally held and in exchange received $162 million that included 200 acres of disputed land. Of this total, $77 million were federal funds which Senator Inouye and Congressman Dicks worked on. And when Senator Inouye was asked about the federal government’s contribution, he replied, “I got my training from Warren Magnuson.”
For the Puyallup Tribe, the results have been dramatic. Today, the tribe is one of the
largest employers in Pierce County and is moving forward with its port development and partnership. And the Puyallups have become a prominent leader for tribes in important areas like protecting natural resources, providing law enforcement and improving health care.
As for the Port of Tacoma, their results have been impressive as well. With the settlement, the Port was able to tear down the Blaire Bridge and open up the waterways to the world’s largest container ships. Removing the uncertainty of landownership and relocating Highway 509, which also had locked up the Blaire Waterway for development, lots of new development occurred.
According to the Port, these improvements provided 43,000 jobs in Pierce County, and the volume of cargo at the Port has nearly doubled, growing from 782,000 containers in 1988 to nearly 1.5 million containers in 2011. And now the Port handles more containers than its friendly rival to the north the Port of Seattle, so something that they very much take with great pride.
So Senator Inouye stood with Washingtonians on an issue that was so important to us and has led to so much growth and economic development but only his leadership provided the necessary oversight to navigate this thorny issue.
But he also has helped us on many other issues – protecting salmon and our other fisheries, fighting for Native Americans, supporting strong defense and veterans issues. He certainly will be remembered in the Northwest as a true friend.
Our nation's veterans had no greater friend than Senator Inouye, and when it came time to pass national legislation recognizing the Japanese American veterans’ contribution to our country during World War II, he let others take the lead, knowing that he himself would also be an honorary recipient of this award.
And during a ceremony in November 2011 with the other Nisei veterans by his side,
Senator Inouye accepted the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regiment Combat Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service.
In his remarks, Senator Inouye said, "Seventy years ago we were enemy aliens, but today this great nation honors us in this special ceremony."
I can tell you, because there were many Nisei veterans from the Pacific Northwest who traveled here to our nation's capital to participate in that event, their families were so honored to be there with their parents and to honor them in this great ceremony. It would not have happened if it had not been for Senator Inouye’s incredible leadership.
He also successfully fought to honor the veterans who served the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines on the side of the United States during World War II. Because of a law passed in 1946, their service was not recognized. They were denied access to health care, given only half of the disability and death compensation of other U.S. veterans.
So Senator Inouye changed that. Over the years he secured nearly $200 million in compensation for Filipino veterans. And he fought to grant Filipino veterans the same access to U.S veterans and VA hospitals as are other veterans.
Senator Inouye's strong sense of honor and justice drove him to fight for the recognition of these veteran services. He was fond of saying, "justice is just a matter of continuing education." And for that reason, he also made sure that injustices endured by U.S citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry during World War II were never forgotten. He led passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which acknowledged their forced internment and provided compensation for those surviving detainees.
Senator Inouye also understood that recognizing and honoring the services of these veterans meant helping them prosper as they entered civilian life. I was proud to work with Senator Inouye and my colleague Senator Murray on the VOW Act to Hire Veterans of 2011. Because of this Act, businesses that hire veterans can get a tax credit of up to $9,600.
Back in April of this year Senator Inouye and I visited a company in Seattle, VECA, who hire primarily veterans, and I can tell you they were so happy to meet him. They were so excited to see one of our nation's true heroes and honor him by talking about the services that they were trying to give back to our country.
From the battlefields of World War II to the Congress, Senator Inouye provided much grace and charm and an unbelievable sense of duty to our country. He really was a giant of a statesman. Not just in Hawaii but in the state of Washington.
A few years ago I know Senator Inouye was visiting some underprivileged children in Hawaii to see a digital media center that he helped support. One of the students he met said, "I feel like I met one of the most important people in the world.” I couldn't agree more. Senator Inouye’s legacy and impact cannot be overstated. He was old-school senator that was always courteous, respectful to his colleagues no matter what the circumstances, and he will not be forgotten.
I join in our nation in praying for his wife Irene, his son Ken and daughter-in-law Jessica, his stepdaughter Jennifer and granddaughter Maggie. I hope they understand how much we appreciate them sharing him with us. And all that he did. His service to our country will not be forgotten and it certainly will be impossible to match.
I thank the President, and I yield the floor.
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