Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who served in the U.S. Senate for many years and died Monday, made his first visit in 1988 to North Dakota Indian reservations as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs.
Inouye's visit to Fort Berthold, Standing Rock, Turtle Mountain and Fort Totten, now Spirit Lake came 15 months after Inouye became Indian Affairs Committee chairman.
During a ceremony May 6, 1988, in the New Town Civic Center, Inouye was given the Indian name, Agewa-Guxdish, a Hidatsa word which means "one who helps." There, Inouye promised to live up to his Indian name and his commitment to helping Indians, according to The Minot Daily News.
This page from the May 7, 1988, edition of The Minot Daily News shows Sen. Daniel K. Inouye when he visited the Fort Berthold Reservation May 6, 1988. Inouye became chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs 15 months earlier. Inouye, who served in the U.S. Senate for many years, died Monday.
"I am here on a special mission," he said.
Inouye was the first chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee who made a commitment to visit all reservations, said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., during their visit to Belcourt. Sen. Quentin Burdick, D-N.D., a member of the Indian Affairs Committee, had invited Inouye to North Dakota but did not make the trip.
Inouye told the crowd of about 200 people in New Town that one of the reasons for his trip was he felt for a long time that solutions made in Washington by bureaucrats did not work because, although they may be well intended, most are not knowledgeable about Indian reservations and their problems.
"I am here to see for myself to talk to you and to listen," he said.
Inouye reiterated his feelings when he visited Becourt that day that solutions to problems in Indian communities cannot be made or understood by people in Washington.
He also told people during his visit to Fort Berthold that Washington, D.C., is described as the "city of monuments" and has more than 400 statues but not one Indian statue. He said a committee was working on a bill to establish a major museum to house Indian artifacts.
A statue of Sakakawea with her infant son strapped on her back was given by North Dakota to the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington, D.C., in 2003.
The National Museum of the American Indian opened in Washington in fall 2004.
"The mission we're on is a long one," Inouye told the New Town group at the 1988 gathering. "It will not be accomplished in my lifetime. It may take two or three lifetimes, but we will not give up. You have given me a name. I'll do my best to live up to that."