The AFN Board of Directors, our staff, and the entire Alaska Native community extend our heartfelt condolences to the Inouye family as we commemorate the life of Senator Daniel Inouye, one of AFN’s dearest friends, who passed away on December 17.
The Alaska Native people have lost a true friend who really listened to, and acted on the needs of Alaska Native people. We can’t think of one time when he didn’t step up and help when the Alaska Native people needed it. Senator Inouye went the extra mile on everything. When we asked him for help on an issue, he’d make it happen. We’d go back to thank him and he’d always say, ‘what else do you need’?
Senator Inouye’s tremendous leadership and lifelong commitment to Alaska Natives was inextricably tied to his deep, lifelong friendship with Alaska’s late Senator Ted Stevens. AFN commemorated both senators, their lifelong commitment to Native issues, and their 40-year friendship in a naming ceremony in Washington, D.C. in 2007. Senators Stevens and Inouye joined forces on countless issues over the years, and depending on who was in the majority at the time, they took turns developing programs to benefit Alaska and Hawaii. Together they developed programs for colleges serving Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, an arts and culture program to preserve the unique Native cultures of the two states, a program to allow those involved in studying the whaling traditions in Alaska and Hawaii to collaborate, and a variety of education, training and health programs. In the late 80s, Inouye and Stevens joined together on the Japanese American restitution bill, which included an apology and restitution not only to the Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II, but also to the Aleut people of Alaska who were similarly interned.
Senator Inouye was like family to us. He was an outstanding leader, a statesman, and a very big-hearted, caring person. It’s going to be really hard to find anybody to fill his shoes. He was deeply loved by our community. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Irene Hirano Inouye, his son Daniel Ken Inouye, Jr, his daughter-in-law Jessica, his step-daughter Jennifer, and his granddaughter Maggie. Senator Inouye’s legacy to our people will never be forgotten by Alaska Natives.