SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Former United States Senator James Abourezk has died.
Abourezk, who had been released into hospice care earlier this week, died on Friday. He was 92.
Abourezk was first elected as a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1970. He served only two years in that position before he ran and was elected to the U.S. Senate.
The South Dakota Democratic Party expressed their condolences in a release Friday.
“Sen. Abourezk dedicated his life to serving others,” chair Randy Seiler said. “That service led to a lasting legacy that continues to impact the lives of so many in South Dakota, across the country, and around the world. We are all fortunate he led such a long and impactful life, and his presence here in South Dakota will be sorely missed.”
While in office, Abourezk was a voice for Native Americans.
He is credited with creating the American Indian Policy Review Commission (AIPRC), which, after two years of intensive study, produced a series of recommendations to ease the plight of American Indians.
“I only want to say that we’ve lived, non-Indians and Indians have lived side by side in this state for the last 100 years and we’re going to live side by side for the next 100 years,” Abourezk said.
Abourezk will be remembered as the author of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which passed in Congress in 1978.
It tried to preserve Indian families and their tribal culture, by arranging for the placement of Indian children in homes of their cultures, as well as to reunite them with families.
Abourezk was generally viewed as a critic of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle-East. Plus, he worked vigorously to bring home POW’s from the Vietnam war.
“What do you say to the North Vietnamese to agree to that they very seldom agree on anything? I don’t think we can use POW issue as a political football, I think too many politicians are doing that nowadays; our objective should be to try and bring them home instead of talking about them,” Abourezk said.
In 1974, TIME magazine named Senator Abourezk as one of the “200 Faces for the Future.”
After he retired from the Senate, Abourezk worked as a lawyer and writer in Sioux Falls. He also continued to be active in supporting tribal sovereignty and culture.