Retiring U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Cumming) was recognized as "a strong advocate for the Meskwaki Settlement School" and as "an advocate for Tribal positions." Those remarks came from John Papakee, vice chair of the Meskwaki Settlement School Board and Judith Bender, chair of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwakis) during a tribute to the senator on Thursday, Oct. 30.
Harkin, who has served in the Senate since 1984 and was a U.S. Representative for 10 years prior to that, said his relationship with the Sac and Fox Tribe "has been very special to me."
During his long service he has been beneficial to the Meskwaki Tribe in securing a variety of funding for important programs Bender said.
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Cumming) listens as Meskwaki Settlement School students (l-r at podium) Rosie Youngbear, Dana Brown, speaking, and Darrion Murray present a speaking demonstration of their school’s new Native language initiative on Thursday, Oct. 30. Harkin was recognized for his work on behalf of the Tribe over his years of service. Also pictured are Christina Blackcloud, Meskwaki Economic Development administrative assistant and Tribal Chair Judith Bender. News-Herald/John Speer
At the hour-long program, Harkin was recognized by school students, Tribal U.S. service veterans and the "Wild Boys" student Tribal singers as well as Tribal leaders and members.
Three students presented a language demonstration to illustrate the new initiative at the Settlement School to revitalize the Meskwaki language among young people.
Harkin paid his own tribute to the Meskwaki Codetalkers for their role in the U.S. Army in WW II in which they, and other Native American Tribal members, used their own languages to communicate in the war zones. Their communications were never able to be interpreted by the enemies.
He said "it is so important to preserve the language" in commenting about the new school program.
He urged the students to continue their education and said, "We need you in government - young people with new ideas and rich and cultural heritage."
Harkin has been on a farewell tour of Iowa but promised to remain active through the Harkin Institute at Drake University.