Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HawaiI), a former chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, died on Monday. He was 88.
Inouye died from respiratory complications Monday afternoon at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, D.C., his office said in a statement. His wife and his son were by his side.
His last words were, "Aloha," his office said.
Inouye, who was recently re-named the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, joined the Senate in 1963. He was the second-longest serving Senator in history and held the title of President pro tempore, the second-highest ranking office of the body.
Inouye first served as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs from 1987 to 1993 and as chair when it was redesignated the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs from 1993 to 1995.
He served a second term as chair from 2001 until 2003 and also served as vice chair from 2003 to 2004.
During Inouye's leadership, a slew of significant Indian bills became law. They included the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1987, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, the Tribal Self Governance Act of 1994, the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994, the Native American Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment of 2001, the Indian Financing Act of 2002 and the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2002. He also helped pass numerous bills that benefited individual tribes.
"The Senate lost ... a unique, brave, wonderful legislator today," said Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who frequently worked with Inouye on Indian bills.
"Very important pieces of legislation came about from that committee," added McCain, who served as vice chair with Inouye and cited his former colleague's record of working with members of the Republican Party.
"He loved the Native Americans," McCain continued. "He knew that Native Americans had been wronged in our history. He knew that solemn treaties must be honored by our government
even if those treaties sometimes meant that there would be significant expenditures of America's tax dollars."
"This chamber will never be the same without him," said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), who currently serves as chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and is retiring at the end of the 112th Congress.