Congressman Steve King

Representing the 4th District of Iowa

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King Honors Life and Work of Frank LaMere on the House Floor

Jun 20, 2019
Press Release

“He never took his foot off the throttle. He just found a smoother way to get to the goal. His goals were to help out his Native American people.”

Washington, D.C.- Congressman Steve King releases this transcript of remarks he delivered on the floor of the House of Representatives today that honor the life and work of Mr. Frank LaMere.

To watch Congressman King deliver his remarks, click the image or click this link.

“Thank you, Madame Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity to address you here on the floor of the House of Representatives.

I rise today to honor the life of Frank LaMere. Frank LaMere was a leader for the Winnebagos that have land on both sides of the Missouri River in the Sioux City area and, also, for Native Americans especially in the upper Midwest.

Over the years, our lives interacted multiple times and I had the opportunity to work with him and see the gentleness of his nature. I will say that he mellowed out in his later years, but he never let up. He never took his foot off the throttle. He just found a smoother way to get to the goal. His goals were to help out his Native American people.

He was a model of dedication to selflessness. He also had more than his fair share of tragedy and loss and demons to fight. Over the course of his life he demonstrated that, no matter the obstacles, you could rise above them, as we can rise above those, and do the most good we can with the tools we have to work with.  

He overcame addiction himself, and he dedicated his life to being a voice for the voiceless, including securing housing and food and other necessities for the people that he did such a good job of representing in the area. But, yet, tragedy still exists in our communities and Frank LaMere saw the need to address those situations.

And we collaborated on a couple of important things together. They were the passions of Frank LaMere, who passed away on Sunday evening. The imagination and the dream that he had was to build ‘Hope Street,’ which should be a treatment center and housing center primarily for Native Americans who are drug addicted or alcohol addicted. And that project, by the way, has the language that allows it to qualify in this appropriations bill that we have before us this week.

Also, the second project that was a very, very important project was when Frank and I had a chance meeting in the airport in Omaha. We began to discuss these things through that were on his mind and that brought about the bill that is now HR 184, the Winnebago Land Transfer Act.

In 1865, the United States government and the Winnebago tribe signed a treaty that granted that land on both sides of the Missouri River to the Winnebago tribe. As the river changed, and situations changed, we ended up- actually, I shouldn’t say both sides of the river, Nebraska’s side of the river-but when the river changed that meant, though, that a lot of that land actually ended up in Iowa.

The Corps of Engineers came in one hundred years later, one hundred and five years later, and condemned that property for their own project. And in doing so, it was a takings and I believe it was an unconstitutional takings. They never compensated them for that land, and they didn’t use that land for the project for which they had intended.

And so, by the time the Winnebagos were able to put the money together to go to court, the statute of limitations had expired. The Court ruled that if they were going to rule on the issue they would grant the land back to the Winnebagos, but it was beyond their jurisdiction because of the statute of limitations.

The only thing that puts that land back is an Act of Congress, and that is the Winnebago Land Transfer Act -HR 184. If we can conclude that, this week or next week, it will be the time that we have finished the biggest part of the work of Frank LaMere. We should do so to honor his life.

One of the things that he was quoted as saying, and this was at the services for him, ‘If you haven’t been marginalized at least once a week, then you probably haven’t done very much’-Frank LaMere. I can identify with that, Madame Speaker, and I can identify with a life of selfless work of Frank LaMere.

We honor his life, and let’s honor his life in this Congress, this week or next. I thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.”

Additional Background:

In his remarks, Congressman King made reference to two projects that he and Mr. LaMere worked on together closely. These projects are as follows:

  1. The “Hope Street” Project: Congressman King and Mr. LaMere collaborated in the development of legislative language in support of this Sioux City based initiative. The language was submitted by King and it is included in the base text of this year’s Interior Appropriations bill.
  2. HR 184, the Winnebago Land Transfer Act, has been introduced by Congressman King. The text of the bill may be read here. The legislation seeks to return land to the Winnebago tribe that was wrongfully condemned by the Army Corps of Engineers.  

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