Former US Senator Abourezk has died

James Abourezk, shown here when he served as a U.S. senator from South Dakota, died Friday,...
James Abourezk, shown here when he served as a U.S. senator from South Dakota, died Friday, Feb. 24. He was 92.(MGN and U.S. Senate)
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 2:01 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - James Abourezk, former U.S. senator from South Dakota, has died Friday while in hospice care at his Sioux Falls home. Abourezk, who turned 92 Friday, was with his wife Sana’a and other members of his family.

Abourezk represented South Dakota in the U.S. House from 1971 to 1973; and then in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 1979.

While in the Senate, Abourezk was the founder and first chairperson of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He co-authored the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. In 1973, Abourezk and Sen. George McGovern helped negotiate the standoff between the U.S. government and American Indian leaders at Wounded Knee.

After Abourezk retired from politics, he returned to South Dakota to practice law. He also continued to advocate for Native American issues. He also co-founded and was the first chairperson of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which advocates for the civil and human rights of Arab Americans.

Abourezk was born at home in Wood, S.D., which was at one time part of the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, in 1931.  His parents Charles and Lena Abourezk immigrated from Lebanon.  He is married to Sioux Falls restaurateur Sanaa Abourezk, and has four children, Charles Abourezk, Nikki Pipe On Head, Paul Abourezk and Alya Abourezk.  He also has one stepdaughter Chelsea Machado, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.