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Plainfield veteran advocates for Native American issues

Plainfield veteran advocates for Native American issues

PLAINFIELD, Ind (WISH) — A 98-year-old Plainfield man is on a mission to educate and advocate for others about the issues Native Americans face in the United States.

Jim Collins has spent the last few years researching and highlighting the disparities facing Native veterans and their communities.

The World War II Navy veteran is equipped with only a pen and phone. He spends most of his time writing letters, making calls, and still fighting for others.

About five years ago, his journey started —almost by accident. Collins decided to start donating to different charities for different causes.

“Somehow, my name got on the list,” Collins said. “It was five or six Native American, two or three Jesuit schools. Well, at that time, I had enough money that I could spare a $50 check.”

After making donations to groups like the Native American Veterans Association, he started to research more about atrocities like the Wounded Knee Massacre.

“The embarrassing thing is that the history of man and the history of the world is not particularly colorful or improving. It’s a disgrace,” Collins said.

Collins grew up in Nebraska during the Great Depression. He remembers the conditions all too well.

Now, decades later, he says many natives on reservations are still facing similar problems.

“When you realize that people are living in poverty and they’re waiting on somebody else to help them find food, it just drives you nuts,” Collins said.

In the Navy, Collins served at a field hospital in the Philippines toward the war’s end. It’s that same knack for helping others that pushes him to go beyond research.

He’s taken out billboards, sold his art, made phone calls, and written to countless philanthropic organizations along with state and federal leaders to raise money and awareness.

Despite his efforts, he’s only ever received one reply.

“I’ve been limited with what I could do financially. I couldn’t send $50 checks every month,” Collins said. Just nobody showed any interest at all.”

He hopes his message can eventually inspire change.

“[I hope to] capture the imagination of somebody in power,” Collins said. “Next thing you know, somebody’s asking Congress, what the hell’s going on? That’s all I was hoping for.”

Collins has a small committee of about five people helping him with his work. Their next goal is tackling social media.