This Veterans Day holds special significance for Native Americans: The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is slated to open the National Native American Veterans Memorial, Wednesday, Nov. 11. The online opening will honor Native American veterans' service to the nation with a brief video message.
“The National Native American Veterans Memorial will serve as a reminder to the nation and the world of the service and sacrifice of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian veterans,” said NMAI Director Kevin Gover. “Native Americans have always answered the call to serve, and this memorial is a fitting tribute to their patriotism and deep commitment to this country.
“We invite you to participate in this historic moment—for our country, for veterans, and for the Native American communities whose loyalty and passion have helped make America what it is today,” Gover added.
The memorial designer, Harvey P. Pratt, is a U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and Southern Cheyenne chief for the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.
The memorial has been in the works since the Native American Veterans’ Memorial Establishment Act of 1994, when Congress commissioned the museum to construct and maintain the memorial. “A National Native American Veterans’ Memorial would further the purposes of the National Museum of the American Indian by giving all Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans in the Armed Forces of the United States," the law states.
The original act provided location, funding, and design regulations and in 2013, legislation was amended to allow the memorial to be located on NMAI grounds and allow the museum to raise funds. From 2015 to 2017 the NMAI memorial advisory committee sought input from tribal leaders, Native veterans and Native community members.
From those inputs, the committee held a design competition in November 2017, and in June 2018, the jury unanimously selected Pratt's “Warriors' Circle of Honor” design. September 2019, the NMAI held a ground breaking ceremony and announced their plans for the dedication ceremony, which was slated for this Veterans Day.
Before the pandemic, the museum planned to dedicate the memorial with a ceremony and veterans’ procession to mark its completion. Once it is safe to gather, the museum plans to continue with its original plans for the dedication ceremony and procession.
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