The new National Native American Veterans Memorial is now open on the National Mall in DC.
Throughout US history, American Indians and Alaska Natives have enlisted in the Armed Forces at a rate five times the national average, despite the fact that they weren't even recognized as US citizens until 1924. They have the highest per-capita military involvement of any demographic, even as their families and cultures predate the existence of the United States.
After 25 years in the making, a new monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., opens on Veterans Day — the National Native American Veterans Memorial.
"It's an article of faith in Indian country that Native Americans serve at a greater rate than basically any other group," said Kevin Gover, the director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. He said the steel ring sculpture over a carved stone drum will become hallowed ground.
"When people bring their memories and bring their prayers to a place, they make it sacred," he said. "We wish for this to be a sacred place, not just for Native Americas, but for all Americans."
Here's a little more info on the design:
An elevated stainless-steel circle balanced on an intricately carved stone drum, the design of the National Native American Veterans Memorial is simple and powerful, timeless and inclusive. The design incorporates water for sacred ceremonies, benches for gathering and reflection, and four lances where veterans, family members, tribal leaders, and others can tie cloths for prayers and healing. The memorial creates an interactive yet intimate space for gathering, remembrance, reflection, and healing. It welcomes and honors Native American veterans and their families, and educates the public about their extraordinary contributions.
And the artist:
A distinguished group of Native and non-Native jurors unanimously selected the design concept Warriors' Circle of Honor by Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma) from among more than 120 submissions. Pratt is a self-taught artist whose works include themes of Native American history and tradition and the Cheyenne people. Born in El Reno, Oklahoma, Pratt credits his parents and teachers for encouraging his artistic pursuits and respect for veterans. A veteran himself, Pratt served in Vietnam from 1962 to 1965 as a U.S. Marine in Air Rescue and Security stationed at Da Nang Air Base. He is recognized by the Cheyenne People as an outstanding Southern Cheyenne, and was inducted as a traditional Peace Chief—the Cheyenne Nation's highest honor.
National Native American Veterans Memorial [Smithsonian]
American Indian Veterans Have Highest Record of Military Service [National Indian Council on Aging]
New Memorial Recognizes Generations Of Military Service By Native American Veterans [Quin Lawrence / NPR]
Image: Public Domain photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Anita Ne