Photo Credit: Alan Karchmer for the National Museum of the American Indian
Honoring the Military Service of Native Americans
Washington, D.C. is a city filled with monuments and memorials celebrating those whose life’s work was in service to the nation. Some of the most visited memorials in the city honor veterans and the sacrifices they have made in service to the United States.
A full weekend of events honoring Native veterans who have served the nation in the U.S. Armed Forces will be taking place soon and event organizers encourage those who wish to participate to make their plans now. The focal point of these events occurs on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, when the National Museum of the American Indian dedicates a new memorial — the National Native American Veterans Memorial.
The memorial, which sits on the grounds of the museum within sight of the U.S. Capitol Building, was commissioned by Congress to give “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.” Native Americans have served in every major military conflict in the United States since the Revolutionary War. This is the first national landmark in Washington, D.C. to focus on the contributions of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served in the military.
Designed by Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma), a multimedia artist, retired forensic artist and Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, the memorial features an elevated stainless steel circle resting on a carved stone drum. It also incorporates water for sacred ceremonies, benches for gatherings and four lances where veterans, family members, tribal leaders and others can tie cloths for prayers and healing.
“The dedication of this memorial is an opportunity to gather and reflect on the extraordinary service and sacrifice of Native veterans and their families,” said Cynthia Chavez Lamar (San Felipe Pueblo, Hopi, Tewa and Navajo), the museum’s director. “I hope everyone will join us for this momentous occasion, so together we can offer them our thanks for their contributions to our country.”
The dedication ceremony will take place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. as part of a three-day event (Nov. 11–13) to honor Native veterans. It begins with a Native veterans procession followed by the dedication ceremony. Native veterans who would like to participate in the procession can register to participate now via the museum’s website. Following the ceremony, visitors will be able to visit the memorial and the museum, which will remain open until 8 p.m. on Nov. 11.
The dedication ceremony will also be livestreamed for those who cannot attend in person.
Throughout the weekend, the museum will host special programming in honor of the dedication of the memorial, including hand-on activities, films, performances and a veterans hospitality suite.
Visitors can also explore the exhibition “Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces,” which tells personal stories of Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and Alaska Native veterans who have served in the U.S. armed forces for more than 250 years, and brings long overdue recognition to their contributions.
More information about the dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial can be found by visiting americanindian.si.edu.