Vets, NMAI discuss national memorial

Southern Ute Veterans, Roderick Grove and Tim Watts listen to Southern Ute Veterans Association Commander Howard Richards Sr. express his personal thoughts on the proposed National Native American Veterans Memorial to be built in Washington, D.C.
Former US Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell provides some background information on how the National Native American Veterans Memorial Advisory Committee started. Campbell, Korean War veteran, co-chairs the advisory committee that is helping make sure the memorial becomes a reality.
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) held one of their 35 consultations concerning the National Native American Veterans Memorial on Friday, April 28 at the SunUte Community Center. Southern Ute and other local Native veterans were in attendance to listen to and share ideas on the upcoming national memorial that will be built in honor of all Native American veterans. The memorial is slated to be unveiled on Veterans Day in 2020 on the grounds of NMAI in Washington D.C.

“It’s important Native American veterans are being recognized for the service we’ve provided to the country and our homeland,” Southern Ute Chairman and veteran, Clement J. Frost said.

In 2013 Congress passed legislation for a Native American Veterans Memorial to be built, however federal funds cannot be used to build it, Kevin Gover, Director of NMAI said. Gover’s presentation to the veterans focused on gathering recommendations as well as discussing how to raise money for the memorial to be built.

“If we please you [veterans] with our efforts that’s what really matters,” Gover said. “What’s important is this memorial is meaningful to you.”

NMAI and the National Native American Veterans Memorial Committee are hoping to raise 15 million in funds to build the memorial. The committee and NMAI have already been traveling to different regions of the country spreading the news about the memorial and gathering insight from Native American veterans on what the memorial should include. The consultations have also been serving as ways to discuss potential donation opportunities that could help get the memorial built.

“Right now the biggest barrier is raising money for the memorial,” Gover said.

Southern Ute veteran, Roderick Grove offered some of his views on what the memorial should include, stating that a solider from each major conflict should be represented in the attire that was worn during the conflict. He also suggested that the memorial recognize all federally recognized tribes by incorporating all the tribal seals into the memorial.

“The truth needs to be told. In World War I we were not even citizens,” Grove said. “Natives never ran away, they stepped up and did their duty.”

Fellow Southern Ute veteran Howard Richards Sr. agreed with Grove, saying that all tribes need to be represented. Richards also acknowledged the work ahead for NMAI and the committee and said he hopes to be there on the day of the unveiling.

“Your challenge is great and there will be some opposition,” Richards said. “But I see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Raymond Baker, Southern Ute veteran, said it’s crucial they not forget about the Native American women veterans when building the memorial.

“It’s very important that the woman is there,” Baker said.

Gover said he has heard from many other tribes about the importance of honoring women veterans and that the memorial will definitely include something honoring Native American women.

As far as choosing an artist to design the memorial, Gover said it will be open to everybody and will be a blind competition until the finalists are chosen.

Southern Ute sculptor, Oreland Joe was also invited to the meeting by the Southern Ute Veterans Association to learn about the national memorial and to be present when the Veterans Association talked about the sculpture Joe had created.

At the meeting with NMAI, the Southern Ute Veterans Association presented photos of the sculpture titled, “Point Man” that Joe had designed representing all Native American Vietnam veterans. Currently, the Association is working with New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce on having the statue displayed in Las Cruces, N.M.








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