Construction begins for Native American Veterans Memorial on the National Mall

Southern Ute veteran Raymond Baker, U.S. Navy retired (center) with Navy Cadets, serving as ushers for the Smithsonian reception, Saturday, Sept. 21.
Raymond Baker with memorial designer Harvey Pratt, who is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.
courtesy Bruce LeClaire | SU Veterans Association
courtesy Bruce LeClaire | SU Veterans Association

Native Americans who served in our nation’s military are set to get a memorial in their honor.

It is a memorial that has been more than 25 years in the making and recognizes generations of service.

Kevin Gover, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian welcomed Native American veterans from across the country at a groundbreaking Saturday, Sept. 21, for the new Native American Veterans Memorial.

“Now and then you just got that little hint that it’s about time somebody noticed us,” Gover said.

It is the first memorial on the grounds of a Smithsonian museum- located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. – drawing 24 million visitors a year.

Harvey Pratt’s design was selected as the finalist for the memorial. The self-taught Native American artist from Oklahoma, also a veteran, said he wanted to focus on the spirituality of the Native people.

“They were very astute about the environment, the weather, the stars, the moon, the sun and almost everything they did was a ceremony and a prayer. I thought that’s how I can reach the 576 federally recognized tribes,” Pratt said.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie says these honors are long overdue.

“It’s about time that we celebrated their sacrifice,” Wilkie said.

According to the National Museum of the American Indian – more than 140 thousand veterans identify as Native Americans and more than 31,000 Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives are currently serving in the U.S. Military.

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