The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts has unanimously accepted the most recent phase of design work for the National Native American Veterans Memorial. The commission—created by Congress in 1910 to advise the government on matters of design and aesthetics as they affect the federal interest and preserve the dignity of the nation’s capital—praised the concept as “beautiful in its physical design and symbolism,” singling out the memorial’s layered meanings and the contemplative character of its setting within the native landscape of the museum’s grounds.
The memorial, designed by Harvey Pratt, a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran, will be built in the upland forest area of the landscape, between the museum and the U.S. Capitol. A paved and lighted walkway will lead from the museum’s Welcome Plaza along the wetlands to the memorial circle. The memorial centers on an elevated metal ring resting on a carved stone drum and will incorporate 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 idea that individuals should be remembered and acknowledged is at the heart of every memorial,” notes Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “Native men and women have served in the U.S. Armed Forces since the American Revolution and continue to serve today. This memorial will remind everyone who visits it of their sacrifice and patriotism and of the sacrifice and patriotism of their families.” It will be the first national landmark in Washington to focus on the contributions of American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians who have served in the military.
Groundbreaking will be observed in a private ceremony on September 21. The memorial will be dedicated in a public ceremony at the museum on November 11, 2020.