Skip to main content

Kolby KickingWoman
Indian Country Today

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., is commemorating Veterans Day 2020 by unveiling the National Native American Veterans Memorial.

The museum originally planned to host a veterans’ procession and dedication ceremony but is looking to reschedule those events for later due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The installation sits on the museum's grounds and is a short walk from the U.S. Capitol. 

National Native American Veterans Memorial pictured from above near the U.S. Capitol (Photo by Alan Karchmer for NMAI)

Designer Harvey Pratt, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux, drew inspiration from the circle motif that is significant to many tribes. 

In a previous interview with Indian Country Today, Pratt, who is a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran himself, said he wanted the monument to be a place where people could conduct ceremonies.

“My family has always been very traditional. My brothers are all Sundance men, so I've been around those ceremonies and they're important to us. That's what I thought,” Pratt said. “I need to put all of these elements into something that people can go to, not just to look at a statue, but to go there and feel the strength and the power of that place.”

(Previous: National Native American Veterans Memorial artist explains his design)

(Profile: Jose Ramos Chavez is a 97-year-old Kewa Pueblo veteran. )

More than 100 designs were submitted to the National Museum of the American Indian, and Pratt’s design was selected among five finalists. Construction took a little over a year, with groundbreaking on the project occurring in September 2019.

Yet the memorial was years in the making, as part of the Native American Veterans Memorial Act in 1994. 

It is the first national landmark in the nation’s capital solely focused on “contributions of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served in the military,” the museum said in a release.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

The memorial features the 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 release said.

The National Native American Veterans Memorial is a "stainless steel circle resting on a carved stone drum" sitting just outside the museum. (Photo by Alan Karchmer for NMAI)
Branches of the U.S. Military were incorporated into the memorial's design (Photo by Alan Karchmer for NMAI)


Natives have served in every American conflict since the Revolutionary War and serve at the highest rate per capita of any ethnicity. Museum director Kevin Gover said the memorial will long stand as a tribute to Native veterans.

“The National Native American Veterans Memorial will serve as a reminder to the nation and the world of the service and sacrifice of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian veterans,” Gover said. “Native Americans have always answered the call to serve, and this memorial is a fitting tribute to their patriotism and deep commitment to this country.”

The virtual address will go live on the museum’s website and YouTube channel in the early-morning hours on Veterans Day. The video will also be on-site at the memorial, which will be open to the public 24 hours a day, according to the website.

In the previous interview with Pratt, the veteran said he hopes the memorial becomes a place where people go to honor Native warrior traditions.

“No matter how you feel about how our country has treated Native people, it’s important to honor all our Native warriors," he said. "They fought to protect the land we live on. That’s what warriors do.”

ICT Phone Logo

Kolby KickingWoman, Blackfeet/A'aniih is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is from the great state of Montana and currently reports for the Washington Bureau. For hot sports takes and too many Lakers tweets, follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email -

Like this story? Support our work with a $5 or $10 contribution today. Contribute to the nonprofit Indian Country Today.