Smithsonian Native American Veteran's Memorial named: Warriors’ Circle of Honor
A special jury for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian has announced their unanimously selected design concept for the National Native American Veterans Memorial titled, “Warriors’ Circle of Honor.”
The design concept, an elevated stainless steel circle resting on an intricately carved stone drum was conceived of by Harvey Pratt, a Cheyenne and Arapaho Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran. Pratt is a multimedia artist and recently retired forensic artist.
When initially presenting the concept to the National Museum of the American Indian jury members, Pratt, joined by his project partner Hans Butzer, explained his idea of the circle as the central element to the memorial.
“When we speak of the sacred circle, we look and realize that Native people have honored the sacredness of the circle...there is a circle of life, it is continuous and timeless. That is what our culture is about. It is a matter of simplicity that is yet so strong among people,” said Pratt. “A circle is a powerful object, it brings in power, and sends power out. And that is so important to veterans.”
Pratt also explained various other elements of the memorial to include a fire that would be lit on ceremonial occasions and veterans, families and others would be invited to “come to the campfire” and share their stories.
The memorial will sit outside the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. The groundbreaking is slated for September 21, 2019 and the memorial is scheduled to be open to the public by late 2020.
Kevin Gover, Pawnee, director of the National Museum of the American Indian spoke to the importance of Native veterans. “Through meeting thousands of Native American veterans, I learned most of all about the commitment these veterans have to the well-being of the United States,” he said in a release. “These veterans are perfectly aware that they are serving a country that had not kept its commitments to Native people, and yet they chose—and are still choosing—to serve. This reflects a very deep kind of patriotism. I can think of no finer example of service to the United States and the promise it holds.”
Native Americans serve at a higher rate per capita than any other population group. Few outside the military and American Indian Nations know that Native people have served in the U.S. armed forces since the American Revolution and continue to serve today. The nation’s capital is known for its grand monuments and solemn memorials, including many honoring the nation’s veterans. Yet no national landmark in Washington, D.C., focuses on the contributions of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served in the military since colonial times.
Congress commissioned the museum to build a National Native American Veterans Memorial that gives “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.”
The museum worked with the National Congress of American Indians and other Native organizations to create an advisory committee composed of tribal leaders, Native veterans and their family members from across the country who assisted with outreach to Native American communities and veterans. The advisory committee and the museum conducted 35 community consultations across the nation to seek input and support for the memorial. These events resulted in a shared vision and set of design principles for the National Native American Veterans Memorial.
The National Museum of the American Indian conducted an international competition to select design concepts for the National Native American Veterans Memorial. Don Stastny, an architect and urban designer, oversaw the competition. The design was selected through a juried, two-stage process.
Harvey Pratt is a self-taught artist from Oklahoma that works in oil, watercolor, metal, clay and wood. His works include themes of Native American history and tradition and the Cheyenne people.
Pratt’s public art works include a 7-foot sculptural relief depicting a bald eagle on a Native American shield at the entrance to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation building and a 37-foot-long mural progressing from sepia to color depicting the bureau’s case history.
The jury members are:
Larry Ulaaq Ahvakana (Inupiaq), artist, Ahvakana Fine Art
Stephanie Birdwell (Cherokee), director, Veterans Affairs, Office of Tribal Government Relations
Johnnetta Betsch Cole, director emerita, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art
Edwin Fountain, general counsel, American Battle Monuments Commission
Mark Kawika McKeague (Native Hawaiian), director of Cultural Planning, Group 70 International Inc.
Brian McCormack (Nez Perce), Principal Landscape Architect, McCormack Landscape Architecture
Lillian Pitt (Wasco/Yakima/Warm Springs), artist
Herman Viola, curator emeritus, Smithsonian
Kevin Gover (Pawnee), alternate juror, director of the National Museum of the American Indian
More information on the competition regulations and process is available in the Design Competition Manual: https://nmai.us.fluidreview.com/res/p/regulations/.
For more information about the memorial, visit AmericanIndian.si.edu/NNAVM.
This project is made possible by the support of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; Bank of America; Northrop Grumman; the Citizen Potawatomi Nation; the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians; Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker LLP; General Motors; Lee Ann and Marshall Hunt; the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community; and the Sullivan Insurance Agency of Oklahoma.
About the National Museum of the American Indian
The National Museum of the American Indian is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present and future—through partnership with Native people and others. Located on the National Mall at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue S.W., the museum is open each day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). It is accessible from L’Enfant Plaza Metrorail station via the Maryland Avenue/Smithsonian Museums exit. Follow the museum via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
To learn more about the museum’s mission, please visit AmericanIndian.si.edu.
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling