A new monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., honors the service of generations of Native Americans. The National Native American Veterans Memorial was unveiled on Veterans Day.
“It’s an article of faith in Indian country that Native Americans serve at a greater rate than basically any other group,” Kevin Gover, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, told NPR.
“When people bring their memories and bring their prayers to a place, they make it sacred,” he said. “We wish for this to be a sacred place, not just for Native Americas, but for all Americans.”
While it’s not safe to travel now, there are plans to sanctify the site when COVID cases drop and safety precautions can be relaxed.
This monument marks the first time that Native Americans will be recognized on a national scale for their service to the U.S. military, Smithsonian Magazine reports.
“Native peoples have served in the United States military since the American Revolution and continue to serve at one of the highest rates per capita of any population group,” wrote Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch in the November issue of Smithsonian magazine. “I have always thought that you can tell an enormous amount about a nation by what it chooses to remember. This memorial and others to veterans, both on the National Mall and around the United States, are vital corners of our national memory.”
The monument was designed and cast by Harvey Pratt, a Marine veteran and member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma who served in the Vietnam War. Pratt told the Smithsonian that he hopes the site will become “a place of strength, power, healing and spirituality” where visitors can “pray for their family, for their loved ones that are in the military, they’re going to pray for ancestors that were in the military, they’re going to pray for their grandchildren [who] will be in the military.”
“They will come and make blessings and make sacrifices,” he continued.
Learn more in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.