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Native veterans memorial opens Nov. 11 with virtual honor

Veterans Day – Nov. 11 – is always a busy one for the Seminole Tribe with tributes and gatherings to honor the contributions of those who have served in the U.S. military and their families.

This year the pandemic has altered what would be typical events, but the tribe’s veterans will still be recognized for their service on a local and national level.

The first memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor Native American veterans officially opens to the public on Veterans Day. The milestone will be marked with an online message and dedication.

Organizers had planned to open the National Native American Veterans Memorial with days of events and a procession of Native American veterans.

While the public will be able to visit the site in person, the events and procession were postponed due to the pandemic. Museum officials said they would reschedule events when it is safe to do so.

The National Native American Veterans Memorial will open Nov. 11 on the grounds of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. (Alan Karchmer for NMAI)

The memorial, located on the grounds of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, is many years in the making and is one that is close to the tribe’s leadership and members.

The tribe is one of 85 tribes who have supported it financially. In addition, Stephen Bowers, the former Veteran Affairs director for the tribe, and President Mitchell Cypress, campaigned for and gathered support for the memorial for a decade.

“The [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,” Kevin Gover, director of the museum, said in a statement. “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 memorial was commissioned by Congress to recognize that Native Americans have served in every major U.S. military conflict since the Revolutionary War.

It was designed by Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma). He is a multimedia artist, retired forensic artist and Marine Corps Vietnam veteran.

Pratt’s design features an 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 to signify prayers and healing.

‘Why We Serve’

To coincide with the memorial’s opening, the museum has published “Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces,” a 240-page book that commemorates the history of Native American military service.

The book “Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces” will be the focus of a discussion Nov. 12 on Zoom. (Courtesy image)

“Native Americans serve in the military at one of the highest rates of any ethnic group, and the book explores the many reasons why — from love of home to the expression of warrior traditions,” a statement read.

The museum is hosting a virtual discussion of the book on Zoom with senior
editor Alexandra Harris on Nov. 12 at noon (EST). Details are at AmericanIndian.si.edu.

In addition, the museum has launched an exhibition titled “Why We Serve.” The museum is located on the National Mall at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue SW.

To watch the Nov. 11 virtual message marking the opening of the memorial, go to AmericanIndian.si.edu or access it on YouTube by searching “SmithsonianNMAI” at YouTube.com.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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