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Native veterans memorial to be dedicated Nov. 11

The central feature of the memorial is an elevated stainless steel circle resting on a carved stone drum. It is located on the grounds of NMAI. (Photo: Matailong Du for NMAI)

After two years of pandemic related delays, the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is scheduled to be dedicated on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. A dedication ceremony is part of three days worth of events from Nov. 11 to Nov. 13.

The first of its kind memorial – one that honors Native American veterans in the nation’s capital on the National Mall – was completed in 2020, but a Native veterans procession and in-person dedication never took place.

The memorial is one that Indian Country has sought after for many years. It is located on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) – part of the Smithsonian Institution. Like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial about two miles away, it is open to the public 24 hours a day.

The Seminole Tribe is one of at least 85 tribes that provided financial support to make the memorial a reality. The late Stephen Bowers, the tribe’s former veteran affairs director, and President Mitchell Cypress, campaigned and helped to raise funds for the memorial for a decade. The memorial, commissioned by Congress, has been widely supported by tribal governments and tribal veterans organizations, as well as individuals, corporations, foundations and other organizations.

The memorial recognizes that Native Americans have served in every major U.S. military conflict since the Revolutionary War. It was designed by Marine Corps Vietnam veteran Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma) and features an elevated stainless steel circle resting on a carved stone drum. It incorporates water for sacred ceremonies and benches for gathering. The memorial also includes four lances where visitors can tie cloths to signify prayers and healing.

“The dedication of this memorial is an opportunity to gather and reflect on the extraordinary service and sacrifice of Native veterans and their families,” NMAI director Cynthia Chavez Lamar (San Felipe Pueblo, Hopi, Tewa and Navajo), said in a statement May 12. “I hope everyone will join us for this momentous occasion, so together we can offer them our thanks for their contributions to our country.”

The Nov. 11 events are set to begin in the afternoon with the Native veterans procession, which will make its way along the National Mall to the memorial for the dedication ceremony. Organizers said there will be viewing areas along the procession route for supporters to gather to honor the participating veterans.

Throughout the weekend, NMAI plans to host special programming in honor of the dedication, including hands-on activities, films and performances.

Attendees can also visit the NMAI exhibition “Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces,” which began in 2021 and runs through Nov. 30, 2023. The exhibition tells personal stories of Native Americans who have served in the U.S. armed forces for more than 250 years.

For more information about the memorial and the dedication events, including how to register to participate in the Native veterans procession, click here, or visit americanindian.si.edu. NMAI is located on the National Mall at Fourth Street and Independence Ave. SW.

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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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