Unveiled on Veterans Day 2020, the National Native American Veterans Memorial is an oasis of calm two blocks away from the Capitol. Flanked by wetlands and a stand of hardwood trees beside the National Museum of the American Indian, the site honors the service and sacrifice of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian veterans, who have participated in every major U.S. military conflict since the Revolutionary War.
Artist Harvey Pratt (of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma) designed the memorial to reflect Native American symbols, traditions and ceremonies. Within a circular gathering space, a steel circle rises from a carved-stone drum where a water feature flows. On special occasions, a fire can be lit in the circle. “When you come into this circle, you come into harmony with all the elements—water, earth, air and fire,” explained Pratt, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, during the memorial’s virtual dedication.
An in-person dedication and veterans procession will take place when it’s safe to congregate. Though temporarily closed, the museum has launched “Why We Serve,” an online companion exhibit chronicling 250 years of Native American military service (americanindian.si.edu). The memorial remains open 24/7, inviting the public day and night to experience its contemplative peace.
Memorial Design: Harvey Pratt, Guthrie, Oklahoma. Architecture: Butzer Architects and Urbanism, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Architect of Record: Quinn Evans Architects, Washington, DC. Landscape Architecture: RHI, Alexandria, Virginia. Contractor: HSU Development, Gaithersburg, Maryland.