Respect Equality

New memorial on National Mall pays tribute to Native American veterans

The memorial is the first-ever tribute at the national level to Native Americans who served in the armed services.
National Native American Veterans Memorial, Harvey Pratt

Story at a glance

  • An official dedication ceremony of the National Native American Veterans Memorial took place on Friday.

  • The memorial opened two years ago but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed a dedication ceremony.

  • The memorial sits on the grounds of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

After a two-year pandemic delay, the National Native American Veterans Memorial was officially dedicated to those that served in the U.S. armed forces.

The memorial sits on the grounds of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and first opened in 2020.

But the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back an official dedication ceremony until now.

More than 1,500 Native American veterans from about 125 tribes were expected to participate in a procession along the National Mall prior to the dedication ceremony honoring the first-ever tribute to Native veterans on a national scale.

The memorial is an elevated stainless-steel circle balanced on a stone drum and features water for ceremonies, benches for gathering and four lances where veterans, family members and other visitors can tie cloths for prayer or healing, according to the museum’s website.

Oklahoma artist, Vietnam veteran and Cheyenne and Arapaho nation member Harvey Phillip Pratt designed the monument. Pratt told The Oklahoman that his grandfather used to refer to Native Americans as “circle people.”

“He said, ‘We live in circles that are timeless: We have the seasons and the life cycles.’ … I’d think about that a lot as I was growing up,” Pratt told the outlet.

“I hope the symbols in this memorial are timeless, too. … If my grandfather came back and walked through life and he went up there, he would recognize those things. People today recognize those symbols, my grandchildren recognize those symbols — and their grandchildren, when they go there, they’ll recognize the symbols.”  

“So, it goes back to the past, the present and the future.” 

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Native Americans serve in the United States armed services at a higher rate than other racial or ethnic groups.

There are more than 140,000 American Indian and Alaskan Native Veterans currently living in the United States, according to the VA.