The National Museum of the American Indian will honor Native American servicemen and women in a very visible way:
a prominent memorial on the National Mall,
a place that draws nearly 24 million visitors annually to Washington, DC.
The National Native American Veterans Memorial represents:
a place for reflection
where generations of Americans can honor the proud and courageous legacy of Native Americans in the military, and look forward to the future;
a permanent memorial at the Smithsonian
planned for the grounds of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, between the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the U.S. Capitol;
a Native American effort
driven by the National Museum of the American Indian and Native nations;
and a recognition by all Americans,
a symbol of the country’s respect for Native Americans’ sacrifice and patriotism.
Support from Native American communities and organizations, including our collaboration with the National Congress of American Indians and tribal leaders, is crucial to our success. The memorial is further strengthened with the aid of major corporations and defense contractors, American veterans and their families, and private citizens.
Spreading the Word across America
The effort to honor Native Americans’ past and present service to our country will extend far beyond the physical memorial. The museum will also share stories of Native American servicemen and women through three aligned projects:
Tribal Community Consultations
Since 2015, the advisory committee and the museum have conducted community consultations to seek input and support for the memorial. Regional events have brought together tribal leaders, Native veterans, and community members to gather their insights and advice.
A Traveling Exhibition
A banner exhibition, Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces, will tell personal stories of Native American veterans and outline plans for the memorial. This exhibition is being shown in venues across the country.
A Vital Oral History Project
The museum is collaborating with the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress to collect, preserve, and make accessible the oral histories of Native American veterans. The oral history project will record their stories in their own voices so that the public, universities, museums, and others can learn from them for generations to come.
This is a tremendously important effort to recognize Native Americans’ service to this nation. We have so much to celebrate. Like so many others, I was compelled to serve to honor the warrior tradition that is inherent to most Native American societies—the pillars of strength, honor, pride, devotion, and wisdom.
The Honorable Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Northern Cheyenne)
Campbell, a Korean War veteran, is one of the few American Indians to ever serve in the U.S. Congress.
The Road Ahead
The museum is working with Native American veterans, tribal leaders, historians, and cultural experts to make the National Native American Veterans Memorial a reality. In 2015, the museum established an advisory committee of Native American veterans to lead the effort, co-chaired by the Honorable Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Northern Cheyenne) and Chickasaw Nation Lieutenant Governor Jefferson Keel.
They are joined by Dr. Herman J. Viola as senior advisor to the National Native American Veterans Memorial project, a curator emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and author of Warriors in Uniform.
– An eighteen-month consultation process gathers input from Native American communities across the country on the plans for the memorial. The advisory committee will provide a prospectus of their findings to the design competition jury.
– The educational exhibition, Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces, travels around the country through the 2020 dedication of the memorial.
– The museum selects a blue-ribbon jury of Native and non-Native artists, designers, scholars, veterans, and others to conduct a design competition for the memorial.
– In the fall, the jury launches an open, international design competition for the memorial.
– The jury recommends competition finalists to the museum.
– Once a design is selected and a final budget for the memorial determined, a team of advisors and representatives of the project will travel around the country to share the design and plans to build the memorial.
– Construction begins on the National Mall.
– Veterans Day: An extensive dedication ceremony is planned to dedicate the memorial and honor the immense contributions and patriotism of Native American veterans. The museum envisions a multi-day event featuring a procession of Native American veterans on the National Mall.
Support the Memorial
The museum is seeking donors to help us make this project a reality. An early commitment will demonstrate leadership to Native American veterans, their families, Indian Country, legislators and regulators, and other potential supporters. While all levels of commitment are welcome and needed, contributions of $100,000 or more will be recognized on the donor plaque at the memorial site.
The estimated budget for the memorial, its long term maintenance, and associated educational programs is $15 million.