National Native American Veterans Memorial

There’s a place to sit and do whatever someone has to do for medicine, to use the water, use the earth, use the wind. I hope it will be a place for war mothers. As non-Native visitors see Native veterans and their families blessing the water and tying prayer cloths, letting the wind carry their prayers, the memorial will be a place of learning and understanding as well. I hope it will be a place where veterans come and tell a war story, and where people come and say, ‘We’re so proud of you.’

Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma)

The United States Congress charged the National Museum of the American Indian with creating a memorial on its grounds to give all Americans the opportunity “to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans.”

National Native American Veterans memorial, a circular ring structure

Photo by Alan Karchmer for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

The National Native American Veterans Memorial was developed in consultation with tribal communities throughout the United States and designed by artist Harvey Pratt, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, and Butzer Architects and Urbanism.

The dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial brings long overdue recognition to the American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians who have served their country selflessly and with honor.

Marine Corps veteran Debra Wilson in uniform standing up in front of a microphone addressing a speaker panel.

STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World

Marine Corps veteran Debra Wilson (Oglala Lakota) addresses a panel from the NMAI about her vision for the National Native American Veterans Memorial during a public forum at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa in Catoosa, Oklahoma, 2016.

The memorial is a welcoming space for gathering, reflection, healing, and remembrance, and a lasting tribute to those who have given so much of themselves for their country.

Eric Birdinground in front of a microphone speaking to a panel at the National Native American Veterans Memorial consultation

NMAI

Eric Birdinground (Apsáalooke [Crow]) speaks at the National Native American Veterans Memorial consultation at Crow Agency, Montana, July 29, 2016.

Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran Harvey Pratt sitting and holding a wooden cane in front of his body

© Abraham Farrar

Harvey Pratt, 2019.

Pratt is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and a Southern Cheyenne peace chief, in addition to being a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and artist.

After enlisting, Pratt was assigned to the Marine Corps Military Police in Okinawa, where he volunteered for special duty. He spent an additional two months in training, then seven months in Vietnam guarding the air base at Da Nang and helping to support helicopter squadrons in recovering pilots who had been shot down.

In 1965, when his enlistment ended, Pratt joined the Midwest City, Oklahoma, Police Department. The first drawing of a suspect he made from a witness description led to an arrest and conviction in a homicide. In 1972, he joined the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) and retired as an assistant director in 1992, but he continued to serve until 2017 as a forensic artist.