The Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) has been charged by Congress with building a National Native American Veterans Memorial, and on Monday, veterans and had a chance to comment on the pending design and construction.
Native Americans have served in the United States military in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War. In recent decades, they have served in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic group.
So, the museum has begun preliminary plans to construct this memorial in the next four years to give all Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans in the Armed Forces of the United States.
The NMAI and the advisory committee are currently conducting consultations to share plans for the memorial and to seek input and support. Regional events, like the one being held at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC), bring together tribal leaders, Native veterans, and community members.
RSIC Tribal Chairman Arlan D. Melendez, a Marine Corps veteran, co-hosted a consultation for the memorial at the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Care Center on May 1. Veterans, their family members, professionals whom work with veterans and members of the community attended.
The service and sacrifice of Native American veterans, including American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, spans nearly two and a half centuries of American history. During World War II, over 44,000 Native Americans served in the U.S. military. Hundreds of Hopi, Navajo, Comanche, and other Native language speakers—Code Talkers—played a crucial role. More than 42,000 Native Americans served during the Vietnam War.
Today, the U.S. Department of Defense estimates more than 24,000 American Indian and Alaska Native men and women are on active duty, and more than 150,000 veterans self-identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.
An advisory committee for the memorial has been formed, led by the Honorable Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Northern Cheyenne) and Chickasaw Nation Lieutenant Governor Jefferson Keel. The group, composed of tribal leaders and veterans from across Native America, is assisting with outreach to communities and veterans and advising on plans for the memorial.
In the fall of 2020, the museum will launch a juried competition to select a design for the memorial. The National Native American Veterans Memorial will be located prominently on the museum’s grounds on the National Mall, between the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the U.S. Capitol. The dedication ceremony is planned for Veterans Day 2020, to unveil the memorial and honor the immense contributions and patriotism of Native Americans in the U.S. Armed Forces.