Nov 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Museum honors Indigenous veterans with memorial dedication

National Native American Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. Photo: Alan Karchmer/National Museum of the American Indian

Native American veterans gathered in Washington, D.C., on Friday for a formal dedication to a new memorial honoring their military service.

Driving the news: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian expected more than 1,500 Native veterans from roughly 125 tribes to participate in a procession along the National Mall ahead of the dedication ceremony.

  • The procession started at the museum and ended at the ceremony stage in front of the U.S. Capitol, the museum said.
  • The National Native American Veterans Memorial opened two years ago but the pandemic delayed the dedication ceremony until now.

The big picture: The landmark, nestled on the museum's grounds, is the first national memorial honoring the military contributions of Indigenous people, who serve in the U.S. Armed Services at a higher rate than any other group, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • More than 140,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives who are veterans currently live in the United States, the department says.
  • Indigenous veterans who use VA resources also experience post-traumatic stress disorder at a higher rate than all other veterans, the department says.
  • They served in the military despite the country's long history of genocide against tribal nations and communities.

What they're saying: "The dedication of this memorial is an opportunity to gather and reflect on the extraordinary service and sacrifice of Native veterans and their families," Cynthia Chavez Lamar, the museum’s director, said in a press release on Nov. 1. "I hope everyone will join us for this momentous occasion, so together we can offer them our thanks for their contributions to our country."

  • "This is Indian country, regardless of who says they own it. It will be Indian country forever, in my mind," Harvey Pratt, a Vietnam veteran who designed the memorial, told NPR.
  • "And a lot of Indians think the same way," added Pratt, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe nations. "Their blood is spilt all over this land, and we have spilt Native American blood all over this Earth defending this land and we will continue to defend it."
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