The Smithsonian breaks ground on National Native American Veterans Memorial in D.C.

Sept. 21, 2019


Roberto A. Jackson

Gila River Indian News


A delegation from the Gila River Indian Community, including Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis and Community Council Representatives Devin Redbird, Joey Whitman and Avery White attended the National Native American Veterans Memorial Groundbreaking Ceremony at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21.


Attended by Debra Haaland, U.S. Representative from New Mexico, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, Provost of the Smithsonian Institute John Davis, Advisory Committee Co-Chair Jefferson Keel, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian Kevin Gover and Memorial Designer Harvey Pratt, among others, the event included a blessing, remarks, and the groundbreaking ceremony.


“I think all of us recognize that Native Americans serve in our armed forces at a higher rate than any group in this country because this is our land and we want to protect it,” said Haaland. For the ceremony, Haaland was wearing an Ira H. Hayes Post 84 pin, which was presented to her by Gov. Lewis.

“I’m very proud that Gov. Lewis gave me the pin,” said Haaland.

Gov. Lewis called the ceremony a “historic honoring,” for Native veterans. “Today was very emotional and powerful,” Gov. Lewis said.

The memorial will be an elevated stainless steel circle balanced on a carved stone drum. The designer, Pratt, who served in Vietnam from 1962 to 1965, was inspired by the symbol of the circle and the meaning it holds for Native Americans.


A blessing was performed after remarks by Gover, Wilkie, Haaland, Davis, Pratt, and Keel and followed by the groundbreaking.

The Gila River Indian Community is a sponsor among numerous other tribal nations and groups including the Tohono O'odham Nation and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.


“The community will continue to support the veterans locally, at home, and nationally as well,” said Redbird

The memorial will be dedicated on Veterans Day, 2020.