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Smithsonian NMAI thanks Osage Nation for contributing to National Native American Veterans Memorial

Photo caption: The National Native American Veterans Memorial opened on Veterans Day 2020 just outside the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Courtesy photo by NMAI

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian expressed gratitude to the Osage Nation for its recent $100,000 contribution in support of the newly-built National Native American Veterans Memorial which opened to the public on Veterans Day 2020 in Washington, D.C.

In a Feb. 16 letter to Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, also provided to Congressional Speaker Angela Pratt, the Smithsonian NMAI Acting Director Machel Monenerkit acknowledged the monetary contribution, which was approved by the Seventh ON Congress during a November special session.

“On behalf of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), it is a pleasure to thank you and the Osage Nation for your recent gift of $100,000 to support the National Native American Veterans Memorial,” Monenerkit wrote. “Your commitment to this project is especially appreciated during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and all the challenges it has presented for our tribal communities.”

Located on the NMAI’s grounds at the National Mall, the National Native American Veterans Memorial was celebrated on Nov. 11 with a virtual ceremony due to the ongoing pandemic.

Monenerkit’s letter also acknowledged Speaker Pratt’s advocacy in support of the monument, which included her sponsorship of Osage Congressional bill ONCA 21-04 requesting the $100,000 contribution. The 12-member Congress unanimously passed the bill later signed into law by Standing Bear following the Nov. 24 special session.

“Your advocacy for Native veterans, combined with the enthusiastic support of Speaker Pratt, helped ensure that this project would raise nationwide attention,” Monenerkit wrote. “We hope that this partnership between NMAI and the Osage Nation marks the beginning of a new phase in our relationship, and we look forward to working together in the coming years.”

Speaker Pratt, an Army veteran, said she has been in contact with NMAI officials for years after attending an initial meeting where she gave feedback on ideas for the memorial concept before the design and construction efforts started. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fundraising efforts were impacted, so the deadline for contributions was extended. As part of making a contribution, the Nation’s seal will be included at the memorial with other respective tribal nations and individuals who also donated, she said during the special session.

The Native American Veterans Memorial comprises a stainless-steel circle placed over a carved stone drum and includes water features and benches surrounding in a circle pattern for visitors to gather, remember and reflect. 

In an online virtual dedication video, memorial designer and Marine veteran Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma) said: “I dreamed about how I could approach this design for the National Native American Veterans Memorial to touch 570-something tribes in America and the Aleutians and Hawaii. The concept would be based on spirituality, ceremonies and traditions of the Native American people. We’re different, but we’re all the same and I thought a way we can combine all the tribes was with their ceremonies.”

In the meantime, Monenerkit notes: “The Memorial is now completed and open to the public, even though the museum itself is closed (due to the pandemic). We are now planning to hold the dedication ceremony and the procession of Native Veterans on Veterans Day 2022 ... It has been a challenge and an honor to build a memorial that is worthy of the Native men and women who have served our country so patriotically. Thank you for your leadership and commitment.”

For more information on the National Native American Veterans Memorial, visit: www.americanindian.si.edu/visit/washington/nnavm