The artist whose design concept was selected for a memorial to Native American veterans said he was still emotional a week after the announcement.
“My family, my children, my grandchildren, this will be in their minds and in their hearts,” Harvey Pratt said. “Someone said, ‘Harvey, your design is going to be there as long as there’s an America.’ Then it hit me … thinking of all those people who will see it.”
Pratt is a Cheyenne and Arapaho artist based in Guthrie, Okla., and a member of Cheyenne and Arapaho American Legion Post 401 in Clinton, Okla. His design concept for the National Native American Veterans Memorial was selected June 26 by the jury for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
Pratt served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam and spent more than 50 years in law enforcement, retiring from his position as forensic artist with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in 2017. He said respect for veterans was instilled in him at an early age.
“They were very special people in the culture. Even when we were little boys, (we were told) go shake their hand. He’s defended our people, he’s defended our country.
“I always wanted to be in the service and defend this country. It’s an important thing to be a veteran and to honor veterans. And I’m just thrilled to death that this nation is honoring Native veterans.”
In a press release announcing the design selection, the Smithsonian noted that Native Americans serve in the military at higher rate per capita than any other population group.
Groundbreaking for the memorial, which will be located at the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall, is scheduled for Sept. 21, 2019, with opening slated for late 2020. Pratt and the museum will work together to refine the design.
In unanimously selecting Pratt’s design concept, “Warriors’ Circle of Honor,” the jury found it “culturally resolute and spiritually engaging.”
“The circle is so profoundly important in all Native cultures that the supreme strength of this design is its ability for all people to connect with it and find meaning in it,” the jury report notes.
A stainless steel Sacred Circle at the center of the design represents heaven, earth and the pathway followed by honor-bound Native people. The central design elements within the circle are water, which represents purity, prayer, cleansing and reflection; fire, which symbolizes strength, courage, endurance and comfort; and a drum, the heartbeat of the memorial, connecting all the elements.
A red stone outer walkway, the Warriors’ Traditional Red Road, represents the way of life leading to harmony and includes Legacy Footprints representing warriors of the past, present and future.
Pratt aims for the memorial to be a place where veterans, Native Americans and others can be comfortable and say a prayer in a place of quiet reflection.
The National Museum of the American Indian conducted an international juried competition to select design concepts for the memorial after Congress commissioned the museum to build a memorial 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.”
However, Congress has determined that the memorial must be designed and constructed without the use of federal funds. Donations to fund the project can be made online at https://nmai.si.edu/nnavm/.