By Southwester Staff

National Native American Veterans Memorial will officially open on Veterans Day 2020 with a virtual tour; Courtesy of Alan Karchmer for NMAI

The National Native American Veterans Memorial will open on Wednesday, Nov.11, at 4th St. and Independence Avenue, SW. A short virtual message marking the event will be posted on the National Museum of the American Indian’s website and YouTube channel. Previously scheduled events to mark the memorial’s completion have been postponed “due to current health and safety guidelines,” according to a museum press release. 

Congress commissioned the memorial to give “All Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service to Native Americans in the Armed Forces and the United States.” Native Americans have served in the military in every war since the American Revolution, and the museum website says “more than 24,000 of the 1.2 million current active-duty servicemen and women are Native Americans,” citing Defense Department data. 

The National Native American Veterans Memorial has received support from groups such as the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Chickasaw Nation, and Poarch Band of Creek Indians, as well as numerous tribal governments. In total, more than 85 “tribes, individuals, corporations, and other corporations have contributed to the memorial,” the press release said.

The National Parks Service (NPS) has continued building or expanding monuments and memorials near the National Mall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial opened to the public as “America’s 420th unit of the National Park System,” according to an NPS press release.

The museum is also publishing Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces, a book exploring and commemorating the history of Native Americans in the military, to coincide with the memorial’s opening. Museum director Kevin Gover said, “The National Native American Veterans Memorial will serve as a reminder to the nation and the world of the service and sacrifice of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian veterans,” and how they “have always answered the call to serve, and this memorial is a fitting tribute to their patriotism and deep commitment to this country.” 

On Nov. 4, the museum is also opening “Why We Serve,” an exhibition that “tells personal stories of Native American veterans.” The exhibition “details the history of more than 250 years of Native American participation in the military, from colonial times to the present day.” On Nov. 12, the museum will have a virtual conversation with “Why We Serve” co-author Alexandra Harris about “identity and the warrior stereotype of Native people serving in the military,” as well as “traditions of peace and war within American Indian communities.”

Some exhibitions at the National Museum of the American Indian remain open during the pandemic. In the “Americans” exhibition, for instance, “American Indian images, names and stories infuse American history and contemporary life,” according to a museum announcement. “Americans” highlights “the ways in which American Indians have been part of the nation’s identity since before the country began.” Additional exhibitions are “The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire”; “Return to a Native Place”; and “Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces.” A new online exhibition, “Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field,” features “photo essays created by Native photojournalists Russel Albert Daniels and Tailyr Irvine.” The exhibition provides “insights into 21st-century Native life” and a perspective that “is largely invisible to mainstream society.” Additional upcoming events are “Native Cinema Showcase”; “Youth in Action: Conversations about Our Future”; and “Native Cinema Showcase.” Details can be found at the museum’s website, https://americanindian.si.edu.

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