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Harvey Pratt: Dreaming of a National Native American Veterans Memorial

The following is a guest blog post by liaison specialist Owen Rogers about the November 11, 2020 completion and programing surrounding the National Native American Veterans Memorial. 

Staff photo from the 2018 National Gathering of American Indian Veterans, where Smithsonian and Library staff collaboratively hosted oral history workshops and interview recordings with Native American veterans.

American Indians and Alaska Natives comprise less than 1% of the United States population. They boast a higher percentage of veterans than any other ethnicity and a tradition of military service that has increased since the United States ended the military draft in 1973. This year, the proud and courageous tradition of military service among Native Americans will be nationally recognized – for the first time.

On Veterans Day 2020, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian will dedicate the National Native American Veterans Memorial. The “Warrior’s Circle of Honor” unifies the cycle of life, death, and military service shared by Native Americans. Selected from more than 120 submissions, Harvey Pratt’s design fomented in a dream: a memorial that represents the path of life; and the end of a journey. Through the collaboration of the National Museum of the American Indian and the Veterans History Project, Pratt shared his journey with the Library of Congress.

Harvey Pratt, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War and Cheyenne-Arapaho artist, is also the nephew of a Marine Corps World War II veteran and the son of a traditional storyteller. We met at the 2018 National Gathering of American Indian Veterans, the largest annual meeting of indigenous veterans in the United States. This collective, where veterans from all tribes, nations, wars, and branches of service are welcome, reflects the intentions of the National Native American Veterans Memorial. The design affords veterans the opportunity to gather, remember, reflect and heal. In the spirit of the forthcoming memorial, Smithsonian and Library staff held oral history workshop and recording opportunities for attending veterans. The Veterans History Project holds 399 indigenous veterans’ collections, including World War II Navajo “Code Talkers” and veterans from every war collected by the Project.

Screenshot from Harvey Pratts oral history interview at the 2018 National Gathering of American Indian Veterans. Oral History. Harvey Phillip Pratt Collection, Veterans History Project. AFC2001/001/112851.

During his oral history recording, Pratt reflected on the origins of his military art. As a young Marine, his first military art adorned the guard barracks of “Hughes’ Hellions.” After he separated from the Marine Corps, his forensic art has helped recover missing children and heal victims of violence. A listener turned storyteller, Pratt feels

I’m fortunate that I listened – not always – but I listened to the elders. I wish I had learned and I wish that I’d asked more questions.

The Veterans History Project is listening – and we want you to share your story.

Veterans History Project Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Conversations and Song

Because their stories are OUR stories ~ November 6 – 14, 2020 Join us in a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Veterans History Project (VHP) at the Library of Congress with a series of panel discussions and musical performances. The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible […]

The Last Sunday in September

The last Sunday in September marks Gold Star Mothers and Family’s day- a day for our nation to show our profound gratitude and respect for the families of our fallen.  Last year, the Library of Congress invited Gold Star families to join us so that we could celebrate the lives, service and love of their […]

“A Bad Penny Always Returns”

This is the sixth blog post in a series marking the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II, and will feature an “Aviator Flight Log Book,” which will be available during the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover in September 2020. While I enjoy working remotely, I miss having the opportunity to interact with those visiting the Veterans History Project’s […]

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The following is a guest blog post by Yvonne Brown, a processing technician for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP). It is the sixth in a series from VHP staff. Click on the following names to read previous articles in this series: Tamika Brown– Processing Technician Andrew Huber– Liaison Specialist Tracey Dodson– Administrative […]

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The following is a guest post by Matt McCrady, a Digital Conversion Specialist for the Library of Congress. Particularly during wartime, joining the military often means putting on hold important aspects of one’s life, such as college or marriage. Similarly, the unexpected draft notice can mean the end of a promising college athlete’s hope for […]

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The following is a guest blog post by Candace Milburn, a processing technician for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP). It is the fifth in a series from VHP staff. Click on the following names to read previous articles in this series: Tamika Brown– Processing Technician Andrew Huber– Liaison Specialist Tracey Dodson– Administrative […]

Turning the Tides in the Pacific

This is the fourth blog post in a series marking the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II, and will feature an “Aviator Flight Log Book,” which will be available during the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover in September 2020. There are certain moments in life that stay with you forever.  “Flashbulb memories,” as Lisa Taylor points out in […]

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The following is a guest blog post by Justina Moloney, an archivist for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP). It is the fourth in a series from VHP staff. Click on the following names to read previous articles in this series: Tamika Brown– Processing Technician Andrew Huber– Liaison Specialist Tracey Dodson– Administrative Officer […]