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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.

VHP’s Newest Online Feature: ‘First, Serve: Athletes in Uniform’

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 […]

Homegrown Plus: Nakotah LaRance, 1989-2020

Normally, the Homegrown Plus series is a way to bring together the videos of Homegrown concerts with other information about the artists, including oral history interviews.  This time, however, we have a more solemn duty: to celebrate the life and legacy of Nakotah LaRance, an outstanding Native American hoop dancer from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, New […]

VHP’s Newest Online Exhibit: Breaking Ground and Boundaries: Veteran Changemakers

Earlier this week, the Veterans History Project (VHP) launched a new online exhibit to highlight the stories of veteran “changemakers.” You might be asking yourself, who or what is a changemaker, exactly, and why are we focusing on them? In early 2019, the Library of Congress launched a year-long initiative to explore the stories of […]

Agnes Vanderburg’s Salish Indian School on the Folklife Today Podcast

Episode eight of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on iTunes, or with your usual podcatcher.   Get your podcast here! In this episode. John Fenn and I discuss the work of Agnes Vanderburg, a Salish elder from Montana who began an outdoor school […]

D-Day Journeys: Charles Norman Shay

June 6, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Allies’ famed invasion of the beaches of Normandy. In honor of this momentous occasion, the Veterans History Project (VHP) is publishing a special series of blog posts revealing hidden facets of D-Day illuminated within VHP’s collections. This post is the fifth in a six-part series, […]

Which One Do You Love Most?

It’s Valentine’s Day. It seems everyone has love on their minds today—at least half of us, anyway. Last year, the National Retail Federation predicted that 54.7% of the United States adult population was planning to celebrate the holiday with their significant others, friends or pets to the tune of nearly $20 billion. Yes, billion with […]