Design competition underway for Native American veterans memorial

In this undated Marine Corps file photo, a Navajo Code Talker relays a message on a field radio. The Code Talkers served in the South Pacific during World War II and were kept a secret until 1968, when the Navajo code was declassified.


By NOEL LYN SMITH | The Daily Times (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 25, 2017

FARMINGTON, N.M. — The creation of a national memorial to honor Native American veterans is a step closer to becoming a reality.

A call for entries to design the National Native American Veterans Memorial was issued on Nov. 11 by the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., where the memorial will be placed.

"It's a wide-open competition. We're inviting artists, architects, designers and regular citizens to submit their ideas for a design," Rebecca Trautmann, projects curator for the memorial, said.

The competition will be completed in two stages with entries for the first stage due on Jan. 9.

Participants selected for the second stage will be announced on Jan. 25, and the design selected for the memorial will be announced on July 4, according to the memorial website.

"It's exciting to see it moving forward, and it's exciting to be at this stage where we're starting to accept designs," Trautmann said.

Information about the competition and its manual are available at nmai.si.edu/nnavm.

Movement on the memorial gained momentum after Congress amended the Native American Veterans' Memorial Establishment Act in 2013 authorizing the museum to create the memorial.

"Most Americans are not aware of the incredibly high rate of service of Native Americans in the military, and it's a long, rich, honorable tradition," Trautmann said. "The memorial is intended to make people better aware of that service and honor the veterans for their service."

The amendment also authorized the museum to raise funds for the $15 million project. The amount includes the cost for consultations, conducting the design competition, an oral history project, and outreach and programming.

"The federal government authorized the memorial, but did not provide funding for it, which is typical for these memorial projects," Trautmann said.

The memorial received support from the Navajo Nation when the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee passed a resolution in October that supported its construction.

As part of the development process, the museum formed an advisory committee of Native American veterans and family members of veterans.

The committee and the museum held regional consultations in 35 communities in 16 states from October 2015 to June 2017 to gather input for the memorial.

The committee was continuously told to make the memorial inclusive of all Native American veterans, including Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, and from all eras starting with the American Revolutionary War, Trautmann said.

"It's important that design be reflective of that," she said.

Other aspects of the memorial are a traveling exhibition that tells the personal stories of Native American veterans and shares information about the project.

The museum is also collaborating with the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress to collect and preserve the oral histories of veterans.

©2017 The Daily Times (Farmington, N.M.)
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