Since the first arrival of Europeans onto Turtle Island and in connection to the conflicts that first arose in association, Native Americans – with the inclusion of American Indians, Alaskan Natives and Native Hawaiians – have enlisted and volunteered for the armed services at a higher rate than any other ethnicity.
According to government officials during World War II, if all other races had enlisted at the same rate as American Indians, selective service and the draft would not have been necessary.
Considering those soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen and women that have served and tragically did not return home to their families, here are some of the memorials honoring our fallen Native warriors across the country.
The National Native American Vietnam Veterans Memorial
In Neillsville, Wisconsin lies the Highground, a memorial park that pays tribute to those fallen service members that gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country. In a park that honors veterans from WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam sits the National Native American Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a memorial dedicated to the fallen Native American soldiers that gave their lives in Vietnam.
The memorial which was dedicated in 1995, is the first national monument to be placed at the Highground. The monument depicts a Native soldier in jungle fatigues holding a rifle in one hand and an eagle staff in the other. The soldier stands atop a 10 ton slab of red granite, which signifies the blood of warriors lost in Vietnam.
The names of all Native Vietnam causalities are etched on four granite panels surrounding the memorial.
The All-Nations Native American Veterans Memorial
The All-Nations Native American Veterans Memorial was started on April 20 of 2013 after Bill Stam transported a life-size bronze statue of a Native warrior hunting buffalo nearly 800 miles to his home in Jefferson, Oregon.
In the years since its creation, the once subtle Native memorial now has 17 flags from 17 tribal nations flying and 14 large blue granite slabs each containing hundreds of names of Native veterans. Though the memorial holds both living and those in memoriam, the memorial certainly honors those that have fallen.
“As far as I know, we are the only All Nations memorial that also honors all 34 Nations of Code Talkers dating back to WWI,” Stam told ICTMN.
Families wishing to add their veterans name to the memorial can do so by information found on their Facebook page.
Navajo Nation Veterans Memorial Park
At the base of Window Rock in Arizona sits the Navajo Nation Veterans Memorial Park to honor the many Navajos who served in the U. S. military to include Code Talkers. This park was designed and built by the Navajo as a “living” Veteran’s Memorial designed by Native Vietnam Veterans, Navajo Code Talker’s and Navajo medicine men.
The park has many symbolic structures to include a circular path outlining the four cardinal directions, 16 angled steel pillars with the names of war veterans, and a healing sanctuary featuring a fountain made of sandstone.
Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza Navajo Code Talkers Memorial
Located in Phoenix, Arizona, The Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza – in addition to its memorials for public servants, contains the Navajo Code Talkers Memorial, a statue dedicated on February 28, 2008 by the Navajo Code Talkers Foundation. Sculpted by Oreland Joe a member of the Navajo and Cowboy Artists of America, the statue depicts a Navajo Code Talker sending a message via a combat telephone.
American Indian Veterans National Memorial
Though not specifically a memorial for Veterans who have passed, the American Indian Veterans National Memorial at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona honors all Native service members.
The memorial consists of several sculptures by acclaimed Native artists Allan Houser (Chiricahua Apache, 1914-1994) and Michael Naranjo (Santa Clara Pueblo). Houser created a 10-foot-tall, 2,000 pound sculpture entitled Unconquered II which honors service and sacrifice spanning more than three centuries. Houser and Naranjo, a Native sculpturist blinded in Vietnam, created two smaller works (He’s My Brother and The Gift) which accompany the larger sculpture – which was the last piece they sculpted.
Proposed: The Native American Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
In 2013, H.R. 2319, the Native American Veterans’ Memorial Amendments Act bill was enacted after being signed into law by The President on December 26, 2013. The National Museum of the American Indian will eventually host the Native Veterans Memorial.