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“We invite you to participate in this historic moment—for our country, for veterans, and for the Native American communities whose loyalty and passion have helped make America what it is today.”

—Kevin Gover (Pawnee), Director, National Museum of the American Indian

Legislation from Congress

In 1994, Congress passed legislation authorizing the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) to create a National Native American Veterans Memorial to give “all Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans in the Armed Forces of the United States.” The memorial was to be located inside the museum. No federal funds were to be used to establish the memorial, and only the National Congress of American Indians was permitted to raise funds. In 2013, Congress amended the legislation to permit the memorial to be located on the grounds of the NMAI and to allow the NMAI to raise funds to support the creation of the memorial.

Community Consultations

To help guide this process, the NMAI formed the National Native American Veterans Memorial Advisory Committee, a group composed of tribal leaders and Native veterans from across the country, to assist the museum with outreach to Native American communities and veterans. From 2015 until the summer of 2017, the advisory committee and the museum conducted thirty-five community consultations to seek input and support for the memorial. These events brought together tribal leaders, Native veterans, and community members from across the nation, and resulted in a shared vision and set of design principles for the National Native American Veterans Memorial.

The Competition

The National Native American Veterans Memorial Design Competition is sponsored by the NMAI. The purpose of the competition is to select a design concept for a new memorial that will be located on the NMAI’s grounds and honor Native American veterans. Taking up the charge given by Congress, the NMAI will establish a National Native American Veterans Memorial to “give all Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans in the Armed Forces of the United States.” This tribute to Native heroes will be located prominently on the grounds of the NMAI on the National Mall, between the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Semifinalist Honorarium—$25,000

Projected Design/Construction Budget—$8 million


Vision and Design Principles

vision circle

The origins of the vision and design principles are the extensive community consultations conducted by the committee and museum. These discussions determined that the memorial should honor the interrelated elements of culture, spirituality, sacrifice, place, valor, healing, future service members, and the legacy of veterans past. Design concepts should address balance, inclusivity, respect, sustainability, endurance, accessibility, and interpretation of memorial elements.


Culture: The memorial shall reflect the cultural commitment of Native peoples to serve their country—their responsibility to protect their homeland, community, family, and traditional way of life.

Spirituality: The memorial shall reflect Native spirituality in ways that are clear to Native visitors if not to others—including space for prayer, reflection, or cleansing.

Sacrifice: The memorial shall acknowledge the sacrifices of the family members who remain at home while their family member serves.

Place: The memorial shall recognize and relate to its context on the grounds of a public museum and play a role in public and private activity patterns in and around the museum.

Valor: The memorial shall honor the courageous service of all Native veterans—American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians—from the Revolutionary War forward.

Healing: The memorial shall act as a place for healing and consolation for all.

Legacy: The memorial shall be timeless, representing the past yet be meaningful to future generations.

Design Principles

Balance: Provide a balance between a sense of enclosure and dignity with openness and visibility, inviting exploration and contemplation.

Inclusivity: Encompass all Native communities and regions of the United States, and men and women from all branches of service.

Respect: Integrate the memorial into the sustainable landscape of the NMAI, recognizing the current interpretations within the landscape, building, and grounds.

Sustainability: Be operationally sustainable with minimal maintenance requirements over time.

Endurance: Create an enduring memorial to honor past, present, and future veterans and their families.

Accessibility: Incorporate universal design principles to ensure an accessible and equitable experience for all visitors.

Interpretation: Portray the messages of the memorial through appropriate interpretive elements and materials.


Competition Process

The National Native American Veterans Memorial Design Competition will be conducted in two stages. Stage I will be an open call to submit design concepts for the memorial. The jury will select up to five finalists. In Stage II, the participants will develop their design concepts for the memorial and present their designs to the jury.

Stage I

Competition Opens
Question and Answer Period
Design Entries Submitted
Competition Managers Conduct Compliance Check
Jury Evaluates Entries and Selects Designers for Stage II
Stage II Designers Announced

Stage II

Stage II Briefing and "Meet Your Designers" Event
Question and Answer Period Opens
Mid-Course Review
Question and Answer Period Closes
Stage II Designs Submitted
Competition Managers Conduct Compliance Check
Design Oversight Committee Reviews Design Submittals
Jury Hears Design Presentations by Participants
Jury Evaluates Design Concepts and Selects Recommended Winner
Sponsor Reviews Jury's Recommendation and Announces Selected Design

Competition Schedule

The design competition schedule is hereby appended to, and is part of, the competition regulations. It lists the sequence of events and the deadlines in accordance with the competition process. Modifications to the competition schedule, if made, will be published as addenda.

November 11, 2017 Registration Opens

January 9, 2018 Stage I Entries Due

Week of January 15–19, 2018 Stage I Jury Session

January 25, 2018 Announcement of Stage II Participants

Week of February 5–9, 2018 Stage II Briefing and "Meet Your Designers" Event

Week of March 5–9, 2018 Stage II Mid-course Review

May 1, 2018 Stage II Design Concept Submittals Due

May 1–15, 2018 Exhibition of Stage II Design Concepts

May 16, 2018 DOC Review of Stage II Design Concept Submittals

Week of June 4–8, 2018 Stage II Jury Session

June 26, 2018 Announcement of Selected Design Concept

September 21, 2018 Groundbreaking

Fall 2020 Dedication of Memorial


Memorial Site

diagram of memorial site

The 4.25-acre site is bounded by Jefferson Drive and the National Mall to the north, Maryland and Independence Avenues and the Voice of America headquarters to the south, Third Street and the United States Botanic Garden to the east, and Fourth Street and the National Air and Space Museum to the west. The future Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is slated for the site to the southwest of the NMAI at Independence Avenue and Fourth Street.

Further information on the context, site, and the museum's architectural and landscape design is available on the NMAI’s website.

landscape diagram of memorial site
“This is a tremendously important effort to recognize Native Americans’ service to this nation. We have so much to celebrate. Like so many others, I was compelled to serve to honor the warrior tradition that is inherent to most Native American societies—the pillars of strength, honor, pride, devotion, and wisdom.”

—The Honorable Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Northern Cheyenne)