On Veterans Day 2017, the National Museum of the American Indian made an unexpected but widely acclaimed announcement: it would be soliciting submissions from the public detailing potential designs for a brand-new memorial on the National Mall.
Situated on museum grounds, the memorial would be dedicated to the spirit, bravery and sacrifice of Native American soldiers across United States history, and would serve as a place of solace and communion for Native American veterans and their loved ones.
Now, the submission period has closed, and the museum has winnowed the pool of designs down to five possibilities. Detailed concept art of the finalist submissions went on view at the museum’s New York City location this week. Each prospective memorial approaches the narrative of Native American military personnel in a distinct way, and any would make for a beautiful, thought-provoking addition to the National Mall.
The museum is inviting outside comment from the community through the end of May as it makes its decision—the winning design will be announced in the months to come.
For your consideration, here are the five finalist designs:
Wellspring of Valor
James Dinh’s Wellspring of Valor (NMAI)
In developing his concept for the new memorial, James Dinh took care to balance American military iconography with Native American iconography, setting symbols and the traditions they represent in intimate conversation with one another.
At the center of Dinh’s design is situated a tranquil “healing fountain,” surrounded by a quintet of tall glass spires. Labeled respectively with the values of Valor, Honor, Pride, Devotion and Wisdom, their glistening angular forms unite when seen from above to form a five-pointed star.
That this star has a void at its heart—where the healing fountain is situated—speaks to the cost of battle. “Those who died in the line of duty are marked by the empty space at the center of the star,” Dinh says in his artist’s statement, “which is illuminated at night to memorialize the courageous lives of these men and women.”
Concentric circles—“ripples,” in Dinh’s imagination—radiate outward from the star and fountain, and are bounded on one side by a mound of earth evocative of the ancient lifestyle of America’s Mound Builder peoples. Inlaid in this mound is a firm stone wall bearing testimonial quotes from Native American servicemen and women. “Like a slice through the earth,” Dinh says, “the stone