Artist's rendering of "Warriors' Circle of Honor," Harvey Pratt's winning design for the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Image: Skyline Ink, courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian

Cheyenne and Arapaho veteran lands big assignment in nation's capital

The team behind the National Native American Veterans Memorial design
Rosemary Stephens
Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune

In June 2018 the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian unanimously selected Harvey Pratt’s design concept, Warriors’ Circle of Honor, for the National Native American Veterans Memorial. Pratt, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, along with his team, wife Gina Pratt and son Nathan Pratt said they were stunned when receiving the phone call informing them they had been selected.

“The first day they told us the Smithsonian called right after and already had six interviews lined up. When they called us I didn’t have my glasses on and Gina said, ‘I think this is the Smithsonian.’ I ran over got my glasses and said yes it is. I was kind of surprised. He (Kevin Gover) called us up and said, ‘I have some good news and I have some bad news, which do you want first?’ Gina said well the good news and he said, ‘well the good news is you won, and the bad news is now you gotta do it,’” Pratt laughed and said they were both looking at each other stunned.

Pratt’s design was first chosen as one of the top five out of 120 design submissions in an open blind competition and was selected the winner and announced June 26, 2018.

And to think Pratt almost didn’t enter the competition …

“The first time I heard about it was from Russell Willey. He said they were going to have a veteran’s memorial and they are sending some people around to talk to the Indians about it and asked me to go with him and listen. So we went to the Oklahoma City meeting, listened to what they were wanting and Russell kept saying, ‘Harvey you need to enter.’ I was like, ‘nah, I don’t want to do that. There are too many big companies with lots of money that will do that,” Pratt said.

The design team behind the “Warriors Circle of Honor” that will be located at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. From left: Harvey Pratt, his wife Gina Pratt and son Nathan Pratt. Photo by Rosemary Stephens / Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune

A short time later Willey called him again asking if Pratt wanted to go to another meeting being held in Shawnee this time.

“He kept saying you need to submit something on this … well I got to thinking about it and thought, ‘well I guess I’ll send something in.’ I tell people I thought about it. I dreamed about it, you know slept on it and came up with an idea,” Pratt said looking over at his design team, Gina and Nathan.

How It Began
January 7, 2018 was the official opening for blind submissions for the National Native American Veterans Memorial. There could be no names on the submissions, nor any name of any tribe on anything that was submitted.

“I was number 81 … that was it, all I was was number 81,” Pratt said.

As Pratt sat at his kitchen table one evening, sketching on some old yellow notebook paper, he drew some rough designs and thought, "Hey those are pretty good."

“I asked Gina do we want a circle or do you want it to kind of go over and she said, real matter of fact, ‘it’s a circle Harvey.’”

Pratt gridded out the design and when his son Nathan came by and stood looking at the sketch he told his dad the design needed to be animated.

“I said animated? He (Nathan) said I know some guys who do that, let’s go talk to them. I’m thinking I can’t afford to pay someone to animate this thing,” but Pratt said okay, and they took the drawing to Skyline, Inc. “I showed it to him and he said yea we can do that. I told him I didn’t think I could afford him and he said don’t worry about it we’ll figure that out later.”

Jeff Johnson of Skyline, Inc. animated the drawing making it appear as if it was already there, already built and in place.

“I almost gave up on this project a couple of times because I thought there’s too much bull shit. Too many rules to follow, do this, do that, you can’t do this and you can’t do that and I thought to myself I don’t need that … but then Gina would look at me and say, ‘come on Harvey we’re already this far along, hang in there.’ I relied on Gina and Nathan to help me, this was a team effort and wouldn’t have happened without these two people,” Pratt said overcome with emotion.

A Native American newspaper with a big voice and strong dedication to its readers, the Tribal Tribune is your best source for Cheyenne & Arapaho news. Follow the Tribal Tribune on Twitter @CATribalTribune

They received a call informing him he was a finalist, and it was at that point Pratt, Gina and Nathan developed their design team, “So our design team was me, Gina and Nathan and at that point we tried to work out everything they said we had to have, like an architect and a builder.”

Again, Nathan stepped in and told his dad about architects Hans and Torrey Butzer, who took one look at their design and said, "We’re in the fight, we’re going to be with you on this.”

Hans Butzer, originally from Germany and his wife Torrey, from Oklahoma, both designed the Murrow Building Memorial. Hans is also the Dean of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma (OU), and once they were on board the team they knew builders and other architects Nathan said.

“He contacted two other architects who designed the 911 Memorial and one of them was in lighting and one of them was in water. Then he found a Creek girl who does landscaping architecture, so he put it all together, we did the 34 page written documentation, included all our exhibits and we mailed them in by March 1,” Pratt said.

Pratt was soon notified to come to Washington, D.C. and make a presentation, where the design team, including Hans, made the presentation at the Smithsonian National Museum, traveled home, and began the wait.

“They ended up notifying us on the 25th of June, released the news on the 26th of June and it’s been a mad dash ever since,” Pratt said.

An artist's rendering provides an aerial view of "Warriors’ Circle of Honor," Harvey Pratt's winning design for the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Image: Skyline Ink, courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian

Design Idea
One of the guidelines for the design concept was the design had to fit all 577 federally recognized Tribes, where all Tribes could relate to it without it being one specific Tribe.

“I sat and thought about that and said what does all the Tribes have in common … and what they have in common are the elements,” Pratt said.

He stated all Tribes have in common the sacred fires, the sacred waters, the wind and the earth, and all recognize the directions.

“We all recognize those things and directions are so important to us. We all have cardinal points, so we included cardinal points and we recognize the southeast as white, the southwest as red as the Creator and yellow is the northwest, Mother Earth, and then our ancestors are the northeast, so I included all of that,” Pratt explained each concept with the team’s design. “Someone can come in here and if they don’t do prayer cloths they at least do sacred fires so rather than do a statute I would include all those other things people recognize. I didn’t want people to just stand back and look at it, I wanted them to come into it and when I did the center part, I call it the drum, that’s where the water flows over top of and down the side.” Nathan said his dad invited both him and Gina to critique each step of the design, “so it was collaborative, he invited us and we were constantly exchanging ideas, comparing perspectives and I think that’s what ultimately refined it. It has been an honor to be a part of the process,” Nathan said.

Working collaboratively the team would define each and every detail of the design, tweaking here and there to fit the vision Pratt saw in his mind.

“We talked about changing things and the drum. We talked about sound. I wanted the people to hear the Flag Songs, the Veteran Songs, Honor Songs or Victory Songs playing very quietly above the whole inside area, where you can barely hear someone singing and the drum … not loud, just very softly and quietly as people come into meditate.”

The ideas for the design, Pratt said came from the ceremonies when entering the tipi.

“There are certain things you don’t do, you don’t run, you don’t holler and I wanted this place to be like that. The same peaceful, respectful way we are at ceremonies. Veterans can come in there and tell their war stories, War Mothers can come in there and pray for their husbands, sons … be involved,” Pratt said.

Closing his eyes Pratt seemed to go into the future describing what the inside of the memorial, from the footprints, to the sound of water, to the Eagle feathers and the prayer cloths, ‘we have a vertical circle inside, to me represents the hole in the sky where the Eagle flies through and takes your prayers up there to the Creator and the Creator sends them back down … it’s everlasting, it’s endless and that the way I see this memorial.”

Harvey Pratt
Pratt, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, has been one of the most well known Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations (OSBI) forensic artists in the state of Oklahoma and throughout the United States, retiring in 2017 after 50 years of service. He was sought out by agencies across the world to help solve crimes, find missing children and fugitives. Pratt is also well known across the country for his artwork, and is a Marine Corps veteran serving during the Viet Nam war.

He was born April 13, 1941 in the small town of El Reno, Okla. to Anna and Oscar Pratt.

“We all had Indian names and all the neighborhood kids knew who we were and our Indian names. When aunt Laura would call us in at night, she would yell out our Indian names and we would all come home. Then you could hear her still out on the porch calling our names and we would say, ‘aunt Laura we are all right here’ and she would say, ‘I know but your little spirits are still out there and I am going to call them in so nothing happens to them.’”

Pratt attended El Reno Junior High until his mother moved them to Bethany, Oklahoma. He said he hated the school in Bethany so his mother asked him if he wanted to attend the St Patrick’s Indian Mission School in Anadarko. He later would join the U.S. Marine Corps, being sent to San Diego, California, for boot camp.

“My uncle Charles was a World War II veteran, Marines, so he has always, always been in my head, even when I was little, and we would go see him when he was stationed in different places. Mother would always take us to go visit him. He was a hero to me. I met other veterans and my mother would tell me to go shake their hands, all four of us boys growing up would do that. My grandfather would always speak of his son Charles, so when it became time for me to join the military there was no other choice for me but the Marine Corps. And I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen but I ended up going overseas with the Military Police,” Pratt said.

Pratt said being in the military wasn’t hard for him because he had attended boarding school.

“Boarding school we had rules, you had to clean, do your own laundry, make your bed, do your chores. All those things I did at boarding school I did when I went into the Marine Corps and I thought, this ain’t bad,” he said laughing.

Pratt’s love of the military and the honor he carries as a Marine Corps veteran helped in his decision to enter the design competition, but none of them, Pratt, Gina or Nathan fully believed they would win.

“I didn’t see it coming, but once we were in the midst of it I became very passionate about the design and what we were doing, and the process,” Gina said. “You know we’re busy, it’s chaotic but we are telling ourselves to enjoy the moment and not worry about the other things. To take things as they come, just be in the moment and enjoy it because it’s a once in a lifetime thing that’s happening for all of us. It’s bigger than we are.

The groundbreaking for the National Native American Veterans Memorial is slated for September 2019 and a grand opening in 2020. The memorial will be an ongoing project, with changes along the way, but not to the core values instilled in the original design by Pratt and his team.

“We were so involved in this whole thing from the beginning that we didn’t even think about where it was going. It didn’t dawn on us that after they said we were the finalist we got an email from somebody and he said, ‘Harvey you guys will be there forever as long as there is an America your memorial will be there with the Washington Memorial and the Lincoln,’ and I looked at Gina and said, ‘Holy crap I never even thought about that.’ We went to bed thinking about this and we woke up thinking about it and it hasn’t quit.”

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Tribune can be reached at:
Public Information Office
700 North Black Kettle Blvd.
Concho, OK 73022
P.O. Box 167

Editor in Chief Rosemary Stephens can be reached at

Join the Conversation
Trending in News
More Headlines