By Carol Mowdy Bond
The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian chose El Reno native Harvey Pratt’s design “Warriors’ Circle of Honor” for the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. As well, Pratt is featured in this month’s issue of “Oklahoma Magazine,” for this great accomplishment and honor.
In 2017, the museum announced its international competition, and received 413 submissions from five countries for a National Native American Veterans Memorial. All submissions were sculptures except for Pratt’s which was an architectural design. In April 2019, Pratt learned the judges chose his “Warriors’ Circle of Honor” as one of the five finalists. After Pratt went to D.C. and explained the design’s meaning, the judges unanimously chose his entry.
Currently under construction, the memorial is located on the last remaining space on the National Mall in D.C. The unveiling will occur on Veteran’s Day on November 11. A dedication ceremony was planned, with over 30,000 people planning to attend. But COVID-19 put the skids on that. Nonetheless, Pratt said construction is ahead of schedule.
Pratt actually had a dream about creating a design that would appease all of the 573 federally recognized tribes through spirituality and ceremony. Pratt said, “My design is timeless. If my great-great-grandfather looked at it, he would know what it means. My great-grandchildren will recognize the symbolism.”
Pratt, a Cheyenne Peace Chief and an award-winning Cheyenne and Arapaho artist, grew up in a traditional Cheyenne-Arapaho family, with a family tree Pratt can trace back for many generations. He has participated in ceremonies with numerous tribes, and he realized they all have certain elements in common. So he simply put those basic beliefs together, including the circle which represents many concepts including the cycles of life and seasons. As well, water makes things grow and start. Sacred fire is the eternal fire that warms and comforts. Black represents ancestors; white is new beginnings; the Creator’s power is red; yellow represents mother earth.
Pratt and his wife, Oklahoma residents, included as much Oklahoma talent as possible for creation of the 14 feet tall and 50 feet wide stainless steel, granite, and bronze structure.
The memorial includes military medallions on the outer walls, and Pratt included benches inside the walls so people may meditate and pray.
Initially told the memorial would specifically be for native people, Pratt didn’t agree. He said, “It’s for all people. For healing and comfort, and prayer.”
The $17 million structure is funded totally through donations, with no tax dollars involved.
Born in El Reno, Pratt spent a number of his school years in El Reno. He was drawing by first grade, and teachers were encouraging him, telling him he was talented. He went on to become a US Marine, serving in Vietnam. Pratt then moved into a law enforcement career.
Pratt’s friend, retired Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent Dee Cordy said, “Pratt is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and a member of the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Hall of Fame. He became an OSBI agent in the 1970s, conducting a wide range of investigations for the next 20 years. The Regional Organized Crime Information Center is a government sponsored program for the sharing of information on traveling criminals, and Pratt served on the board of directors for eight years, including one year as chairman of the board. The OSBI Commission appointed Pratt as the Interim Director of the agency in 2010.”
Now a retired OSBI agent, Pratt’s work in forensic arts assisted in thousands of arrests and hundreds of identifications of unidentified human remains throughout America. Many of the cases were high profile. Although he is retired, Pratt still responds to agencies that request his assistance.