The American Indian Veterans Memorial (AIVMI) is a project spearheaded by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. In early 2011, tribal member Stephen Bowers, a Vietnam combat veteran, and Seminole Color Guard, with support from then tribal Chairman Mitchell Cypress, launched an effort to build a veteran statue near the Vietnam Wall on the National Mall in Washington D.C. that would represent American Indian, Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander soldiers.
To achieve the mission, Stephen Bowers, and his wife Elizabeth, established the “American Indian Veterans Memorial Initiative”, and embarked on an arduous task to obtain Congressional approval to build an American Indian veteran statue near the Vietnam Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. With continued support from the current Chairman, James E. Billie, a two-tour Vietnam veteran, and the other Tribal Council members, among them, Andrew Bowers, Jr., also a Vietnam veteran, the Initiative gained “its legs”.
During their travels crisscrossing the country, they met with numerous tribal leaders and American Indian, Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander veterans. A robust effort was made to obtain Resolutions of Support from numerous tribes, tribal organizations, and non-Indian organizations in support of building a veteran statue on the National Mall, including the Navajo Nation, and Alaska Federation of Natives, and the Vietnam Veterans of America organization.
In the early days of the Initiative, Dr. Tome Roubideaux, a five-and-half-tour Vietnam veteran and member of the Rosebud Lakota Sioux tribe who served a tour of duty in Vietnam with the current Seminole Chairman, James E. Billie, and Dr. Robert “Bob” Primeaux, also a Vietnam veteran and member of the Standing Rock Lakota Sioux tribe joined “The AIVMI Team” to help support for the Initiative throughout Indian Country. In addition, Jefferson Begay, a Navajo Native Vietnam Veteran and employee of Kitchell Corporation in Phoenix (retired January 2014), also gave his support whenever he could. From the beginning, Janene Alford, a member of the Absentee Shawnee Indian Tribe of Oklahoma has helped spread the word about AIVMI throughout Oklahoma, and organized AIVMI’s first Blanket Honor Dance at a pow-wow in Tulsa, OK on December 31st, 2011.
In 2013, companion Bills were introduced and passed in both the House and the Senate for a veteran statue to be built on the National Mall. On December 26, 2013, President Obama signed into law a Bill that authorized approval for a veteran statue to be built at the National Museum of American Indians (NMAI). While this location was not the preferred one for many American Indian, Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander veterans, it will be a welcomed addition as part of AIVMI’s effort to recognize the unwavering devotion, self-sacrifice, and service of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander veterans to this nation since its earliest days through today.
In continuing their efforts to educate Indians and non-Indians about American Indian, Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander soldiers involvement in the military, AIVMI has forged a relationship with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) to establish an American Indian Veterans Exhibit in the new Education Center at the Wall to be built near the Vietnam Memorial.
For more information, contact:
Stephen Bowers, Seminole Tribe of Florida, 954-966-6300 ext: 11480
Elizabeth Bates, AIVMI, 6311 N 36th St Hollywood FL 33024