Nandi van der Knaap | The National Native American Veterans Memorial – Historical Reconciliation in the United States through Visible Decolonization


The main subject of this paper is the National Native American Veterans Memorial (2020) and the question how this memorial should be perceived. What does it really represent and mean? Is it an attempt by Congress to start a path toward historical reconciliation? In order to answer these questions, this paper gives a brief overview of the history of the victimization of Indigenous North Americans. Thereafter, this paper examens the steps toward historical reconciliation or acknowledgment of Indigenous suffering taken by the federal government before the construction of the memorial. Past state initiatives and apologies made by the federal government will be shortly discussed, however, not deeply scrutinized. Instead, the focus will be on the memorial and the question what historical value it has. How is the memorial an attempt for historical reconciliation? What purpose does it have for the Indigenous communities and the broader public?

Using archeologist Laurajane Smith’s theory on performativity and memorialization from the field of memory and heritage studies, recent opinions, experiences, and convictions regarding the memorial will be weighed and evaluated. This paper shows that the existence of the memorial is a visible step toward a post-colonial US society in which a pan-Indigenous identity and history is constructed.

Nandi van der Knaap rondde afgelopen zomer de studie Geschiedenis af aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam. Momenteel vervolgt ze haar studie met de master Holocaust & Genocide Studies aan diezelfde universiteit. Ze is voornamelijk geïnteresseerd in postkoloniale processen en de oorsprong van ideologieën, waar ze ook haar masterthesis aan zal wijden.

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