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How to get a glimpse of the Native American veterans statue planned for Riverside National Cemetery

Tall, bronze and stoic, the centerpiece statue of the proposed American Indian Veterans Memorial will one day overlook Riverside National Cemetery with an almost regal aura.
But until a cemetery   c ommittee raises nearly $2 million to build the memorial, it will only see the inside of a storage unit.
The statue — a 1 1/2 ton, 12-foot tall, sculpture of a Native American draped in an American flag titled “The Gift” — is being finished at a Berkeley studio . But the surrounding plaza is still at least one year away from opening. Sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg, creator of the cemetery’s Prisoner of War and Missing in Action memorials said the memorial will commemorate Native American service members from as early as the Revolutionary War.
“This memorial is so important because it acknowledges their service,” he said. “We’re very proud to have been involved in this and we’re very proud that it’s going to this fabulous cemetery in Riverside.”
Sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg works on the statue that will be part of the American Indian Veterans Memorial planned for Riverside National Cemetery. (Courtesy of Cynthia Schomberg)
A close-up shows the statue that will be part of the American Indian Veterans Memorial proposed for Riverside National Cemetery. (Courtesy of Cynthia Schomberg)
Sound The gallery will resume in seconds This statue will be part of the American Indian Veterans Memorial proposed for Riverside National Cemetery. (Courtesy of Cynthia Schomberg)
South Korean Maj. Gen. Shin-Kyong Soo touches a model of “The Gift” during a 2016 visit to Riverside National Cemetery. National Commander Don Loudner is at center. (File photo by Terry Pierson, Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Alex Tortes, left, and Sharon Savage, right, stand next to a replica of “The Gift” in 2015 at the Morongo Indian Reservation. The statue is set to be unveiled Monday, May 27, at Riverside National Cemetery. (File photo by Stan Lim, Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
A 2015 meeting at the Morongo Indian Reservation discussed plans for the proposed American Indian Veterans Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery. (File photo by Stan Lim, Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
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The statue will make a brief holiday appearance at the cemetery.
Memorial Honor Detail and Native American veteran motorcycle riders will escort “The Gift” on Sunday, May 26, to its temporary home next to the cemetery’s amphitheater, where it will stay for the annual Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 27.
Afterwards, actor and Native American motivational speaker Saginaw Grant, who played Chief Big Bear in the 2013 film, “The Lone Ranger,” will bless the statue. It will then be stored until the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee collects the money it needs.
Support Committee Chairman Paul Adkins said the memorial — the only one of its kind in the United States — is long overdue.
“It should have happened 100 years ago,” Adkins said. “(Native Americans) served our nation like everyone else, regardless of race, creed or color.”
Adkins hopes that bringing the statue to the cemetery before the rest is built will encourage more donations. Because the monument receives no government funding, his team has been fundraising since 2006.
Recently the committee gathered most of the $500,000 needed to construct “The Gift.” The effort included an attempt to convince South Korean Maj. Gen. Shin Kyong Soo to contribute in 2016. While he did not give, the committee has successfully reached out to several tribes in Southern California, such as the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the San Manuel Bands of Mission Indians.
But Adkins still has to locate a sizable sum of money: His team must raise over triple what they have already spent on the statue to begin construction of the surrounding memorial.
Sharron Savage, chairwoman of the American Indian and Alaskan Native Veterans Memorial Committee , said 10 percent of the cost will go to a trust fund to pay for future memorial repairs. She added that the cemetery is the perfect location because of the connection Native Americans have with the area.
“This is holy ground at the Riverside National Cemetery,” Savage said. “This was where indigenous populations blessed the land as part of their culture.”


Related links

Native American Veterans Memorial called ‘long overdue’
San Manuel tribe donates $1.28 million to UC Riverside’s Native American student programs
Lake Perris museum spotlights Native American, natural history
University of Redlands celebrates diversity, inclusiveness with Native American powwow
Sherman Indian High student wins award at National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair



When the statue arrives, it will join three others — the Prisoner of War and Missing in Action memorial, the Medal of Honor memorial and the Veterans memorial — already spread across the cemetery grounds. Savage said “The Gift” is the most recent in a long list of proposed monuments that the committee would like to build, pending government approval.
Supporters say the memorial is a crucial step in recognizing the military service of American Indians nationwide. Bo Mazzetti, tribal council chairman of the Rincon Band of Luiseňo Indians in San Diego County and honorary chairman of the Veterans Memorial Committee stressed the importance of “The Gift.”
“The monument is significant in that it gets people to think about the American Indians and their involvement in all the past wars,” the Navy veteran said. “It’s an honor to help defend your country and it’s also an honor to represent your nation and your tribe.”
IF YOU GO
What:  Welcome Home Ceremony and Blessing for “The Gift,” which is planned for future installation at Riverside National Cemetery.
When:  Monday, May 27, 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m, after the Memorial Day Ceremony.
Where:  Near the Riverside National Cemetery amphitheater, 22495 Van Buren Blvd., Riverside
Details: Saginaw Grant, Native American actor and motivational speaker, will bless the statue.

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