Flag Day is June 14. Instead of charts and maps, this week I’m going to share a story about flags.
For more than two decades I would fly my Norwegian Flag for Syttende Mai, Norwegian Independence Day, in honor of my grandparents and family. That includes Uncle Sigurd, who disappeared while working for the Resistance during Nazi occupation.
Then a neighbor complained. After 23 years.
Okay, I admit I had flags for my Irish neighbor on St. Pats, my Belgian neighbor when she had family visit, and few others. I’d put those up for a day or two and make a friend smile.
My HOA called me out, so I asked for the complaint in writing. What I received didn’t address which rule I had violated. Rather, it was a clip from AZ State Law which said (paraphrased):
No HOA shall prohibit display of the American Flag, Arizona Flag, POW-MIA Flag, Gadsden Flag OR THE FLAG OF ANY INDIAN NATION WITHIN THE STATE OF ARIZONA.
All righty. I’ll just fly Indian Flags. I found a list of 21 tribes and began buying flags, starting with our very own Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. Hearing the amazing Debbie Nez Manuel at an MCDP event say she represented the 22 Arizona tribes gave me pause. What had I missed!?? It was Zuni, whose reservation is in New Mexico, with their sacred lands in Arizona.
A funny thing happened when I started flying the flags in my conservative neighborhood. People out for a walk would stop and ask me about which tribal flag was flying and what did I know about the tribe. I had been attending ADP’s Native American caucus meetings and reading what I could to learn about them. This was not going to be an appropriation of Native symbols, but a celebration of them. If for some reason I don’t have a Native flag flying, for example if it’s too windy, people check up on me or call my husband to see if we’re okay.
The Gadsden Purchase flag, which of course has become a symbol of gun rights, was foisted upon us by Jan Brewer. It is especially offensive to the Tohono O’odham as a symbol of tearing their community apart.
Yes, I have all 22 tribal flags. Two were custom made as they are not in production. I fly them for every patriotic holiday too. Indigenous Americans have served their country in far greater numbers than any other ethnic group. 19% vs 14% (snuck in some data there).
The law on flags in Arizona has changed a bit in the last few years, including the latest change signed into law on April 17. We can now display First Responder flags (for traditional male roles only, not nurses), Betsey Ross historical flags and service star flags.
Happy Flag Day! Enjoy a few of mine. Uncle Sigurd would approve.