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NATIVE AMERICAN FLAGS

The Oglala Sioux

By far the largest of the Sioux bands, representing the majority of the Teton Sioux, the Lakota of the Pine Ridge Reservation have one of the best known Indian tribal flags. The 2,782 square mile reservation in southwestern South Dakota (NAA, 36-43) is bordered by the State of Nebraska to the south, the Rosebud Sioux Reservation to the east and Badlands National park to the west.

The Oglala Band of the Teton have given the Sioux, and the United States two of the most famous Indians of all times. Both Chief Red Cloud and Chief Crazy Horse were Oglalas (ENAT, 222-228).

The 14,500 plus residents of the reservation utilize a red flag that, when fringed for indoor or parade use, employs a deep blue fringe to incorporate the colors of the United States into the design. This red flag bears a circle of eight teepees representing the eight districts of the reservation. They stand for the Porcupine, the Wakpamni, the Medicine Root, Pass Creek, Eagle Nest, White Clay, LaCreek and Wounded Knee districts (FBUS, 260-262).

This last district is home to the small chapel and graveyard that mark the site of the last major engagement in the Indian wars. The battle, more justly called a massacre, finally broke the spirit of the Sioux when the United States military killed between 150 and 200 followers of a new Indian religious cult - the Ghost Dance religion founded by a Paiute Indian named Wovoka (NAA, 19). The military grew alarmed by the size and fervor of the Ghost Dance participants, and alarmed by the spin added to the new religion when a pair of Miniconjou Sioux started teaching that the wearing of "ghost shirts" would protect the wearer from the white man's bullets.

Today, the flag of red, symbolizes the blood shed by the Sioux in defense of their lands and the very idea of the "red men". The flag is a very common sight at all Native American powwows, not just at Sioux gatherings. Since its inception in 1961, the flag of the Oglala Sioux has taken on a larger role. More than any other flag, the flag of the Oglala Sioux could be considered "the" flag of the Native American peoples.

In the late 1960s or early 1970s, another flag appeared to represent the Oglala Sioux people. The flag, shown in a black and white newspaper clipping (the estimated date comes from the reverse - an article about "President" Nixon - therefore 1969 to 1974) supplied by the Flag Research Center. The flag had a light colored background bearing a warrior's shield with what might have been a thunderbird. Behind the shield were a pair of spears crossed to form an 'X'. This flag bore the legend "Oglala Sioux Nation". No other references to this flag have been found. A possible recreation is included so that it may inspire a reader to provide additional data about this "lost flag".

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603