Flag Day: Keshena, WI

Not two weeks ago in Kyle, SD, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, a woman caught me looking at an image of a red, white, and blue tipi drawn onto a sheet of old camp meeting ledger.  In front of the tipi stood a feathered and braided brave wearing a union jack cloak with tails striped red and white.  The woman told me how Old Glory is a Native banner. “When our people defeated Custer,” she said,  “they began to wear the flag. They began to use it. They thought that the Calvary’s power was in the flag.”

Today, on my drive home from work, a not-so-proverbial smoke signal led me to another striking image of Native Americans and Old Glory.  Today is Flag Day, and a trio of Legionnaires from Post 497 were on hand to dispose of old banners.  In a small reservation town, more than 400 of the flags were of the same ilk: swatches of thin worn cloth stapled to wood dowels with gold painted finials.  These flags had decorated graves of Menominee veterans over the last year.

“The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing,” according to US code.

When we infuse something with that kind of value; when we say that it can’t be printed on napkins, worn as clothing, or dipped to any person or thing; when we say that a thing must never touch the ground and that it can’t be carried horizontally and that it must be illuminated if displayed at night, we should look also to its eventual demise.

As we stand along the Wolf River shoving handfuls of flags into a rusty barrel of flames, I can’t help but wonder who will handle the nation’s star-spangled detritus—and how—after these three Legionnaires, all seven decades or older, have offered their final salutes.

When a flag is so tattered that it is no longer a fitting emblem for the United States, it “should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Furthermore, “the flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.”

KtB editor Quince Mountain lives in the Great Northwoods and is currently at work on a chronicle of belated manhood and unlikely self-help. You can hear about his sexploits as a teenage cowboy for Christ here.