Oregon Flagpole Project

Students seek to enhance culture on campus and leave an enduring legacy with the Native American Tribes of Oregon Flagpole Project

By UO Student Lili Wagner

Acting tribal chairman Eric Hawley raises the
flag of the Burns Paiute Tribe outside of the
Erb Memorial Union on October 2. (Image
courtesy of Around the O)

October 2, 2014, was an important day for the University of Oregon. At 10:00 a.m., a crowd gathered in the EMU Amphitheater to honor Oregon’s historical and cultural heritage by raising the nine flags of the state’s federally recognized Native American tribal nations. The event was the culmination of more than two years of planning and preparation.

The Native American Tribes of Oregon Flagpole Project began in 2012 as a class project for students in the Lundquist College of Business. Students were challenged to propose a project that would enhance culture on campus and leave an enduring legacy. The project, if voted on and passed, would be financed through over-realized funds from the Associate Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO).

A group of six students, with then-junior Orion Falvey at the helm, were inspired to work with the University of Oregon Many Nations Longhouse to increase the Native American presence on campus. The idea was to place flagpoles flying the emblems of Oregon’s Native American tribal nations in a central location.

The idea, both simple and impactful, quickly won support. Gordon Bettles, steward of the UO Many Nations Longhouse, took on the role of project advisor. Soon after, a slew of campus organizations, including the ASUO, the Campus Planning Committee, the President’s Native American Advisory Board, the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History, the Native American Student Union, and the Native American Law Students Association, voiced their support.

The project’s objectives – to enhance diversity and inclusiveness, show respect and solidarity to the tribes and Native American students, develop an architectural acknowledgment of Oregon’s history, and make campus a more beautiful and welcoming place—coincide with some of  the University of Oregon’s institutional goals. With funding from the ASUO, the Office of the President, and all nine of Oregon’s sovereign tribes, the project became a reality.

Now, nine flagpoles decorate the Erb Memorial Union, their flags waving on a gentle breeze.

Interim UO President Scott Coltrane and Jason Younker, MS ’98, the university’s new assistant vice president for tribal relations and a member of the Coquille Nation, spoke at the event.

The flags were raised in time for National American Indian Heritage Month. Every November, National American Indian Heritage Month celebrates and pays tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans. The flags of Oregon’s nine Native American tribal nations will now serve a similar function on the University of Oregon campus, reminding students, faculty, staff, and visitors of the state’s rich cultural history.