Senate Votes Down Bill Which Would Have Allowed Display of Tribal Flags at the North Dakota Capitol


A couple of weeks ago I wrote a newspaper column pointing out a couple of bills which lawmakers could pass to help ease some tensions with our state’s tribal communities after the bruising fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

One was SB2286 introduced by state Sen. Richard Marcellais, a Democrat from Belcourt and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. If passed it would have stipulated that the flags of North Dakota’s five recognized Indian tribes be displayed in the House and Senate chambers as well as in the chambers of the state Supreme Court.

Merely symbolic? Maybe, but symbolism is important too. Unfortunately the state Senate wasn’t won over on the symbolism and voted the bill down today:

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The only dissent during the floor debate came from Senator Oley Larsen, a Republican from Minot, who said that he’s a member of a tribe that’s not in North Dakota and wondered if he could get his tribe’s flag displayed too. His point being, I guess, that this is a slippery slope and we’re going to end up with 100 different tribal flags on display or something.

Which is silly. It’s easy to limit this to tribal communities within the state of North Dakota. That’s what Marcellais’ bill did.

As Marcellais himself said, it would “send a huge message to the five Native American nations of North Dakota” about “trust and respect.”

I wish the Senate had chosen to send that message.

Of course, voting down this bill doesn’t mean the Senate or the Legislature as a whole is uninterested in working with the tribes. Far from it.

It just would have been a nice gesture is all.