Tribe, school board at odds over putting tribal flag in gym

May 15, 2015, 1:36 PM

WILLAMINA, Ore. (AP) — Members of an Oregon tribe and a Willamette Valley school board are at odds over a request to hang a tribal flag in the school gymnasium along with state and national flags.

Leaders of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde have pressed the Willamina School Board for a decision on their request, calling it a positive gesture in a district where about a quarter of the students are Native American.

It was greeted in April by a counterproposal from the board’s chair, Craig Johnson: The tribe should pay the district $25,000 over five years to display the flag. Another board member, Ken Onstot, said displaying the tribal flag could be “semi-divisive” because only a quarter of the enrollment is Native American.

After three meetings on the question, including one with a pair of state Department of Education officials, the board is expected to make a decision at a meeting June 23, the Yamhill Valley News-Register (http://bit.ly/1e5Gm0Q) reported Friday.

The idea came from Angie Fasana, who said she was inspired by the display of the flag of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla at Pendleton High School. “I felt like the presence of the flag sent a good message to students and the community about the partnership between the district and Umatilla,” she said.

Fasana’s husband teaches at Willamina High School and coaches the wrestling team. She is a former tribal liaison to the board, and her father, Reyn Leno, chairs the tribal governing council.

None of the five school board members commented earlier this week when a crowd of 100 people filled the cafeteria to talk about the question, and none responded to Leno’s request for a reason why the tribal flag couldn’t be displayed.

“If you can’t tell me why, then I believe there is something personal or racial going on,” he said.

___

Information from: Yamhill Valley News-Register, http://www.newsregister.com

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Tribe, school board at odds over putting tribal flag in gym