The Executive Board heard testimony Feb. 25 on a bill that would require display of tribal flags in the Nebraska State Capitol.
Under LB937, sponsored by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, flags representing the four federally recognized tribes with headquarters in the state—the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Santee Sioux Nation and Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska—would be displayed in the George W. Norris Legislative Chamber.
The bill also would require that the flags of any Indian tribe with historical and regional connections to Nebraska be displayed in the Memorial Chamber on the Capitol’s 14th floor.
The state’s Commission on Indian Affairs would be charged with obtaining the flags through donation from the tribes.
Native American culture long has influenced Nebraska, Brewer said, including providing the state’s name and that of its largest city, Omaha. Recognition of the sovereign tribes through the display of their flags is “long overdue,” he said.
“[LB937] is a chance to say that we appreciate the history that Nebraska has with native tribes,” Brewer said.
Larry Wright Jr., chairperson of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, testified in support of the bill. He said the proposal would build upon recent, positive steps that the Legislature has taken to recognize native people—including voting to place a statue of Chief Standing Bear in the U.S. Capitol to represent the state.
“This may not seem big in all the work that you need to do as a state legislature and all the other issues that are going on, but we think this small step has huge ramifications for our people and what it means to our tribal citizens [who] are also citizens of Nebraska,” Wright said.
Also testifying in support was Leo Yankton, a national speaker and member of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Yankton said he encounters many individuals who don’t realize that native people still exist in Nebraska. The bill would provide an opportunity to teach people about the state’s native population and its recognized tribes, he said.
“I believe that this has an educational aspect to it as well,” Yankton said. “I’m actually excited about the fact that I can speak to you about this because it shows how much we’re growing together—how much we’re becoming one nation like we are supposed to be.”
No one testified in opposition to LB937 and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.