Flag donations to the city of Philomath from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians took center stage during a ceremony arranged by Mayor Eric Niemann at the Dec. 14 City Council meeting.
Native American boys Jacoby Jones, 12, and Julian Jones, 10, presented the colors for each and tribal members from those communities gave a short history of their flags, including what the various symbols represent.
The ceremony opened with comments from City Councilor Doug Edmonds followed by the presentation of the two flags by the “color guard.”
Robert Kentta, treasurer on the Siletz Tribal Council, said the Siletz flag was designed in the early 1980s by tribal member Bobby Simmons.
“Around the border is a basket design that’s half of what we call the friendship design … it staggers up and down and connects together and that’s what represents friendship,” Kentta said.
The center of the flag shows a design that features the fish prominently along with a mountain, trees, plants and a river.
“In the main emblem in the center, of course we have the fish — salmon and all of the fishes of the rivers that fed our people for generations,” he said. “The river below the fish, I think I heard him (Simmons) say that represents the Siletz River, but really it represents all of the rivers that fed our people over the millennia.”
Kennta went on to say the plants and timber represent materials that were used for housing, clothing and so on. And he believes the mountain is meant to represent Euchre Mountain in Siletz Valley.
Jon George, secretary of the Grand Ronde Tribal Council followed with an interpretation of his tribe’s flag. The Grande Ronde includes members of several tribes and bands from western Oregon, Northern California and southwest Washington.
George said tribal member, Roger Harrison designed the flag, which features a logo with five feathers underneath.
“The five eagle feathers at the bottom represent the five remaining bands that we have for our area,” George said, identifying them as the Molalla, Shasta, Rogue, Umpqua and Calapooia people.
“The mountain that is in the center of our circle represents a sacred site to us called Spirit Mountain,” George added, explaining the importance of the mountain not only in a spiritual sense, but also as a source of food and materials for housing and clothing.
George said old photos from the late 1800s show that there were no trees on the mountain.
“At the end of the season of the gathering of berries and hazelnuts and basket materials and brushes and those things, the mountain was lit on fire and burned so it would control disease,” he said.
Besides keeping disease out of those natural materials, burning also kept invasive species from taking over.
George went on to say that today, a timber company owns the mountain and that the tribal members hope that it will someday in future generations be returned to the Grand Ronde people.
George ended his presentation by speaking in his language, which he translated as “Many thanks to you and your family and friends.”
Both Kennta and George thanked the Jones brothers for their participation. Niemann surprised the boys with a Zoom visit from Santa Claus and presented them with a gift (along with an additional gift for their little sister).