It’s the sheer pettiness that bothers me most about the state Senate’s rejection of displaying the flags of North Dakota’s Indian nations in the Capitol.
SB 2287 would have mandated the display of the five tribal flags. Sponsor Dick Marcellais of Belcourt said his utterly modest, bipartisan bill — with three Democratic and three Republican co-sponsors — “is all about trust and respect.”
“It is time to create a new relationship between the state of North Dakota and our five Native American nations,” he told reporter John Hageman. “This small step … is a great first step to change the current dynamic into one of cooperation and partnership.”
Originally, SB 2287 would have mandated that the flags be displayed in the chambers of the Senate, House and Supreme Court. The Veterans and Government Affairs Subcommittee amended it down to a single location — “in the memorial hall” — and sent it on to the full Senate with a unanimous recommendation of “do pass.”
That’s all the bill would require — showing five flags in the Memorial Hall, that lofty, echoing, brass-columned expanse that buffers the legislative chambers from the governor’s office.
And so the Senate’s Republican supermajority defeated it. To their credit, a dozen or so of their number did break with the party to join the minority in voting “yea.”
Petulant, weak and childish.
They’re getting even, you see. They’re furious about how the Dakota Access Pipeline’s recklessness — putting shovel to dirt long before securing all the necessary permits — launched an avalanche of protests.
They’re ticked off about how the state’s official shrug of dismissal didn’t make those protestors go away.
They’re absolutely seething that law enforcement’s instant overreaction, rather than erasing the issue, instead accelerated the drama far, far beyond its original prayerful tone … and that it’s ended up draining the already-diminished state coffers of tens of millions of much-needed bucks.
They’re enraged that Uncle Sam or someone else — the protestors, perhaps? — hasn’t stepped forward to pay the piper for the ugly tune official North Dakota has stubbornly sung from the very beginning.
And most of all, they are really, really pissed off that the whole DAPL affair has humiliated the state on the national stage, indelibly crafting a lasting image of closed minds and narrow vision … and utterly failed to resolve the issue. Only an executive order by the ignorant and oblivious Republican president, sidestepping the Corps and the courts, could abruptly reverse the tide.
This certainly wasn’t the first graceless swipe that North Dakota’s elected representatives have taken at their Indian neighbors during the 65th Legislative Assembly. There was that opening volley, cancellation of the tribal chairmen’s traditional address to the newly convened assembly, just to get the session off to a graceless start. Then, after ginning up half a dozen draconian bills to penalize the Standing Rock “water protectors” — run them down with impunity, charge them as felons, shoot them in the back for damaging a negligible amount of personal stuff and even petition the feds to turn reservations over to the states — this?
The flags of literal sovereign nations that lie within the state of North Dakota’s borders can’t even hang in the hallway? For cripes sake, they gobble free lunches out there!
Petty. Mean-spirited. Ridiculously small. But after all, in 2017, that seems to be the North Dakota way.