Teen Hopes Flags Will Help Heal Eastern Oregon Community

[Above photo of the Burns High gym by Thomas Boyd, Oregonian Staff]

The 41-day standoff between law enforcement and armed out-of-state militants who took over and vandalized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon has finally ended, but the hurt done to the communities of surrounding Harney County has only begun to heal.  The Oregonian recently published an in-depth feature on the importance of the Burns High School sports program in providing an inclusive venue for local people to come together:

[Amid] the upheaval, a weary and divided community has found common ground in supporting the Hilanders sports teams. And players from families all along the political spectrum have relished their opportunities to escape the debates and come together in a gym that during the standoff hosted both cathartic games and a pair of emotional community meetings.


“The gymnasium is their sanctuary,” [civics teacher Jake] Thomson said, and he could have meant players and spectators alike.

Andrew Greif ended his feature, As Oregon standoff raised tensions, Burns found release in the Hilanders, with the story of senior basketball player Ty Reed:

On the morning of the last occupiers’ surrender, Reid walked into the low-lit Burns gym and looked up at its arched ceiling. He pointed at a beam.

Reid hopes to hang three flags from it for his senior project. He envisions a U.S. flag as the centerpiece, flanked by smaller flags for Oregon and the Burns Paiute tribe. [For the smaller flags, he is working with fellow student Anthony Purcella from the Paiute Club at Burns High.]  He has raised a little more than 10 percent toward the $18,000 project.

Reid came up with the idea long before the occupation. But the winter’s events have added deeper meaning as the community begins the hard work of moving on.

“Our community has been kind of split by all this,” Reid said. “This could be a start.”

The flag of the Burns Paiute Tribe consists of this logo with the tribe’s name written above.

$18,000 may sound like a lot for three flags, but one is 12 x 18 feet and the two others 10 x 15, and they will be suspended from electrically operated rollers built by Morgan Rolling Flags so they can be ceremonially unfurled and unfurled during events at the gym.  A YouTube advertisement from the company gives a sense of scale and effect:

For more information or contribute to his project, check out Ty Reid’s GoFundMe project, All Flags United in Burns!


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