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!


Brendan Patrick Hennessy’s Flog

Torontonian Brendan Patrick Hennessy blogs about flags on a site named, appropriately enough, Flag Log.  He writes:

Flag Log is a blog about flags (or “flog”). Come to this flog if you want to see a bunch of cool pictures of flags.

More than just a bunch of cool pictures, it is actually quite a treasure trove of vexillological information:

The National Flag Chart is very nice, showing flags in their proper proportions, in both civil and state versions (when they differ for a country), divided into a main chart for independent countries and an appendix for “non-independent territories”.  But wait, there’s much more!  Hennessey provides this chart not just for the current year, but for each year going back all the way to 1870 — each annual chart ending with a historical notes section showing all the changes that took place that year.  For example, we learn that on May 7, 1870 the then-independent country of Sarawak made this change:


Blog entries are indexed by flag colours (it’s Canadian, remember) and by country, so you can browse all the entries about orange flags, or having to do with Burma (or if you prefer, Myanmar).  Unfortunately this doesn’t apply to flag chart entries though, so searching for the Burma tag won’t bring up this beautiful historical flag from the 1870 chart:


There are many more tags than meet the eye under the browsing index.  For example, going to flaglog.com/tagged/portland will bring up the entry about our favorite flag, and to flaglog.com/tagged/oregon will bring up that posting, but also postings about the proposed state of Jefferson, an evocative black and white photo by Sean Dalin of a fraying US flag flying in Cannon Beach, and a piece on Matthew Norquist’s 2013 proposed redesign of the Oregon state flag.

Photo by Sean Dalin
Photo by Sean Dalin
Proposed Oregon flag.  Matthew Norquist, 2013.
Proposed Oregon flag. Matthew Norquist, 2013.

Though technically not part of Flag Log, Hennessy shows his talent for flag design on his Toronto Street Flags page:  proposed flags for some of Toronto’s more prominent thoroughfares.  For example:

A flag for Davenport Road, Toronto. "A white crescent on black, from the English Davenport family's coat of arms. The blue triangles symbolize Davenport's ancient glacial lakeshore, and the sandy orange triangles symbolize its long history as a well worn native trail. The flag uses diagonal lines to symbolize how the road doesn't follow Toronto's usual grid system." Design by Brendan Patrick Hennessy.
A flag for Davenport Road, Toronto. “A white crescent on black, from the English Davenport family’s coat of arms. The blue triangles symbolize Davenport’s ancient glacial lakeshore, and the sandy orange triangles symbolize its long history as a well worn native trail. The flag uses diagonal lines to symbolize how the road doesn’t follow Toronto’s usual grid system.” Design by Brendan Patrick Hennessy.

To conclude, as I can’t resist: Anyone interested in flags should check out Hennessy’s Flag Log for a good flogging!

Playing with the Oregon Flag

Compared to the endless variations people have created based on the California state flag, the Oregon state flag has for the most part been ignored.  We’ve come across these examples — do you know of others?

The first two are from Maddish‘s blog, The Voice of Vexillology, Flags & Heraldry, in an interesting 2010 posting entitled British Columbia Mojo.  During the period from 1818-1846 in which Canada and the US had a sort of joint custody of the Pacific Northwest — the “Oregon Country” (as it was called by the US) and “Columbia District” (as it was called by Canada).  Which lead him to think about merging the British Columbian and Oregonian flags.

The flag of Oregon, with
The flag of Oregon, with “British Columbia Mojo”. Design by Maddish.
The flag of British Columbia, with “Oregon Mojo”. Design by Maddish.

There is also this meme-ified “put a hammer-and-sickle on it” version:

Soren Winslow's
Soren Winslow’s “Commie Oregon Flag”.

The reverse of the flag gets some attention.

"Bhutan-ized" Oregon flag, by Redditor LetsGoDucks.
“Bhutan-ized” Oregon flag, by (ironically) Redditor LetsGoDucks.

Finally, a lovely example can be found on merchandise by the Portland-based rock band, the Dandy Warhols.

The flag of the Dandy Warhols, with (to use Maddish's term)
The flag of the Dandy Warhols, with (to use Maddish’s term) “Oregon Mojo”.

Douglas-fir Flags

Illustration by Wendy Smith

The magnificent Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is, after the coast redwood, North America’s second-tallest tree, reaching heights of 300 feet or more. Found throughout the wetter parts of Cascadia, it was declared the State Tree of Oregon in 1939 and has appeared on Oregon’s passenger car license plates since 1988.


In designing a flag for Cascadia, Alexander Baretich chose the Douglas-fir as its emblem, based both on its prevalence in the bioregion and his lifelong familiarity with it, as dominated the southwest Portland neighborhood where he grew up.

The Cascadian Flag, Alexander Baretich, designer.
The Cascadian Flag, Alexander Baretich, designer.

The Douglas-fir has also captivated the imagination of Clifton Stone, who recently wrote to us to share some designs he has made to represent the state of Oregon:

I came up with a flag that is a close-up of a Douglas Fir sprig–six needles on a twig. I got the idea because I sometimes play around with macro-photography, the Doug Fir is obviously a major symbol for the state, and I totally love the look of close-ups of conifer sprigs and other small, graphically-patterned natural phenomena. Viewed closely enough, they can look like hidden natural flags.



His first design featured green needles symmetrically branching out from a central horizontal bar.  He calls the design “the Doug Sprig”.

The Doug Sprig flag, designed by Clifton Stone.
The Doug Sprig flag (version 1), designed by Clifton Stone.

Looking more closely at Douglas-fir sprigs, he noticed that the needles actually branch off alternately from the stem.  This led to a second, preferred version.  (In heraldic terms, the reversing of colors between the upper and lower green-and-white stripes is called counterchanged.)

The Doug Sprig flag (version 2), designed by Clifton Stone.

Two other Douglas-fir inspired proposed flags for Oregon can be found among the 10 finalists in The Oregonian’s 2008 Oregon Flag Contest.

Proposed flag for Oregon by Lorraine Bushek (2008).
Proposed flag for Oregon by Lorraine Bushek, finalist in The Oregonian’s Oregon Flag Contest of 2008.
Proposed flag for Oregon by Karen L. Azinger, finalist in The Oregonian's Oregon Flag Contest of 2008.
Proposed flag for Oregon by Karen L. Azinger, finalist in The Oregonian’s Oregon Flag Contest of 2008.

Randall Gray’s Flag for Oregon

By Ted Kaye; revised by Scott Mainwaring
Originally published in The Vexilloid Tabloid #30, October 2011

The PFA has honored Randall Gray of West Linn for his re-design of the Oregon State Flag, which received the most votes in The Oregonian‘s contest in 2008-09.

In a celebration hosted in February by Mike Hale at Elmer’s Flag & Banner, the mapmaker for Clackamas County was given a 3’ x 5’ version of his winning design.

Mike Hale presents designer Randall Gray with his “new” Oregon Flag
Mike Hale presents designer Randall Gray with his “new” Oregon Flag

Most members of the Portland Flag Association came for the ceremony.  At the end of the event, Mike Hale took us all on a behind-the-scenes tour of the flag store.

Mike Hale talks flag fabrication in the sewing loft at Elmer’s Flag & Banner.
Mike Hale talks flag fabrication in the sewing loft at Elmer’s Flag & Banner.

The story of the flag contest is reported in NAVA News No. 205 January-March 2010, including designs of ten finalists.  A more detailed case study calls out 12 lessons learned for would-be vexillonaires.

Interestingly, two PFA members (out of over 2,000 entrants) had designs in that top ten.  (Doug Lynch was one, and we invited Randall Gray to join the PFA  after the contest.)

The Oregonian had sponsored an effort to redesign the state’s flag in anticipation of Oregon’s 150th birthday in February 2009.

The quality of the entries was stunning—hundreds of them would have made a successful state flag.  While professional graphic artists participated and submitted spectacular designs, so did amateurs and schoolchildren.

Mike Hale and Ted Kaye helped  with an initial culling process. In two weekend sessions of 2-3 hours each, they selected about 240 entries for further consideration by the flag jury.

After that jury selected the 10  finalists, newspaper readers gave Randall’s beaver design top votes.  However, without a legislative plan and no support from the governor, the effort to update the official flag went nowhere.

The Oregonian described Randall’s design process:  “Always interested in flags and design, Gray was unimpressed with the front of the Oregon flag.  But the back, with the beaver, was another matter.  ‘The backside is the start of something good.’”  The meaning:  “Blue and gold for the state colors with green to represent trees and wilderness Oregon was blessed with.  White contrasts between the dark blue and green.  The beaver from the current flag links us with the past.  The star represents Oregon’s place in the Union.”

Elmer’s Flag and Banner generously made up the flag, using the beaver image from another entrant, Tom Lincoln.  It is likely the only such flag extant in that design!

Related links

Sure, we’ve heard from about 100 people who don’t want to give up on the current flag. They told us to go back to California! But actually, we don’t want to give up on the current flag, even though its history is not all that storied. Reporter Michael Milstein wrote about how the design was whipped up in a hurry by the Legislature in 1925 without any community input. And not to put Michael back into the crosshairs of people who like the flag just as it is, but the contest was his notion. He wanted an event, to help launch the 150th anniversary of statehood in February, that would knit together the community. That’s exactly what happened. And, we’ve gotten some very cool, innovative flag designs from readers that reflect our iconic landscape.

Half the Oregon flag on a stamp

Forever stamp featuring Oregon state flag
Oregon’s entry in the “Flags of Our Nation” stamp series, released August 12, 2011.

There was a ceremony in Salem today to announce a new USPS stamp featuring the Oregon state flag. (Actually, only one side of the state flag — the obverse — leaving what some would argue is the better side hidden.)

See: Elida S. Perez, “Oregon state flag is featured in latest Forever stamp”, Salem Statesman Journal, 8/11/11