Port Angeles to display tribal flag at City Hall

Council members vote 4-2 to include Lower Elwha Klallam flag

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has voted to display the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal flag in its chambers.

Council members voted 4-2 Tuesday to include the flag with others in the 70-seat auditorium at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St.

The action was proposed by Mayor Sissi Bruch and backed by fellow council members Mike French, Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin and Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter.

Cherie Kidd and Jim Moran voted no, and Michael Merideth was excused.

“We’ve got four flags in this room, and I think that seeing as we are in ancestral lands of the Klallam people that we should fly their flag as well,” Bruch said at the council meeting Tuesday.

The U.S. flag stands to the left of the council dais from the perspective of the audience.

The state flag, Port Angeles city flag and Mutsu City, Japan flag are displayed to the observer’s right. Mutsu City has been Port Angeles’ sister city since 1995 and the two governments have a mutual agreement to fly the other’s flag.

Bruch, a former senior planner for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, said the city of Port Angeles had flown the tribe’s flag outdoors but that flag has become tattered.

Bruch said she received permission from the tribe to display a new flag at City Hall.

“We’re ecstatic,” Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles said Wednesday.

Charles said the council action builds on a partnership that “really sets a precedent for collaborations.”

“We are excited about it,” Charles said.

Two weeks ago, the City Council voted 7-0 to change the name of West End Park to Pebble Beach Park in both English and Klallam languages.

Bruch suggested that the city display the tribe’s flag during her council report near the end of March 19 meeting, which was extended past 10 p.m.

Bruch apologized for her timing in a March 25 email to Moran and Kidd, who had objected to the mayor’s handling of the previous meeting.

On Tuesday, Moran and Kidd each said they embraced the tribe and the growing partnership but raised concerns about Bruch’s proposal to display the flag.

“I would suggest that an appropriate place for the Elwha flag might be in front of the Carnegie Museum, where they have a wonderful display of Elwha history,” Moran said. “That, to me, would be an excellent place for it.”

Moran suggested that flags in the council chambers be reserved for jurisdictions that have governance in the city.

He said the addition of the Lower Elwha Klallam flag would be a disservice to other partners, such as the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, U.S. Coast Guard, cities of Sequim and Forks, local service organizations, chamber of commerce and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

“If we select one, then I feel that we are insulting other partners that have done great work and also contributed to our city,” Moran said.

Kidd also questioned the exclusivity of adding only the Lower Elwha Klallam flag and described the move as “premature.”

“I would not want to presume that we would expect them to place the city of Port Angles flag on their reservation or in their council chambers to be reciprocal, which to me would be most meaningful, without their invitation and their permission,” Kidd said.

Schromen-Wawrin said there was no requirement for reciprocity in his motion to display the Lower Elwha Klallam flag in the council chambers.

“I do see flying their flag as different than other flags,” Dexter said in the 83-minute council meeting.

“In my mind, it wouldn’t be flying it as a recognition of the partnership so much as it is a recognition of the territory in which we operate.”

French said his concerns about having permission to display the tribe’s flag were addressed by the mayor.

“They were offering to give us the flag,” Bruch said. “I just need to tell them what size.”

City Manager Nathan West said he would make arrangements with the tribe to display a flag in the council chambers.

Schromen-Wawrin said the display is a “sign of respect, a sign of understanding, a sign of our acknowledgement that indigenous people have been here and are here and are not just in a museum.”

“I appreciate the mayor bringing this forward and other council members speaking in favor of it,” Schromen-Wawrin said. “For those council members opposed, I encourage more understanding, whether through books like ‘Shadows of Our Ancestors’ or Lynda Mapes books or just going down to the Tribal Center.

“They have a library, and it’s open every weekday, and there’s a lot of good literature there and people you can talk to,” Schromen-Wawrin added.

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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