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Native American Flags (U.S.)

Last modified: 2018-05-18 by rick wyatt
Keywords: native american | united states | heritage | end of trail | pony indian | american indian |
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Flags with "four directions" on them

I have read about a flag of four stripes -- red, yellow, black, and white -- which represent the four directions (west, east, north, south) in some Native American symbolic systems. One form of this flag is the official flag of the Miccosukee Tribe in Florida. Was the flag's more general use inspired by its adoption by this one tribe, or was it the other way around? In the Miccosukee version of the flag, the order of the stripes, from top to bottom, is white, black, red, and yellow.
Perry Dane

[Flag of the Miccousukee Tribe] 
Miccosukee Tribe
image by Filip Van Laenen, 6 August 1996
   [Flag of the American Indian Movement]
  American Indian Movement
  image by Rick Wyatt, 15 July 2001

[Flag of the Miccousukee Tribe]

A variant of this four-stripe flag with a logo on it is used by the American Indian Movement.
Esteban Rivera, 25 April 2012

Photographic proof that actual fabric examples of this flag version exist and are commercially available can be seen here
Ned Smith, 25 April 2012

Six directions flag

[Six directions flag] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 16 August 2015

The green stripe stands for the earth below, the red is the east, the yellow is the south, the white is the north, the black is the west and the blue represents the sky above. The speculative order shown on this variant is based on the existing "four directions" color pattern.
Pete Loeser, 15 August 2015

I saw this flag at a Native American Indian/First Nations Rally/Protest at the Peace Arch between the communities of Blaine, Washington and Surrey, British Columbia. This was some time ago, 12 October 2002, on the U.S. Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

There was a gathering under the Peace Arch, a combination demonstration-rally-protest the themes of which seemed to be the Native American Indian/First Nations common plight and causes; among them demanding freedom for the convicted and imprisoned Leonard Peltier; protesting the US Columbus Day-Canadian Thanksgiving holiday/ promoting tribal sovereignty on what they were calling National Indigenous Peoples Day.

I had been long familiar with the so-called four directions flags of black, red, white and gold stripes in both horizontal and vertical orientations. I was very curious about this six stripe flag because we had made the four stripe flags to stock at the Flag Store in San Francisco, and that this six stripe flag was clearly not the Pride/Rainbow Flag. I asked the Indian gentleman holding the flags staff and he related that the flag was the "flag from Wounded Knee", which he said as if I would recognize it. From hoist to fly the vertical stripes were Green, Red, Yellow, Black, and White & Royal Blue. As I was speaking with him a young woman approached and referred to the flag as the Six Directions Flag and explained that the green stripe stood for the earth below and the blue represented the sky above. I queried the young man farther, and was told that the flag had been made by a relative, and aunt named Dorothy, as I recall, who lived in the Pacific Northwest. The flag was marked "1975 D. (Dorothy Ackerman) Ackerman" on the green stripe near the hoist. I was told she was the maker of the flag. Unexplained was the date for the flag, for if it was from Wounded Knee, that confrontation with the U.S. government was in 1973 not 1975. Perhaps it was made after the event, and just associated with that day? In any event it was prominently displayed, and seemed to be known among the crowd.

After I returned home, I contacted Mrs. Ackerman by phone and she related that the flag was indeed inspired by the Oglala Lakota Chief Black Elk's childhood vision in which the Six Grandfathers, the spirit guides for the six directions, appeared to him and imparted their wisdom and prophecy, as recounted in the Nebraska poet laureate John G. Neihardt's 1932 best known work Black Elk Speaks, wherein the details of the Six Grandfathers vision were explained. She explained the six stripes stood for the Six Directions, the four traditional ones of North = White; East = Red; South = Yellow and West = Black, to which had been added blue = sky (up) and green = Earth (down).

Jim Ferrigan, 13 August 2015

Five Grandfathers Flag c1970s

[Five Grandfathers Flag]
image by Tomislav Todorovic, 16 August 2015

This flag with five vertical stripes seems a variant of the Six Directions flag with the white stripe of the north missing. Identified as an American Indian Movement (AIM) flag little more is known about it at this time.
Pete Loeser, 15 August 2015

[Five Grandfathers Flag]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 7 October 2017

This a rendering of a flag photograph from the 1970s, with its assymetrical, homemade flavor, having apparently been created by adding cloth to a preexisting Belgian ensign: Green at the hoist and light blue at the fly. The wider lengths of these additions could be due to an attempt at preemptively keeping the stripes equal, compensating for later wind tear (at the fly) and sleeve / grometting mishaps (at the hoist).
António Martins-Tuválkin, 7 October 2017

Unusual colors

I can think of several American Indian flags with unusual colors. The Navajo Indian Nation (southwestern USA) uses a field that I think would be best described as beige. Also present on this flag are burnt-orange and brown.

The Sechelt Indians of Western Canada use a white field with a bird emblem in tan, orange, and yellow, detailed in brown.
David R. Lewellen, 29 January 1996

Designer flags

There is a Canadadian flag with an image of an Indian superimposed. This is designer flag. They come in nine variations.

One has the head of an Indian. Another has the famous "End of the Trail" by Frederick Remington. Some people, especially Indians dislike this because it shows a defeated Indian and his horse, both with bowed heads. A third variation, "Pony Indian" has both Indian and pony with raised head. All three of these pictures come superimposed upon either the American, Canadian or Confederate Naval Jack, yielding a total of nine different variations.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 29 June 1996

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