It’s not too late to comment on our last Potawatomi Reunion Festival and our veteran flag ceremony held during the festival. We always have a dignified disposal of unserviceable flags after the inspection of the flags and the recommendation that they to honorably retired from further service. The flags are dipped in kerosene and then placed over a small flame to complete the retirement ceremony.
This year, before the retirement ceremony, we added to the event with the 13 Folds of the American Flag. Judge Phil Lujan, our festival announcer, handed me the microphone to read the meaning behind each fold as veterans folded the flag. We had the biggest crowd so far and even after the ceremony and for a couple of weeks after people asked where I got the meaning. The American flag is one the most important symbols of the United States. For many, it symbolizes respect, honor and freedom. For others, it represents reflection, courage and sorrow. The flag-folding script No. 4 is popular; however, it should not be used in official ceremonies as it is in violation of the Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause (First Amendment) requires that expression not create the reasonable impression that the government is sponsoring, or inhibiting religion generally, or favoring or disfavoring a particular religion.
Veterans Affairs clarifies the policy on flag-folding recitation with the “13-fold” ceremony. To ensure burial services at the 125 national cemeteries operated by the Department of Veteran Affairs reflect the wishes of veterans and their families, “a family may request the recitation of words to accompany the meaningful presentation of the American flag as we honor the dedication and sacrifice of their loved ones.” Volunteer honor guards are authorized to read the 13-fold flag recitation or any comparable script that reflects any or no religious traditions, on an equal basis. The flag-folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our country was founded.
13-fold flag recitation
1. The first fold is the symbol of life.
2. The second fold is for our belief in eternal life.
3. The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing rank, who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain third-fold peace throughout the world.
4. The fourth fold stands for our weaker nature; as Americans citizens trusting in God, it’s to Him we turn to in times of peace, as well as war, for his divine guidance.
5. The fifth fold is a tribute to America. In the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
6. The sixth fold is where our hearts lie. It’s with our flag that we pledge allegiance to the flag and the republic it stands for.
7. The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is the armed forces that protect our country and flag against enemies, whether they be domestic or foreign.
8. The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death; that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
9. The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood, for it is through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion the character of the men and women who have made the country great have been molded.
10. The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for He has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first born.
11. The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
12. The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost.
13. When the flag is completely folded, which some consider the 13th fold; the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”
This new folded flag, the first to be folded during our veteran ceremony, was given to me as an Honored Veteran at Grand Entry that evening. I was incredibly honored.
The next privilege I had was going to Walpole Island for the 2017 Gathering of Potawatomi Nations. When we flew into Detroit airport, a terrible storm passed through that caused us to be grounded on the tarmac for more than an hour. After crossing the turn bridge getting us on the island, we also had the opportunity to go by pontoon boat around the west and north sides of the island with the United States on the west and Canada on the north to this Walpole Island Bridge. We also traveled down the St. Clair River to the hunting lodge that Representative Bob Whistler mentions in his September column. This island is known to them as Bkejwanong, the-place-where-the-waters-divide. The island contains over 60,000 acres. In fact, Walpole Island has never been founded, legislated, established, set apart or surveyed as a “reserve.” Walpole Island has the distinction of being “unceded territory.”
It goes without saying, thank you for allowing me to represent you and our great nation.
Hope you enjoyed what you have read; I did in putting it into words.
Mnedobe (Sits with Spirit)
Legislator, District 10
1601 S. Gordon Cooper Dr.
Shawnee, OK 74801