Native American flag request tests Arlington Heights library policy

  • The flagpole outside the Arlington Heights Memorial Library will fly a flag in honor of Native American Heritage Month in November.

      The flagpole outside the Arlington Heights Memorial Library will fly a flag in honor of Native American Heritage Month in November. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer, 2016

  • John Supplitt

    John Supplitt

  • Carole Medal

    Carole Medal

 
 
Posted10/7/2022 5:00 AM

After the Pride flag flew outside the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in June, a flag to recognize Native American Heritage Month is set to be hoisted in November.

It's the first time since spring -- when initial debate surrounding the rainbow flag arose -- that the library board's new flag policy has been put to the test. The board's recent decision to fly a Native American flag also paves the way for the library to recognize other national heritage or awareness months, such as Black History Month in February and Women's History Month in March.

 

The policy allows any of the seven members of the elected panel to bring forward a flag for consideration and vote by the entire board, and trustees are to consider whether such a flag or cause has been recognized by the federal or state governments by statute, proclamation or official communication.

Under the policy they adopted in May, trustees should also consider whether a flag represents a national, state or local interest, or a positive interest or value worthy of public recognition, and is consistent with the library's mission, vision, values or official sentiments.

In this case, Trustee John Supplitt requested the Native American flag be flown on the Dunton Avenue flagpole, saying it checked all those boxes. The first National American Indian Heritage Month was in November 1990 under a joint resolution passed by Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

Board Vice President Carole Medal, who voted against the request on Sept. 20, questioned if the library was being exclusionary to other groups.

"Are we doing this by request, or are we making sure that we acknowledge all of the heritage months? We are in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month right now Sept. 15-Oct. 15. and this didn't come up to fly the flag because there was not a request," said Medal, who also is executive director of the Gail Borden Public Library District in Elgin. "So my concern is if we're doing it for one, we need to be conscious of the other heritage months too that have been recognized."

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Supplitt said he thought a flag to honor native cultures was deserving of particular recognition because their ancestors lived in what is now the United States. But he said it would be a different consideration if the library were to fly flags honoring Hispanic, Irish or French heritage months, for instance.

"I would not be comfortable flying a nation's flag under our own or under the Illinois state flag on the same flagpole as the American standard," Supplitt said. "I respect the heritage those months represent but I don't see it necessary nor appropriate that we're flying the flag of another nation."

Precisely which flag the library raises to honor Native Americans is still undetermined; Executive Director Mike Driskell said there are a number to choose from.

Besides the Pride flag in June, the library board also agreed to hoist the National League of Families POW/MIA Flag on Memorial Day.

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