Native American flags to be included at Café Mac, graduation

As admissions tours stop by Café Mac, tour guides point out the flags hanging above the dining area. They explain how these flags show Macalester’s recognition of its diverse student body and its commitment to internationalism and multiculturalism.

Until now, however, the flags of the nations of Native American students were not hung on campus.

After working with Proud Indigenous Peoples for Education (PIPE), the administration has decided to change both the Café Mac and Commencement Flag policies. With new policy, students from federally recognized Native American nations can choose to have their nation represented at Café Mac and flown at graduation.

Native American nations in the U.S. have a unique sovereign status with their own government, police force, and citizenship requirements. According to PIPE co-chair Abaki Beck ’15, the flag policy will help remind students of the sovereignty and existence of Native American nations.

“I think it’s important for the community to recognize that federally recognized tribes are sovereign nations; Native Americans are not just a racial or cultural group but also a political one,” Beck wrote in an email. “This is something that many people forget or are unaware of.”
Waabanang Hermes ’17 suggested flying the nations’ flags.

“I think it’s important that everyone gets represented at Macalester,” said Hermes. “I’m an Ojibwa person…I’ve always been really proud of my heritage, so that’s where this is coming from.”

Hermes’s reservation, Bad River, will have its flag flown in Café Mac, along with Beck’s Blackfeet flag.

The administration is currently in the process of contacting the other Native American students about whether or not they would like their flag to be flown.

“I hope it affirms our Native American students and their heritage,” Vice President for Student Affairs Laurie Hamre wrote by email. “There are 15 current students who indicated Native American heritage on their Macalester applications. The change also speaks to the respect for diversity in the campus community.”

Though Beck is glad that the administration changed the policy, she wrote that she is disappointed at the amount of effort needed to make the change.

“It still puts PIPE in the position of always having to push for our presence to be known, to always be educating,” Beck wrote. “Year after year this is exhausting. Hopefully this sort of ‘institutional recognition’ of tribal nations will help to alleviate some of that.”

In the end, both Beck and Hermes hope this will bring more awareness to the presence of Native American students on campus.

“I think it will be important for all students to see that Native Americans exist,” Beck wrote. “We are sovereign, that we are proud, and that we want to be seen and heard on campus.”