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ND mulling tribal flags display in state Capitol

BISMARCK (AP) — The North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission plans to formally request that the flags of the state’s five tribes become a permanent fixture at the Capitol after three unsuccessful legislative attempts to secure such a display.
A committee of state lawmakers will hear the commission’s request Thursday, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
Gov. Doug Burgum declared during his State of the State address that he would display the flags outside his office in Bismarck. The flags represent the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation; the Standing Rock Sioux; the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate; and the Spirit Lake Nation.
“As we continue to engage with the tribes in discussions about oil and gas tax revenue distribution, law enforcement, behavioral health and other priorities, we will do so with mutual respect and the understanding that we are all North Dakotans,” the governor said during his January address.
Scott Davis, the commission’s executive director, said he doesn’t anticipate any opposition to the request.
“I think with the governor’s initiative on tribal engagement, this was such a powerful choice that he chose to do in leadership,” Davis said.
Sen. Richard Marcellais, a former Turtle Mountain tribal chairman, proposed three bills in three legislative sessions to erect the tribal flags, but the senators wouldn’t pass the measures, citing cost and space issues.
Marcellais had planned to submit another bill proposal to the 2019 Legislature, but he decided against it after Burgum’s address.
“I appreciate what Gov. Burgum has done, and it shows a better relationship between the state and the tribal governments,” said Marcellais, who is one of at least three enrolled tribal members elected to the 141-member Legislature.
Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, who chairs the committee that will meet Thursday, said legislators will hear thorough details of the commission’s request and act accordingly.
“I think everybody has accepted where they’re at,” Wardner said of the flags.