At one time in the United States, Flag Day was considered an important part of our country’s tradition – one to be observed with a great deal of respect.
That tradition lives on at the Morgan WhiteEagle residence on Shady Lane Road in Baraboo, affectionately known as “Eagle Island.” Even though Morgan passed on last year, the tradition lives on.
A Flag Day ceremony was held on Friday, June 14, on the WhiteEagle property with approximately 100 people in attendance. The day started with an all-night ceremony, and then progressed to raising flags, breakfast, a horseshoe tournament, lunch, and a sweat lodge.
In addition, a headstone was placed on the grave of Morgan WhiteEagle, who had passed away on May 26, 2018. John WhiteCloud provided the prayer and spoke about Morgan and his family during a short ceremony.
The annual day specifically celebrating the United States flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. A schoolteacher, B.J. Cigrand, arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia, Wisconsin, to observe the day on June 14, which was the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of the stars and stripes. It was known as “Flag Birthday,” later changed to “Flag Day.”
The Flag Day observance on the WhiteEagle property began almost three decades ago.
“Twenty-eight years ago, I had a dream about my tega, Morgan WhiteEagle. He was crying about my other tega, Sanford WhiteEagle. As you are raised and have these kinds of dreams, you’re supposed to tell an elder, when you dream about someone has gone on,” said Henry WhiteThunder.
“I told him about the dream, and then I asked him if we could raise Sanford’s flag on Flag Day because I wanted him to feel happy about him losing his brother. I wanted Morgan to be happy,” WhiteThunder said. “The uncle-nephew relationship is holy. Tega’s word is law. So I asked him if we could do that and he said ‘yeah.’
“The first meeting landed on a Saturday, so I asked Tega Morgan if we should have an all-night ceremony and he said ‘yeah.’ Morgan ran the first ceremony. After that, he said that we’re going to do that every year,” Henry said.
Flying the flags of veterans is significant, providing a connection between the deceased veteran and the family members.
The flags that were on the caskets of veterans hold their spirits, WhiteThunder said. Marlon WhiteEagle got the flag of Sanford from Henry’s grandmother Sarah WhiteEagle. Marlon took care of it all those years since Sanford passed away.
“Sanford did two tours in Vietnam. He was a Marine. We’ve been doing that every year since then – 28 years. In his honor, we raised his flag. Nine years ago, the flag got too worn out, so we retired it. We still believe it has his spirit in it, so it has a special place in the house,” WhiteThunder said.
During the first year of the ceremony, Marlon had graduated from high school and was leaving to serve in the Marine Corps, Henry said. Therefore, during the ceremony, they prayed that all the service members would all come home safely, including the WhiteEagle boys: Joe, Marcus, and Marlon.
“It blossomed into that, and we even got a post named after Sanford – the Sanford WhiteEagle American Legion Post 556,” WhiteThunder said.
“It kind of turned into family reunion but the family has gotten bigger and bigger. We pray for the people who bring the flags to have good feelings and good memories. It means a lot to them, too,” he said.
“Anyone who wants to bring their flag over is welcome. Seeing their relatives’ colors flying makes them feel good because it is our belief that their spirit is in the flag. The family feels better,” WhiteThunder said.
The horseshoe event has been growing every year, even adding winning prizes such as tournament belts.
WhiteThunder hopes the annual event will continue for many generations.
“A lot of good came out of it. It brought us together. Many of the veterans came back from service, got married, and had children,” he said. “We need to take the time out to pray for the family of veterans and honor the veterans.”