The flag of Arkansas. Photo: Katie Yaeger Rotramel

'Vicious, murdering savages': Defense of Confederate symbol on state flag turns ugly

Efforts to redesignate a Confederate symbol from the Arkansas flag continue to go nowhere, with opponents attacking a proposal to recognize the tribes that were forced out of the state.

At a legislative hearing on Wednesday, a man identified as a veteran and a historian for the Sons of Confederate Veterans said the state flag should not honor those tribes.

“Do not lose sight of the nature of the Indian tribes to be commemorated, they were vicious murdering savages,” Robert Freeman told the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee, KATV reported. “Especially the Caddos, who when aligned with the Kiowas, raided the early settlements of Arkansas territory killed and scalped men, women, and children from the Arkansas River to southwestern Texas."

At a prior hearing, a Republican was overheard asking a colleague why the state would want to honor tribes, especially "after they fought against us," The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The paper identified the lawmaker as Rep. Jack Ladyman, who has now voted twice against legislation to change the flag.

The Arkansas flag features a star that was added in the 1920s to symbolize the Confederate States of America. The star is located above the word "Arkansas" while three stars below it represent the United States, Spain and France, with the latter two once exercising dominion over Arkansas.

Rep. Charles Blake, a Democrat, first introduced legislation that would have changed the meaning of the Confederate star. HB1487 would represent the Indian nations that called Arkansas their home before being removed to present-day Oklahoma.

"The blue star above the word 'ARKANSAS' commemorates the heritage and contribution of the Quapaw, Osage, and Caddo tribes and the other Native American nations who inhabited Arkansas before France or Spain exercised dominion over Arkansas," the bill read.

But after that bill was rejected on a party-line vote on February 27, Blake introduced HB1736 that also would have removed the Confederate connotation and recognized tribal history. The new measure, however, failed on Wednesday even though John Berrey, the chairman of the Quapaw Nation, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, endorsed it.

"The Quapaw Nation greatly appreciates Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s support for state Rep. Charles Blake’s proposed bill to change the meaning of a small part of the Arkansas flag so that it would honor the state’s historic Native American tribes — the Osage, Caddo and Quapaw," Berrey said in a statement earlier this month.

The word "Arkansas" itself is derived from the Quapaw language. It refers to the "land of downriver people."

The tribe once had a reservation in Arkansas and plans to open a casino on ancestral land in the state.

Read More on the Story
Arkansas bill aimed at removing Confederacy ties to state flag fails again (KATV March 20, 2019)
House committee again defeats bill to change symbols on Arkansas flag (The Arkansas Times March 20, 2019)
Bid to Strip Confederate Link From Arkansas Flag Fails Again (The Associated Press March 20, 2019)
Bill to change symbolism of Arkansas flag fails again; proposals to redesignate star not dead, 2 say (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette March 21, 2019)

Join the Conversation