In Statement, OCHC Regards Confederate Flag As Symbol Of Racism And Treason

Jul 15, 2020

A state commission is advising against displaying Confederate flags in historic Oregon cemeteries.

Defenders of the Confederate flag say it's a symbol of Southern pride and heritage. But critics say it's represents slavery and treason, and point to its usage by white supremacist and hate groups, including at this KKK rally in Columbia, SC in 2015.
Credit Edwin Shelton / Domain

In a statement called a position paper, the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries says Memorial Day was established three years after the Civil War to honor Union Soldiers who died defending the United States of America.  The paper adds the Confederate Flag is a symbol of treason, suppression, racism, and dishonor.

A grave stone for Thomas Steele, a Confederate soldier buried in Prairie City, Oregon.
Credit Photo provided by Larry Cebula

Across the country, the flag and other symbols of the Confederacy are being revisited in recent weeks as protests by the Black Lives Matter movement have  followed George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.  NASCAR and the State of Missisippi have officially removed the Confederate emblem.   

Kuri Gill of the state historic preservation agency, Oregon Heritage, toldk KLCC focus on this topic had been building since last fall.

“We had discussion about the value and significance of historic cemeteries and how critical it is that all people feel safe in accessing that value," she said. 

"So we listened to personal stories of people and their experience with the Confederate flag, their experience with finding their ancestors in historic cemeteries.”

There aren't many Confederate graves in Oregon, compared to states in the Deep South.  But some do appear here and there.  The East Oregonian newspaper reports about 60 in two dozen Oregon cemeteries.

In its draft position paper, the OCHC says families should use either flowers or the U.S. flag on Confederate graves. The commission’s stance is only advisory.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.