Starting next November, a new sight will greet visitors to the University of Oregon's Erb Memorial Union (EMU): the proudly flying flags of Oregon's nine federally recognized Native American tribes, ringed around the EMU amphitheater.
This permanent addition to the UO campus began in the winter of 2012 as a project in a Leadership and Communication course—an upper-level business course known to students as BA 352—taught by senior instructor Ron Bramhall.
Challenged to come up with an idea for improving the UO campus, six Lundquist College undergraduates—Orion Falvey, Tucker Loken-Dahle, Hannah Mixon-Gilliam, Michael Johnson, Tetsuya Morikawa, and Fanminyi “Famery" Yang—came up with the idea of enhancing diversity on campus by creating a permanent installation that would increase awareness of the state's Native American tribes.
The undergraduates reached out to Gordon Bettles, steward of the UO's Many Nations Longhouse. Working closely with Bettles and members of the UO's Native American Student Union, the group developed the idea for the flagpoles.
“They really did a good job of doing a stakeholder-driven project—a project that wasn't about their own ideas and about themselves, but was about who they were representing," said Bramhall.
The students presented their proposal to the Associated Students of the University of Oregon, which awarded the project funding in Spring 2012. This past December, the group learned that UO Campus Planning had approved construction of the project.
At the UO's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Awards luncheon this past January, Bettles and Falvey accepted the Equity and Inclusion Innovation Award on behalf of everyone involved in the project.
The project had deep personal resonance for Falvey, the student who originated the idea of honoring the state's Native American culture through the project.
“Growing up in Haines, Alaska, I had the opportunity to learn about and take part in the Tlingit culture that was a large part of my community. This included Tlingit dancing, learning the language, and listening to elders tell stories," recalled Falvey.
“I am thankful to have had the connection to my community's local tribes and my goal is for future UO community members have the opportunity to learn about Oregon's tribes," Falvey added.
Download a copy of the proposal and find out more about UO's Equity and Inclusion Innovation Awards.