The state flag of Oklahoma is stunningly beautiful, colorful, and the images are full of symbolism.
The central emblem was modeled on an original Osage Nation warrior’s shield of thick buffalo hide. The shield color is amber—a light tan color, and outlined in red. The shield is set into a field of rich sky blue, representing the blue field in the flag flown by C.S.A. soldiers from the Choctaw Nation, and carried during their time in the American Civil war.
Six gold-brown crosses, Native American artistic representations of stars, adorn the shield with three across the top and three across the bottom. They are overlaid and partially obscured by two highly recognizable symbols of peace: a green olive branch, and a ceremonial calumet, or peace pipe. The ivory peace pipe is tipped in red and a red tassel hangs from the pipe stem near the mouth piece.
Seven eagle feathers hang from the lower edge of the shield. Eagle feathers are highly esteemed symbols of honor, and considered sacred objects in Native American cultures. Underneath the shield in all capital white letters is the word “Oklahoma.”
The Chronicles of Oklahoma (PDF file) record this meaning for the symbols:
“The blue field signifies loyalty and devotion; the shield implies defensive or protective warfare when justifiable; the small crosses on the shield are the Indians’ graphic sign for stars and may indicate lofty ideals or a purpose for high endeavor; the shield thus surmounted by, but always subservient to, the calumet and the olive branch, betoken a predominant love of peace by a united people.”
The warrior’s shield flag is the last of fourteen flags that have flown over the land of Oklahoma. Admitted to the Union in 1907, the Oklahoma legislature did not adopt a flag until 1911. It was a red flag emblazoned with a white star which was imprinted with the number “46” to signify Oklahoma as the forty-sixth state to enter the Union.
But there were problems with the red flag. Historically used to signify danger—quarantine in particular—the red flag also raised the ire of post–World War I Oklahoma soldiers who regarded the red flag as the emblem of the socialist revolution. In fact, the legislature passed a law in 1919 making a *red flag or other emblem or banner (as a sign of protest) against the law.
The Need for a New Flag
In 1924, Dr. James Thoburn, secretary of the Oklahoma Historical Society, asked the State Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution to sponsor a contest to find a new design for the state flag. In the state with the country’s largest Native American population, it is easy to understand why the design submitted by Louise Funk Fluke (Mrs. George Fluke, Jr.) was chosen.An artist educated at Columbia University and the Chicago Art Institute, Mrs. Fluke’s flag design embodied the finest elements of Oklahoma heritage. The flag was adopted as the official state flag April 2, 1925, and the word “Oklahoma” was added to the flag in 1941.
The Oklahoma flag’s colors and shapes were standardized by the Oklahoma legislature in 1988. However, because of incorrect descriptions and graphic representations in the private sector, the flag is variously manufactured with white crosses, and sometimes red crosses. Subsequent legislation took effect in 2006 which should clarify the color of the crosses which is described as gold-brown.
This year is the Oklahoma Centennial, celebrating 100 years of statehood.
*Section 374 – Display of Red Flag or Emblem of Disloyalty