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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Pike-Pawnee Flag Incident: Reexamining a Vexillological Legend

  • Author(s): Platoff, Anne M.
  • et al.

Visitors to the Pawnee Indian Village State Historic Site near Republic, Kansas are greeted by a granite monument commemorating one of the great moments in the vexillological history of the state: ERECTED BY THE STATE OF KANSAS, 1901, To mark the site of the Pawnee Republic, where LIEUT. ZEBULON M. PIKEcaused the Spanish flag to be lowered and the flag of the United States to be raised,September 29, 1806.  To most who view the monument, it is yet another historical marker noting an event of which they had never heard. To the vexillologist, however, it is a challenge—another legend etched in stone that needs to be investigated and verified. Once widely believed to be the site of the first U.S. flag-raising in Kansas, scholars no longer consider this village the one visited by Pike in 1806. However, the legend persists and the story resurfaces from time to time in popular accounts of Kansas history. This paper will examine the story of the Pike-Pawnee flag incident in four areas: 1) an examination of the primary sources that record the incident; 2) the growth of the story as a Kansas legend; 3) the scholarly debate over where the incident actually occurred, and 4) actions being taken to correct the monument.

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