Published December 20, 2019
HOBART, Wis. — Hobart, a small village that sits on the Oneida Reservation in Wisconsin, is facing criticism from Oneida Nation of Wisconsin tribal officials over the village’s failure to comply with an executive order issued by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, who ordered the flags lowered to half-staff in honor of former Oneida Tribe Chairman Rick Hill, who passed away last week unexpectedly at 66.
The governor ordered stats buildings to lower their flags from sunrise Wednesday to sunset Thursday to memorialize Hill’s contributions to the Oneida Nation and the state of Wisconsin.
On Thursday, the Green Bay Gazette ran an article on the matter. At press time on Thursday, Hobart villages had not responded. However, on Friday, the village issued the following press statement that clearly eliminates any consideration for sovereign nations and even called Governor Ever’s order improper:
The Village of Hobart extends its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Rick Hill and joins others in paying him the respect he deserves. Mr. Hill was an accomplished and respected leader of the Oneida Nation.
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Unfortunately, the Village was placed in a difficult position as the result of Governor Evers’ executive order to have the United States flag flown at half-staff on December 18 and 19, 2019 as a result of Mr. Hill’s death. Although the Village understands and respects the gesture, the Governor’s order is in violation of the United States Flag Code, 42 U.S. § 7. Pursuant to that federal law, a governor may order an American flag to be flown at half-staff only for the death of an official of the state, or for a member of the Armed Forces or a first responder, who is killed in the line of duty.
The Village’s decision to follow the United States Flag Code, rather than the improper executive order, is based upon the need to adhere to federal law and to reserve the flying of a flag at half-staff to the very unique and limited circumstances stated within that law. The Village’s decision would have been exactly the same relative to any governor’s order that was inconsistent with federal law. The decision preserves the significance of this time honored tradition by limiting its application to the extremely limited group for which it was originally intended and is legally allowed. It does not undermine the Village’s respect for Mr. Hill or its desire to join others within our community in mourning his passing.
The Village chose not to comment publicly or to respond to media inquiries over the past two days out of respect for the period of mourning over the death of Mr. Hill.
Hobart Village Board President Rich Heidel