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Open Letter Campaign: DNR

An Open Letter to DNR Director Kayla Lyon

DNR Director Lyon,

We at Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), an Indigenous activist collective based in Iowa, have been contacted in regards to an unfortunate situation. The situation in question was characterized as follows:

“In or around 1967, a large flagpole flying a large U.S. flag was installed at the top of a bluff known as Estes Point in the Turkey River Mounds preserve. Due to a good faith error about where property lines lay, the individuals who put up the flag believed it was on privately-owned land rather than state land. It is now undisputed that the flag is on state-owned land, within the preserve boundary. Given that the preserve is home to an Indigenous burial site, the placement of the flag could rightly be called obnoxious, insensitive, and inappropriate - at a minimum. Additionally, the flag is contrary to preserve regulations (which largely prohibit contemporary man-made structures of any type) and the U.S. flag code (the flag is not lowered or illuminated at night). For all of these reasons, the removal of the flag would be the prudent path.

However, a local veterans group has taken a symbolic ownership interest in the flag and has become extremely vocal in its opposition to DNR's removal of the flag. While there is no real question as to DNR's authority to remove the flag, DNR leadership and, by extension, the Governor's office are concerned with what might be called the optics of the situation; media coverage has tended to depict the story as the DNR's unprovoked, unpatriotic trammeling of veterans and the email/letter/phone call campaign to the Governor's office has been overwhelming in favor of keeping the flag at its present location.

Early in this process, DNR consulted with the Office of the State Archaeologist and both the OSA and the OSA Indian Advisory Council support removing the flag for cultural and scientific reasons alike. The OSA previously identified Ho-Chunk Nation and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska as having a particular interest or connection to the site above and beyond the more generalized interest of many tribes that have lived in the area, historically or currently and DNR is currently trying to solicit those tribes' position. Beyond these still-preliminary efforts, there has been no Native input on the subject and the Director of the DNR has made it clear that absent similar, Native-backed political pressure to remove the flag, the DNR intends to look the other way on the flag.”

To be clear, it is not our responsibility to clear the path so you can avoid scrutiny from conservative patriots. It is beyond shameful that you would scapegoat Indigenous people for your political convenienceInstead, we will be applying pressure for you to RESIGN if you don’t want to do your job. And, we will be encouraging the public to join us in this call for action. It is worth noting that this is not the only instance of you not doing the job you were hired to do. For instance, you have not been doing your job to protect Iowa’s environment where you refused to exercise authority under the Director’s Discretion Rule to overturn Supreme Beef, despite the threat that manure from the feedlot poses to NE Iowa’s karst topography.

We encourage the public to contact Director Lyons

  1. by letter at

DNR DIrector Kayla Lyon

502 E. 9th St., Des Moines, IA 50319

  1. on Twitter @kayla4Iowa

  2. on Facebook via the Iowa Department of Natural Resources page

We are asking the public to encourage you to either do the job you were hired to do or RESIGN. We should not have had to take time out of our busy schedules to tell you that you need to do your job, but here we are. We hope to not encounter any similar situations in the future.


Great Plains Action Society


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