The Vexillonnaire Award recognizes a significant and successful act of activist vexillology, involving flag design or usage, in North America. It honors the "engaged vexillologist"—someone who goes beyond the limits of descriptive study. The vexillonnaire becomes personally involved in a specific event of a) creating, changing, or improving flag design, b) promoting good flag usage or altering it for the better, or c) leading similar accomplishments in activist vexillology. The Award honors a vexillonnaire who acts with documented success, informed by sound vexillological or vexillographic knowledge, in a distinctly public manner.
At NAVA 41, President Peter Ansoff announced the 2007 winner of the Vexillonnaire Award: NAVA member Sophie Rault, of Rostrenen, Brittany (France).
In 2004 Sophie answered a call to design a flag for an agency dedicated to helping Native American youth and their families heal from the trauma of alcohol and drug abuse. The Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations, in Spokane, Washington, serves tribes east of the Cascade Mountains: the Colville Confederated Tribes, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, and the Spokane Tribe of Indians in Washington; the Nez Perce Tribe, the Kootenai Tribe, and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe in Idaho; and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon. Sophie worked directly with the Healing Lodge for over six months to finalize the design. She documented her work in three vexillological journals: Flagmaster (no. 112, Spring 2004), NAVA News (no.183, July-September 2004) and Ar Banniel (no. 24, Winter 2004).
Since its formal introduction in June 2004, the Healing Flag, now in its fifth printing, has become an inspiration to Native and non-Native peoples as a symbol of hope and healing. Widely accepted due to its pan-Indian symbolism, the demand for Sophie's flag for the past 18 months has exceeded that for any other tribal flag, according to Peter Orenski of TME Co.
Sophie writes about the flag:
By combining the universal reach of the Four Sacred Colors with the physical perfection and spiritual energy symbolized by the Medicine Wheel, the Healing Flag reaches out to all Native Americans, offering beauty, spirituality and focused energy. Indeed, since redemption from suffering and the thirst for healing spirituality are aspirations common to of all mankind, the flag embraces all peoples.
I originally designed the Healing Flag to salute the work of an extraordinary group of people at the Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations in Spokane, Washington. This wonderfully caring Lodge dedicated itself to helping young people conquer the vicious grip of alcohol and substance abuse. Their example inspired me to spend months working with the Lodge, reading about its mission and discovering the beauty and strength of Native symbols.
Although the newest Vexillonnaire was not in Hartford, her medal and certificate were delivered promptly afterwards. Thanks go to her for promoting good flag design and usage, showing that vexillology is a big tent, and can accommodate a wide range of participation, from distant and necessary scholarship to hands-on work with flags themselves.
From Peter Orenski: "Photo de la première Vexillonnaire Bretonne".