Minnesota Starts Work on a New State Flag

The old flag—often criticized for its poor design and offensive images—is slated to be replaced in May

Minnesota flag
The current Minnesota flag, which lawmakers hope to soon retire, flies during a snowstorm. Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

Lee Herold is willing to bet money that more Minnesotans know what the Texas flag looks like than the flag of their home state. “It doesn’t stick with you. It doesn’t stick in your memory,” the owner of Herold Flags in Rochester, Minnesota, tells KARE 11’s Boyd Huppert.

Today, the flag that flies near the State Capitol in St. Paul is difficult to distinguish from the flags of New HampshireNebraska and other states that also feature a state seal on a blue background.

The current flag representing the North Star State also includes “offensive imagery,” said Mike Freiberg, a state representative, on the floor of the Minnesota House of Representatives in May, per CBS News Minnesota’s Caroline Cummings.

In the middle of the state seal, a farmer plows a field, his rifle propped on a nearby tree stump. Behind him, a Native American man rides a horse toward a setting sun. Critics of the flag say this scene “suggests a people being driven out,” writes the Rochester Post Bulletin’s Matthew Stolle.

For this reason, many tribal nations in Minnesota don’t fly the flag, as Kevin Jensvold, the chair of the Upper Sioux Community, told the state’s House State Government Committee earlier this year. “The flag is problematic, and I lay it out there as a simple truth so it can be seen from eyes that are different from most of the immigrants,” he said, per MinnPost’s Peter Callaghan.

Thanks to a bill from the state legislature, a 13-member commission is now exploring new designs for the flag, which must “accurately and respectfully reflect Minnesota’s shared history, resources and diverse cultural communities,” according to CBS News Minnesota. The commission must submit a report with replacement designs for the flag and seal to the state legislature on January 1, 2024. Unless both houses of the legislature veto it, the new flag will fly on Statehood Day on May 11, 2024, reports MinnPost.

The commission includes appointees of the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs and the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans. It also includes two appointees by the Indian Affairs Council to represent the Dakota community and the Ojibwe community, as well as three members of the public and representatives from various state boards and the state historical society.

Luis Fitch, a design and branding expert who moved to Minnesota from Mexico 25 years ago, is the designee of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs. He became interested in the redesign after attending a presentation by the director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, who included a slide with an image of the flag.

The scene on the seal left Fitch “in shock,” he tells MPR News’ Brian Bakst. “I got involved right away when I saw there was an opening.”

The commission is also required to consult with vexillologists, who study flag design. These experts largely agree that effective flags should be simple, use only a few basic colors, avoid lettering and seals and employ meaningful symbolism. Minnesota’s flag, with its complicated seal chock full of details, breaks all of these rules, Herold explains to MinnPost.

“It’s not an effective flag. It’s not popular,” he says. “A lot of people don’t know we have a flag.”

Anita Talsma Gaul, a historian at Minnesota West Community & Technical College, says that her personal preference is to create a less cluttered flag that “everyone can embrace.”

“It should be simple,” she tells MPR News. “And I would like to see something that in a sense is unique, so that when you look at it, you’re immediately like, ‘Yep, that’s Minnesota’s flag.’”

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