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Jan 12, 2024


Steven Chesney

In Elementary school I had a unit on Minnesota history. We were taught explicitly that the state seal celebrated the Indian (riding off into the sunset) making way for the European settler (plowing his field while looking on). Later on there was some backtracking on that but it still looks that way.

Oliver Steinberg

I don't like the new state flag design--graphically, it's an anonymous yawner--sterile in its superficial symbolism and visually too close to monochromatic. All that can be said for it is that it's a big improvement over the old design. The 1945 Legislative Manual has the authoritative description of both the state seal and the state flag. The territorial legislature voted for a seal that would portray "an every-day scene, consisting of an Indian family with their lodge, canoe, etc., and a single white man visiting them, with no other protection than the feeling of hospitality and friendship existing between the two people. The white man is receiving from the Indian the pipe of peace."
The 1945 Manual states: "That seal was authorized by law but never used."
When the egregiously different design came back from the engraver (replete with a misspelled Latin word in it), "it was ridiculed by journalists as representing 'a scared white man and an astonished Indian,'" and "a man plowing one way and looking another." But that scene was retained in the state seal only with a French motto, not a Latin one.
The state flag was adopted in 1893, when a designated committee of six women selected the design submitted by Mrs. E. H. Center of Minneapolis. Her scheme placed the state seal in the center and surrounded it with a surfeit of symbolism & decorations (stars, flowers,ribbons, fringe.) It was two-sided--white and blue. [Oregon still has a two-sided state flag.] That design was altered later, maybe in the 1950's, at least to the extent of just using the blue background. Some of the decorative details were modified, I think, but I wasn't here then.
That old flag was so foolish and uninspired--embarrassing, really--that it was a REPUBLICAN STATE SENATOR, Ed Oliver of Deephaven, who sponsored a bill to re-design the flag, over 20 years ago! (Pioneer Press, March 27, 2002.)
I would have favored a flag full of turtles (since Oklahoma's already has a "peace pipe.") At the very least, we could have had a loon. We're at the headwaters of the great river, and Louisiana, down at the other end, has a pelican. Thus we'd have symbolically united north & south, start and finish, with popular mascots. Loons may not nest in every county, but we all know what they look & sound like---whereas not one Minnesotan in five could point out the Noprth Star in the night sky--in fact, over half the people of our state never really see the stars at all because of urban light pollution. We're not even the northernmost state anymore; and Polaris neither evokes a popular sentiment of sympathy or affection, nor has it any practical use now for navigation or anything else. The Republicans should admit that the old flag and seal were best set aside; the DFL-ers should stop being afraid of democracy, and let the people of the state have the final decision.

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