The Minnesota state flag is due for a complete makeover.
Critics argue the current flag is too busy with dates, symbols, outdated images, language and many colors. Critics also say the state flag isn’t memorable and resembles about 20 other state flags — all with a blue background and a state seal.
People have been advocating for a new Minnesota flag for decades, and their efforts were acknowledged earlier this year when the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill to create a commission to reconsider the design of the flag and state seal. The commission will come up with a process for public input, though the details haven’t been worked out.
If all goes as planned, a new state flag will fly next May.
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MPR News host Angela Davis talked with Patina Park, the executive director of Minnesota’s Tribal-State Relations about changing the current state flag, what will make the new one memorable and how a great flag might have the power to unify communities. Michael Green, a designer and vexillologist — a person who studies flags — joins the conversation from Indianapolis.
MPR News readers submitted some of their ideas for a flag design:
Proposed designs for a new state flag
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Since not everybody is a designer, many readers preferred to describe their ideas. A great majority want the loon, Minnesota’s state bird, and the lakes to be highlighted.
Many of them mentioned the importance of including Indigenous symbols or native elements and showcasing the diversity of people that live in the state of Minnesota.
“I think the commission needs even more stakeholder engagement because there’s a lot of communities that probably haven’t been reached. I think just how diverse Minnesota is, with our immigrant population that probably have never even thought about it, that no one has asked, that I think also should have an opportunity to have a voice,” show guest Patina Park said.
The most popular idea on an MPR News Facebook post about the topic was from Melody Olson: “Half white (snow), half orange (road construction) with a mosquito in the middle.” We get you, Melody!
Many readers and a caller shared with us a very popular design from the late 1980s they feel should be the official Minnesota state flag. It is called “The North Star Flag,” designed by Rev. William Becker and Mr. Lee Herold.
Vexillologist Michael Green said the design is been the most popular for many years and has won the public vote.
“The North Star flag has stood the test of time. It’s older than I am and it is still used to this day. You can go to a Minnesota United game and see it. You can see it all around the state,” Green said.
However, reader John Weimholt said he thinks the North Star flag design resembles some of the old Soviet Union flags.
“When I first laid eyes upon the North Star Flag, my first thought was unfortunately, ‘Borat!’ Compare them for yourself — the colors are different but the layout looks familiar,” Weimholt said.
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Key takeaways of our callers’ opinions on the state flag design
Some would prefer a state flag with many elements.
“We celebrate seasons here in Minnesota, all four seasons. So I think, obviously, you want blue and green on there for the lakes and water and the fields. But also if they could somehow incorporate some orange, red and yellow for the fall colors, and then white for the winter. And then the North Star. Now I think about horizontal stripes for the colors and predominantly blue and green, but you know, including the other ones.”
— Bruce in Apple Valley, Minn.
Others would rather have something simple.
“I was thinking more of something very simple and elegant as well. Keeping the blue, maybe half the flag, the bottom parts, or like maybe two-thirds of it, then the top part being white. And that’s like the sky, the clouds and the water and then the North Star as well. And I kind of liked the idea of the eight-pointed star. Which has been commonly used by the Dakota people.”
— Zachary in Eveleth, Minn.
Some find the state flag offensive.
“From the moment I saw it, I saw it as white people moving into native, Indigenous land. And you know, the first time I saw there was a gun on the seal, to me that communicated that they were being evicted from this land and pushed off to the sunset or the Dakotas. I’m not native to Minnesota, but I am native to Hawaii, and I was very disturbed by that.”
— Craig in Minneapolis
Some are opposed to changing the flag at all.
“We are against changing things that are part of our history. History could be bloody and it can be beautiful.”
— Alex and Candace in Red Wing, Minn.
And of course, some callers would like Minnesota to find inspiration in other state flags.
“We’re the land of 10,000 lakes and Lake Superior and it’s very significant, this water on the landscape. So I would definitely keep the same blue background, which is very recognizable, but I suggest similar to California with their bear symbol that we go with a very simple drawing of the blue-eyed darner dragonfly. It’s in all 87 counties and it would be very recognizable. I think it would be a very unifying symbol.”
— Nick in Burnsville, Minn.
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