|Last month, the State of Minnesota made a public call for submissions for new state flag and state seal designs. Travis Zimmerman talks with two Indigenous people involved in the flag redesign process.
This is Minnesota Native News, I’m Emma Needham. Last month, the State of Minnesota made a public call for submissions for new state flag and state seal designs. Travis Zimmerman has the story.
Travis Zimmerman: The public submission period for a new state flag and seal ended on October 30th with over 2,600 designs.13 voting members of the Minnesota State Emblems Redesign Commission have narrowed down the submissions to the top six, with input from the public, the Redesign committee will present one flag and one seal design to the state legislature.
Dr. Kate Beane, is Dakota, and is one of the members of the new commission. She has an interesting connection to the current Minnesota flag. The image of this state seal, which is also incorporated into the state flag. That state seal is drawing, there’s an image of a native person running off into the sunset. And that image was inspired by a drawing by Seth Eastman. I’m a direct descendent of Seth Eastman.
And so the image that we have on the state seal, which is incorporated into the state flag is an image that is really symbolic of manifest destiny. It’s an image of the farmer and the plow with a Native person riding off into the sunset. And so it’s been an interesting process to really think about changing that.
TZ: Dr. Beane was invited to the Emblem Redesign Commission by Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, chair of the Capitol Area Architectural Planning Board, which Dr. Beane also serves on. She talks about the idea to ask the public to submit designs for the new flag and seal.
DKB: We made the call for the submissions, we went to the public and asked for public community members to submit designs and had a relatively short window of time for people to submit. We ended up with so many submissions….2600 designs….for the state flag. And there’s about 300, something for the state seal. And I think, you know, it’s been an interesting process in terms of understanding that the seal is the official sort of symbol of the government. And then the flag is the official symbol of the people of Minnesota.
TZ: Sarah Agaton Howes, an Ojibwe artist from Fond Du Lac, submitted several designs, one of which made it to the top SIX.
Sarah Agaton Howes: Flags are really powerful and important images in general. And when you hoist the flag, that’s like an act of claiming a place, right. So I think I’ve always thought about flags as being really important and powerful. And what’s funny about the Minnesota flag is I think there’s a lot of those, like, really racist things that we grow up around, that we don’t even consciously realize are there. And so it makes me think of how, as Native people or all of us, really, as Minnesotans, the images that we’re inundated with and we’re not even aware of how it’s affecting how we think.
TZ: The state of Minnesota has discussed changing its flag as early as the 1950’s. For artist Sarah Howes, changing the flag is an important way to recognize and represent the contributions of Minnesota’s Native tribes.
SAH: That’s the part I wanted to inject, you know, our perspective and our point of view, and also knowing that that’s not an opposing point of view, to the rest of Minnesota, the rest of Minnesota knows there’s tribal nations here. And have you know, we all love the water, the trees, the sky here just as much as everyone else. And we were a part of Minnesota and a vital part of Minnesota.
TZ: The final recommendation for a new state flag will go to the legislature on January 1st, 2024. Dr. Beane says deciding on a new state flag is not just for members of the commission and that there’s time for members of the public to make comments or attend meetings to talk about what is important to them in a new state flag.
DKB: You can comment on the designs….we are reading the comments and really thinking about this as being a representation of all of us.
TZ: Minnesota residents can view the latest round of designs, make comments for the commission teams, and find out about in-person legislative meetings regarding the new flag on the Minnesota Historical Society’s website at www.mnhs.org
For Minnesota Native News, I’m Travis Zimmerman.
* Travis Zimmerman is employed by the Minnesota Historical Society, however, he is not associated with this project.
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