Minnesota announced the winning design for its new state flag on Tuesday after a competition that was sparked by criticism that its current flag was offensive to Native Americans.
The new design consists of a light blue right panel, representing the state's many lakes, and a navy blue left panel, resembling the shape of Minnesota, with an eight-pointed North Star. It's a big departure from the current flag: an ornate design with the state seal in the center depicting a pioneer next to a rifle and a spear-wielding Native American on horseback, which one lawmaker described as “a messy genocidal disorder.” .
The winning flag proposal, submitted by Andrew Prekker of Luverne, was chosen from more than 2,600 proposals by a commission appointed by the state Legislature to redesign both the flag and the state seal.
“My greatest hope is that this new flag can finally properly represent our state and all its people,” Prekker, a 24-year-old artist and writer, said in a statement. “May all Minnesotans of all backgrounds, including indigenous communities and tribal nations who have been historically excluded, be able to look at our flag with pride and honor, and see themselves within it.”
In the coming days, the commission will solicit public comment on the winning design and present it to the Legislature and the governor by January 1 for final approval. A new flag is expected to make its debut on May 11, Minnesota's 166th birthday.
Last week, the commission also voted to adopt design changes to the state seal. The stamp's winning design features a loon, the state bird, in a striking pose, surrounded by other common Minnesota features: waves, wild rice, pine trees and stars. According to the commission, the winning design retains a similar shape, typography and pattern to the original seal, which was adopted in 1858, the year Minnesota became a state.
The lead-up to the selection of a new flag design sparked fierce debate and soul-searching for many Minnesotans as they tried to imagine how their home, known for its numerous lakes, frigid winters and summer fair, could become a flag. . Some lawmakers claimed the seal scene was not racist, while farmers expressed concern that they were not represented. Others were divided over the appropriate number of stars.
The thousands of submissions included a vector drawing of a loon bird with laser eyes, a child's sketch of a spider web and a photograph of a Labrador in a lush field. Last month, the commission announced six finalists, but even those were not without controversy: “This flag, F29, gives the impression that Minnesota is all snow, which is not true,” one person lamented in public comments on a design with a snowflake. “Absolutely not. This is horrible,” wrote another from the same flag.
While some complained that the winning design was “boring,” “too nationalistic,” or “simply meaningless,” others praised it for its simplicity. “Possibly my first choice,” one person wrote. Another commented: “Would I wear it on a hat? Yeah.”
Although Mr. Prekker's initial design included a green stripe, representing nature and agriculture, it was later removed, according to photos on the commission's site. The Minnesota Historical Society, under which the commission is organized, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the stripe's removal Tuesday night.
Sarah Agaton Howes, 47, an artist from the Fond du Lac Reservation in northern Minnesota whose design was among the finalists, said the contest had challenged many Minnesotans to have uncomfortable conversations about their history and the narrative of your state.
“The story we tell about who we are is changing,” he said. “We're replacing a really racist, really horrible image with something that's more representative.” Of the old design, she added: “Sayonara.”
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