ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Minnesota has a new state flag and seal.
The State Emblems Redesign Commission, which was tasked with adopting a new state flag and state seal by Jan. 1, 2024, finalized the new state flag and state seal on Tuesday. Unless the Minnesota Legislature rejects the designs, the new emblems will automatically become official on May 11, 2024, which Minnesota observes as Statehood Day.
The commission still needs to put together its report for the Minnesota Legislature. The commission will meet virtually at 9 a.m. next Wednesday, Dec. 27 to discuss its final report to the Legislature.
Minnesota's new state flag
The final design for the new Minnesota state flag, as approved by the State Emblems Redesign Commission on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. (State Emblems Redesign Commission)
Last week, the commission settled on a base design for the flag, choosing the submission designed by Andrew Prekker, of Luverne, Minnesota, with the white, green and blue stripes and an eight-point star on the left. The commission on Tuesday discussed changes to the original design, including the colors of the stripes, whether the Minnesota shape should be centered (the commission said yes, unanimously), and the shape and orientation of the star.
The final design of the flag (pictured above) includes the conceptual shape of Minnesota in dark blue with a white, eight-pointed star pointing to the top of the flag. The rest of the flag is in light blue. The commission voted 11-1 to approve the final flag design.
"Minnesota’s new flag captures the imagination while standing apart from all other state flags with its unique design that depicts the shape of our state. Minnesotans have so much to be proud of from the beauty of our land, to our rivers and lakes, to our recognition as the North Star State – all of which are reflected in this flag. I hope Minnesotans will find commonality in this flag and unite around it for generations to come," Secretary of State Steve Simon said in a statement.
However, Rep. Bjorn Olson, R-Fairmont, and Sen. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, the only Republicans on the commission and are nonvoting members, said they'll prepare their own report for the Legislature with Olson noting there wasn't enough time to make an informed decision, and they should put the new emblems up for a vote by Minnesotans.
"We believe that there has not been enough time available to us to create an informed decision, a flag that represents all Minnesotans," Olson said at the end of Tuesday's meeting. "I'm not saying the flag that was chosen is a bad flag. What I'm saying is this process should have taken a lot longer. We should have taken more public testimony. We should have heard from more Minnesotans. And on top of that, I hope that in the commission's report we will include … that we advise the state Legislature to put this to a vote of the people."
Minnesota’s current flag includes the current state seal against a blue background. The seal depicts a Native American riding off into the sunset while a white settler plows his field with his rifle leaning on a nearby stump. The imagery suggests to many that the Indigenous people were defeated and going away, while whites won and were staying. Not only do the state’s Dakota and Ojibwe tribes consider that offensive, but experts in the scientific and scholarly study of flags — known as vexillology — say it’s an overly complicated design.
The commission narrowed down the flags from a field of more than 2,000 options that were submitted by the public.
Minnesota's new state seal
The new Minnesota seal design, as of Dec. 15, 2023. The design could undergo additional changes before the State Emblems Redesign Commission finalizes the new state seal. (Supplied)
The commission had already made its final selection for the new state seal, choosing the design featuring a loon. The commission did agree on some changes from the original design during its Dec. 12 meeting, including removing the state motto and year of statehood that were in the original design and adding the Dakota name for Minnesota: Mni Sóta Makoce, which can be translated as "where the water meets the sky."
There was some debate during Tuesday's meeting about altering the design further, including turning the blue dotted circle into a solid line. In the end, the commission on Tuesday also voted for a modification to the state seal design, approving changing the number of yellow bars around the outer ring of the seal to 98, representing Minnesota’s 87 counties and 11 federally recognized tribal nations.
Meanwhile, Sen. Olson insisted during Tuesday's meeting that the new seal is illegal and violates state statute (referencing the Dakota language on the seal). Olson promised this would be controversial and challenged.
"One of the issues we'll be citing is there is absolutely an issue with our state seal," Olson told the commission at the end of Tuesday's meeting. "The seal that this commission has approved is not legal according to statute, and if that is not addressed at the last meeting, that is something that must be addressed. It is against the state statute. It is clearly in violation of the state statute, of what this law was created to do."
In response, Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, said, "There already was a Dakota word on the old state seal. And there will continue to be on this state seal. And that word is Minnesota."
Comparisons to flags in Somalia
The base design of flag F1953 was compared to flags in Somalia, specifically flags from the Puntland and Jubaland regions, which sparked criticism online leading up to Tuesday's meeting. However, some on the commission noted many flags are similar to flags from other countries.
During the meeting, Secretary of State Simon addressed the commission, saying the Iowa flag is similar to the French flag, but he doesn't hear people saying the French are taking over Iowa. He also compared the Texas flag to the Chile flag. He added that if through hours of work to come up with a state flag, it may resemble a flag from another part of the world, then "I think that's OK."
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.