Minnesota’s state flag is set to undergo a makeover. The move to redesign the flag comes after years of criticism about the current flag’s outdated images.
Kevin Jensvold, Upper Sioux Community Tribal Chair, said during a legislative hearing in February that Minnesota’s current flag is problematic, but the discussion on a new flag will be a lofty challenge because of a flag’s symbolic nature.
“I don't envy your discussion or this bill because a flag represents a people, what they stand for… their morals and values.” Jensvold said. “We choose to stand behind a flag, we choose to stand up for a flag, we choose to put it in places of prominence to demonstrate who we are.”
DFL Representative Mike Freiberg of Golden Valley joins Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer to talk about the push for a new state flag.
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The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity. Listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.
How would you describe the current Minnesota state flag?
Visually, I would say it's pretty unremarkable. There are about 20 states that have a very similar flag, basically, just the state seal slapped on to a blue background.
There are several principles that a good flag is supposed to have. It's supposed to have meaningful symbolism — simple imagery that a child can draw, it's distinguishable from a distance. And our flag basically fails all of those principles.
And beyond that, you heard Chairman Jensvold talk about some of the problematic imagery that it has, too. That's on the seal. It depicts basically a white farmer displacing an Indigenous person riding on horseback. And that was very deliberate by the designers of the seal to depict, you know, the white people basically eliminating Native Americans from Minnesota.
So I don't think it's a flag we should be very proud. I don't think it's very distinguishable. So I'm hopeful we'll have a much better one come out of this process.
Why is now the time to change Minnesota’s flag?
This has been under discussion for many years, it hasn't always been a partisan issue. I don't view it as sanitizing history. I think we can maintain this as a historical flag with adequate commentary. But I think the flag should represent what's best about Minnesota, and I don't think it does that right now.
What's the process toward creating an agreement, or a new flag design?
The commission members have to be appointed by Aug. 1. They represent a wide swath of Minnesotans of with different levels and different types of expertise. And the bill doesn't actually specify the specific process the commission needs to use.
I imagine they'll come up with a process at one of their first meetings, which will probably happen shortly after Aug. 1. But then they have to come up with a flag design by Jan. 1, and then it will — barring any legislative changes during the next legislative session — that will take effect on May 11 of next year, which is Statehood Day.
Does the public get to weigh in on a flag design?
Yes, the bill requires that the commission have a process for public input. So I'm not exactly sure what that will look like, if it'll be an email or internet submission or something. But there will be a process for that.
What if the commission can't agree on a new flag design?
Well, that would be a problem. I don't expect that will happen. The bill was designed to kind of put some pressure on them to come up with a design. So I mean, the bill will sunset the current flag and the current seal. So I guess we would just be without a seal and a flag for a while.
Like I said, I don't expect that will happen. I think there's a strong incentive for us to come up with a new flag design and I you know, honestly, almost anything would be an improvement.
Listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.