Is it time to ditch the Minnesota flag?

I was wondering whether a long simmering controversy would reignite in the wake of the focus on the Confederate flag.


What’s the deal with this flag, Minnesota?


First of all, they jammed about 10,000 things onto it. You’ve got your farmer, your sunrise, your waterfall, the state flower and, oh yes, your near naked Native American riding by on a horse.

“The image of the pioneer, a peaceful man who has laid down his gun and is plowing his field, is juxtaposed with the image of the Indian, who may still want to fight (his spear is at the ready) but who seems to be riding away,” writes Judith Harrington in today’s Star Tribune. She’s an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

“The pioneer/farmer is using a plow, a symbol of civilization. The white man is depicted as a ‘doer’ who is entitled to the land, trees and water, empowered by the concept of Manifest Destiny. The Indian is the vacating tenant. A peaceful transition is suggested, but this ignores the tense and problematic history of conflict between European settlers and Indians, such as the complicated history of treaties and the Dakota War of 1862.”

“It does not reflect the values and sensibilities of Minnesotans today,” she writes.

The flag has been occasionally debated almost since Gov. Sibley saw the painting and thought it’d be a great symbol of a pretty good state.

It’s not the only state flag getting a little criticism this week. In Massachusetts the governor has hinted he’d be open to a new design after the Confederate flag protests prompted a little introspection.


“By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty,” the state motto on the flag says.

“The irony of using a Native American on the arms of the political entity that destroyed them is rather like a hunter hanging trophy heads on his wall,” a respondent in a poll said.

“It is hard to read it all together as anything but a flag designed by and for the colonial conquerors who made the Bay State, the ones who won the land — with a short time out for Thanksgiving dinner — by all but eradicating the people who got here first,” writes Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham.

In both cases, our state flags represent the way we frame history — war and conquest.

Would we even know how to begin thinking about our history any other way?

  • Gary F

    I guess it’s only money. Why not flush more money down the crapper? The folks that came up with this idea must have too much time on their hands.

  • jon

    What’s up with those weird yellow mountains in the background of the scene?

    The scenery fit, fields, water, low waterfalls, forests…. but then there are these weird mountains, when I think MN I don’t think mountains, much less yellow mountains that look like they are piles of sun that was left over as it walks across the horizon…

    Let’s ditch the field hand, the indian, and the mountains, add a canoe on the water, and if we must make the flag so busy looking we can toss in some wildlife.

    • Gary F

      yellow mountains are the bluffs in southeastern MN.

    • AB

      Looks to me like its the sunlight carried over from the sun on the horizon on the left side… Perhaps the white is clouds.. who knows.

  • Nick K

    It wouldn’t take much to replace the person on a horse with Ragnar on a motorcycle.

  • Nick K
    • Bradley Kinkaid

      I think both viewpoints have solid rational behind them. Though this article definitely should have referenced the interpretation ensconced in law as you say.

    • jim

      Just because they re-write history and define it this way doesn’t mean it is true.

    • lindblomeagles

      I think you’re missing the point of all this Nick, but don’t feel bad. Many Americans often miss the point of American History. Most of what you said is true as noted in the law and statute you speak of. In practice, however, the Native American was pushed off the land. Rice and Sibley, in particular, screwed Natives time and time again. Its that part of history that didn’t make the law book. The Ojibway were swindled into signing over their lands to Minnesota. The Dakota weren’t in much better shape. Thinking they gained a fur-trading partner via early Minnesotans, they instead were forced westward and finally forced out of much of the state by 1863. Moreover, Minnesota depleted large swaths of its forestry in the pursuit of big bucks, another thing that didn’t quite make it into the law books. Even more to the point, Minnesota’s Native Community DID LABOR. The Ojibway culture still farms wild rice and taps trees for maple syrup. What they didn’t do is industrial farming; i.e. expand their farm knowledge to large open spaces and produce crops for monetary exchange. That part of history ALSO missed the law books. So, yes, the State Constitution doesn’t say, “We’ll denigrate Native Americans because we’re bigots.” But, its not the best at telling the story of what happened between early Minnesotans and Native Americans.

      • Nick K

        Sorry I didn’t see this earlier, I could have told you to skip the lecture. You clearly don’t know the history of the seal and didn’t bother to look it up. The Native American was actually removed from the seal in the 1960s, for exactly the reasons you described, only to be restored in 1983 for the reasons enshrined in law. So if anyone is rewriting history it is you.

    • DAvid Schnell

      Masons are known to stalk people with stumps on their property. Have you kept yours around? I have seen property owners turn a large stump into a flower bed bi hollowing it out and throwing in fertilizer and seeding or planting…

    • Elizabeth Kerssen Archer

      Thank you for your common sense.

  • John O.

    Maybe the professor from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse should redirect her efforts towards refurbishing the rather bland Wisconsin flag.

  • Tyler Patterson

    Let the re-branding of the United States begin!

    • Flattery

      I think we need to rebrand the U.S. flag. The red representing blood and anything with blood in it is not appropriate for children. We are also leaving out our territories. 50 stars for the states, 13 strips for the original colonies, but what about our territories?

      I bet they don’t want to change it again, because they like it so much and that is the biggest reason we will never give any more territories state hood and have 51 states.

      • lindblomeagles

        I could be persuaded to change the US Flag. You make a great point about the territories, and I’m not sure celebrating 37 states who owe their statehood to stealing land from Native Americans or picking a fight with Mexico is good for kids either. The original 13 did the same thing, but an argument could be made the British were here, and likewise, could have stolen land from the Natives as well. Me, personally, I’d like a flag that represents the Declaration of Independence, the one true document, that largely laid out what our nation strives for, “All people are created equal, with inalienable rights, given to them by the creator, which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I’m thinking of a blue flag, with a white circle and 3 white stars.

        • DAvid Schnell

          filled circle or blue in the middle? and how thick do you want your white?

          • lindblomeagles

            I’m thinking filled circle and a bold white color. The white circle would be in the left hand corner, and the three white stars would form a crescent around the circle but located more towards the middle. The circle would stand for all people, the stars would stand for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the color blue for equality, and the color white for the Creator.

        • ryan

          Like it or not this land was forcibly taken from others. You can’t erase it. If we applied your logic then the Cross, Crescent, Hammer-and-Sickle, and Star of David could never displayed because many a person died as a result of actions taken in the name of the organizations they represent.

          What you and other Progressives want to do is erase the unpleasant history and that is an egregious mistake. The very last thing you want to do is to forget it.

          What happened has happened. No amount of post-facto cleansing can change that. There also is the reality that history is far more complex then you and other narrow community activists don’t quite seem to grasp. The Stars and Stripes has multiple meanings(as does the Confederate flag, but that’s another argument). Meanings that depend on the perspective of the person.

          I can appreciate the Native perspective of it being a negative, but this country is much more than the Natives. This is not to forget that many a Native fought and died under that flag.

          The only solution is to teach history in it’s entirety and not in segments as we currently do. You can’t understand the conquest of the Americans and the subsequent treatment of the Natives without understanding European history. The Europeans in the Americans were replicating the behaviors they saw and even experienced in Europe themselves.

          Then there is sub-topic issue of colonization and slavery Those are important issues that need to be discussed from a geopolitic perspective so people understand that this isn’t an issue relegated to the West.

          Americans generally think themselves exceptional. Exceptional in their work ethic, in their ingenuity, in their courage, and amongst Progressives, their wickedness. None of this is even remotely true. America is not exceptional. She is but one collection of humans in a world of them groping towards a better future whilst still contending with a dark and bloody past.

          • I guess I”ll ask one mote time. How does not displaying the flag change history?

            This seems like a relatively simple question that for some reason nobody will answer.

      • DAvid Schnell

        Some things have set in to legacy and tradition, which is a conservative tendency.

    • DAvid Schnell

      How about: “Minnesota, Semi Autonomous Region of China”? No? good!

  • Jenny

    This great TED talk should provide some motivation for change. It could be less about re-branding and more about good design. If you can’t see or read the details from a distance (while the wind blows as you drive by), does the flag serve it’s purpose?

    • Brian

      You beat me to it!

      As discussed in that video, it is bad flag design to put the state seal on the flag. It just looks like the other generic “blue flag with a seal” that many other states have. We deserve a great flag!

      I also agree we should rethink the symbolism on the state seal.

    • BJ

      >does the flag serve it’s purpose


      >more about good design

      Good design is something subjective and is always changing. Sometimes good design is keeping a design and not changing it.

      • BJ

        I think the bigger issue is that Minnesota, Utah, Nebraska, Idaho, Kansas, South Dakota and Virginia (and Washington a little) all look alike.

        • Brian

          I would argue that this means the flag isn’t serving its purpose (being a recognizable symbol of the state on a flag pole). Not that this is a particularly important purpose.

          But think if we had a flag like South Carolina or Maryland (not everyone agrees with that one, but I really like it) where people actually use the flag!

        • Bradley Kinkaid

          The purpose surely isn’t just to hang up on a pole. On a purely objective level. If the actual original flag of the Confederate states flag had served it’s purpose it would have not been out staged by the ‘battle flag by the Army of Northern Virginia’ as the flag signifying all that it does.

          And yes design taste is subjective and changing but our flag is a timeless bad design as could be well argued then and now based on any guides you could use for good design then or now.

          If the MN flag wasn’t so stupid looking I’d have that hanging on my porch next to old glory.

          • wygrif

            Ditto. The north star flag is much better.

      • DAvid Schnell

        Yeah they re-branded the Aquatennial symbols and it looks very 2010. In 5 to 10 years it will be: “why do Aquatennial logo and flag look like old smartphone apps?” I am thinking for the same reason they want to “play princess” It’s the bling!

      • wygrif

        You can tell the difference between the Minnesota, Maine, Wisconsin, Kentucky, New York, New Hampshire, etc flags from a distance? You’ve got better eyes than me . . . .

    • DAvid Schnell

      He wasted too much time on Chicago, but I am pro Twin Cities, so don’t not mind me, please. That he goes on as though to try and overrun Milwaukee makes me want to put up cones on the freeway Chris Christie style… After all, Madison and the US is next! Yikes!!! Thank God I personally do not own any cones! He DOES have points about good design and democracy, but his loyalties are clear when he takes a jab at an Iowa city too. As for the San Francisco flag, I would create a rainbow colored Phoenix that is hybrid Euro-American and Chinese styles… It would be lovely and reflect the demographic. Maybe include some blackness in the PHoenix itself or in the flames, perhaps… ? I LOVE the capitalist sponsorship. That Prudential spot ties it all together nicely and free from visciously worded concepts.

  • Paulc

    Well MN, like several other states, got lazy and just slapped their state seal onto a flay. For a variety of reasons it doesn’t work.

    A flag, as I understand it, is designed to be recognizable at a distance so you know who it is (think old battlefields). So the design should be more abstract and heraldic as it were. Stars, stripes, certain background colors, maybe a prominent symbol (Moose Rampant?). But again something that is easy to process right away.

    So yeah I would support a redesign, make it more flag like, more bold statement wise? (Wallyeye Salient on field of blue?)

    • Nick K

      Or a white-tail deer standing on the prow of a Viking long-ship…. If Minnesota moved to an awesome design and not just some change to the seal, that would cool.

    • wygrif

      A moose rampant on a green field would be pretty sweet. (Although a loon couchant might better represent the state, lol.)

  • Max

    How about changing the wording on the seal too, which says, “The Great Seal of the State of Minnesota.” Shouldn’t we focus on the greatness of our state instead of the greatness of our seal? *wink

    • DAvid Schnell

      good one.

  • Needs more sailboats…

    • DAvid Schnell

      *giggle* I am going to Lake Calhoun now! THanks fo rthe suggestion

  • Michele

    I’ve got a design for the Minnesota state flag I’d like to propose that I think is far better, but haven’t quite gotten it together to do yet. Any suggestions about how best present it?

    • Michele

      This is mine:
      The bottom blue band represents Minnesota’s rivers and lakes, suggesting its slogan “Land of 10,000 Lakes”.
      The middle green band represents state’s fields and forests.
      The top blue band represents the beautiful blue skies.
      The star at the top center represents the state motto “L’Étoile du Nord”. Its position on the flag suggests the position of our state in the continental US, and I think the shape of our state resembles a star.

  • Jeff

    Apparently our ancestors in 1989 debated this also ( This is their design:

    • Jeff

      P.S. Works for me.

    • DavidG

      I’ve actually seen several of these flying in front of houses in NE Mpls this summer.

  • oakdale76

    My attempt at a new MN state flag:

    Green for the lush summers.
    White for the snow.
    Blue for the sky.

    Winding river through it all.
    Using the river as an “N”, the star is placed to mimic the MN North Stars symbol…(North Star State)

    • Jeff

      It sort of has the snake thing going on. That might serve as a warning to any Wisconsin intruders.

      • oakdale76

        Or a Timber Rattler, as we do have those in MN 🙂

  • Terra tater-tot thunni

    • oakdale76

      Now that’s the ticket!

  • tboom

    I agree with the comments about the Seal being bad graphic design. However I find the farmer with the plow an oddly appropriate symbol given how quickly and thoroughly we destroyed the Great Plains (those amateurs in the Southern Hemisphere are STILL working on the rain forests). We might want to step away from symbols of Native Peoples given how Statehood worked out for them. To put a modern twist on the flag there should be some sort of symbolism depicting taxpayers building stadiums for private interests.

    • And the Native American isn’t “riding by” at all, he’s being kicked out of Minnesota due to the ending of the Dakota War of 1862.

  • Bryan Freisinger

    Couple of entwined hockey sticks or snow shovels ought to do it just fine. Maybe an enormous mosquito on a road construction sign background? Now we’re talkin’! 😉

  • The only option for The Grape Salad State.

    • kevins

      Ah..the memories!

  • The Ace

    Got to say guys as a sustaining member, I find click baiting to be very distasteful.

    • Got a point to make? Also , use your real name.

      • That’s Ace Frehley man, ACE FREHLEY!


      • The Ace

        My point is I thought my money went to NEWS not click bait. If you are going to stoop to the same level as faux news then why should I support it? Your Post is short with absolutely no facts at all. We see an opinion from an out of stater. We see not historical facts about the flag. We see no counter point to the opinion given by the one out of stater. Your blog post contains no information of value to the debate over our state flag. And My name is Chris Asendorf. I don’t like your attitude here!

        • Judith Harrington got her PhD from the University of Minnesota so we’ll give her “one of us status.”

          I don’t know how long you’ve been reading NewsCut so I don’t have any idea whether you’ve found one blog post you don’t like for whatever reason (I’ve done over 10,000 posts so you’re not going to care for all of them) or you find a systemic problem/

          I’d love to talk to you about your concerns. If you’d like, you can call me directly at 651.290.1414.

          I’m sorry you don’t like my attitude but we’ve always required people to use real names. We’ve found over the years that it leads to a better dialog.

        • >>I don’t like your attitude here!<<

          You don't HAVE to like it. I don't like the fact that Bob tosses out baseball stories more than hockey stories, but *I* don't whine about it either.

          OK, maybe I DO whine about that a little…

          • Maybe if your regular season had some meaning…. :*)

    • Paul

      Curious how this is click bate. This headline compares nothing like the rest of the internet. “You’d never believe it! This list of 100 worst flags has got me going, #28 is my favorite!”

      Besides, this is a blog. It is supposed to invoke thought and question with the ability to respond the authors. Can’t do that with click bait, my friend.

      • The Ace

        Does the blog post any real fact? Does it contain historical background? Does it contain information that would change anyone’s mind? Does it contain a poll to gather public input?

        • Paul

          It asks a question and references outside news articles (Star Trib in this case) as the basis for the piece. If one takes the time to read into these articles, one will find contextual basis – facts, historical content related to the flag – for the post.

          I’m always fascinated at who shows up here only to complain about the content. Welcome to the Internet, I guess.

          • The Ace

            Not the point, what is the virtue of reporting another sources story without adding to it? It is a way of not being left out….. Clickbait.

          • The conversation is what adds to it.

            Can you provide the links to your blogs. Maybe I can learn something from them.

            There are days when I do feel like I’m slipping. I’ve only gotten 3 of these in the last four years, for example.

          • Ha!

        • You know, what the blog does — and I assume this is your first time here — is inspires conversation and points you to points of view. It’s not here to change your mind so I would never use that as a standard.

          But it invites us to think about things in ways,, and encourages a respectful exchange of observations.

          • The Ace

            I know What a blog does, I own several of them as well as the servers that host them. You failed to give us anything to think about is my point….. In the past your blog posts have been insightful. However, this post is a terrible one. It just jumps on someone else’s bandwagon. The me too approach. And it isn’t just this post. Much of MPR’s online content has turned to Clickbait. It feels like the team just isn’t trying anymore. Like you guys sold it down the river.
            Chris Asendorf

          • Yes, that’s true. In the classic definition, a blog provides links to interesting things around the Internet and inspires conversation, which we were having right up until the point when the conversation became how much this post stinks.

            Do you have anything or any perspective to offer on this particular subject? If not, I’ve passed on your opinion .

            what are you writing about on your blog (s) today?

            // It feels like the team just isn’t trying anymore.

            I don’t suppose you heard the news about the archbishop, have you?

  • Chris Hermanson

    Taking cues from the North Star flag proposed back in 1989 I took five minutes and drew this up. The traditional 4 pointed North Star, blue field for lakes, green field for agriculture/forest, and the white slash/border for how integral Winter is in our lives.

    • Chris Hermanson

      I should mention that I think our current flag is horrible… it’s a seal on a bedsheet and it violates the most basic tenants of flag design.

  • Sara Meyer, the dean of the news department, says the current flag, by the way, had the seal reversed some years ago. Originally, the Native American on horseback was riding away, making it look as those the white settler had chase him away. So it was adjusted to look more friendly.

    I suppose the argument could be made that the original seal was more historically accurate.

  • Hugh Shakeshaft

    Why not make it a solid color? Or maybe stop having a flag at all. That way it’s mostly likely not to offend anyone in the future. At this point, just about anything could someday become offensive.

  • Cal

    Do you think the world is going to become so politically correct that we are just going to circle back to plain old racism? I personally think people have too much time on their hands so they worry about a flag. If you are so concerned that it portrays a bad message then change the root cause, not some ancillary by-product (who really pays attention to a flag? Who knows what Oregon’s flag looks like?). Why is it that we will never seen a majority of these so called activists that want to change, actually doing something that involves change. Go help out on an Indian Reservation or homeless shelter. #blacklivesmatter? Really, people? I agree that all lives matter, but I don’t see any of my ‘friends’ that tweet/post that ish, in the soup kitchens serving food, or washing homeless people and clothing them, or donating money/time to other charities. If lives matter, then why is it only certain lives and only when it’s convenient!

    • oakdale76

      Why are you worried how people spend their time? Aren’t you doing the same thing that you belittle, in your post?

    • crystals

      I think this says more about your ‘friends’ than it does about actual activists who bust their asses (in ways you can and cannot see) every day to make change.

      And that you think it’s ‘ish’ says a lot about you too.

  • Patrick Michael Veazie

    I like the original better . Blue on the backside

  • Paul

    If something exists, or is thought to exist, or could exist, or couldn’t exist, someone will be offended by it.

    Those someones are now our overlords.

    I, for one, do not welcome our new overlords.

  • Lawrence Scott Lee

    Keeping with the 5 rules of flag design:
    1. Keep it simple.
    2. Use meaningful symbolism.
    3. Use 2 or 3 basic colors.
    4. No seals or lettering.
    5. Be distinctive or related.

    I’d suggest something like the attached.
    1. It’s simple.
    2. It relates with our “north star” or “l’etoile du nord” image.
    3. It suggests our geographic location within the contiguous 48 states.
    4. It keeps with the iconography and colors of U.S. flags.

  • Michael Zalar

    A flag should be distinctive and easy to recognize, otherwise it defeats it purpose of being a rallying point (either physically or morally).
    Therefore, it should be made of no more than three colors worked into a few simple patterns. Three stripes, blue (sky), green (forest and field) and blue (waters) would be one such pattern. Or a silver star at the very top of a field of blue with “star of the north” optionally at the bottom.

  • Jimbobillybob Becker

    My brother and a friend designed an alternative. It has the Star of the North, blue for the ‘sky-tinted waters,’ from which Minnesota gets its name, green for forests and agriculture and white for the winters.

  • lindblomeagles

    I took Native American History and Culture at MCTC (EXCELLENT CLASS! Highly recommend it), and read the History of Minnesota (EXCELLENT, BUT THICK, BOOK released by the University of Minnesota). What the state of Massachusetts did to the Indians is so indescribably bad, that I was shocked I hadn’t heard of what Mass did until I took that class. For instance, THE SETTLERS beheaded Native Americans and stuck their heads on posts as a warning to all Native tribes to keep out. During one winter, a group of Native American families were rowed by settlers out to an island in the Bay, left there with no food, shelter, or water, and no boat to get back to the mainland. They froze to death. Just barbaric stuff. Minnesota’s treatment of the Indians isn’t much better. Everybody remembers the Dakota War of 1862, but conveniently forgets what we did to both the Dakota AND Ojibwe before then. The savage, as far as America is concerned, has never been the Native American. It has been the people who did everything they could to kill off every Native they could in an effort to rob the Natives of all of their wealth.

  • Khatti

    Yet another issue I look at with resigned acquiesce. Listening to the sanctimonious and self-satisfied designing new monuments to to their sanctimonious self-satisfaction is annoying, but it just isn’t worth fighting about.

  • USA85

    I hope not! This new proposed flag is hugly! And what did they do with the origin of the flag? The flag ship of father Hennepin and Market?

  • george orwell

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
    ― George Orwell, 1984

    • And yet nobody has answered the ONE question I posed in this post. How does not displaying the Confederate flag change history? How does it deprive anyone from learning history? From reading? From researching?

      C’mon, someone, explain this logic that people are invoking.

  • M.A.L.

    Only someone with a college education could come up with such a rationale as this.

  • Elizabeth Kerssen Archer

    Leave the flag alone. Read the symbolism from the Minnesota Historical society on the Minnesota seal. Stop trying to create more of a divide than necessary.

  • Tom Vessey

    The current flag is way too busy. 2nd is better, but why go super simple like Alaska? dark blue back with a simple white or yellow north star?