MINNEAPOLIS – The group tasked with reimagining Minnesota's state seal and flag met for the first time Tuesday, beginning the work of coming up with new designs by early next year.
The 13-member State Emblems Redesign Commission, which also includes non-voting state lawmakers of both parties, introduced themselves during the virtual meeting and started to chart the course for the next few months. There are three governor appointees and representatives chosen by groups like the Council on Latino Affairs, Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and others.
State law says the designs "must accurately and respectfully reflect Minnesota's shared history, resources, and diverse cultural communities," and "symbols, emblems, or likenesses that represent only a single community or person, regardless of whether real or stylized, may not be included in a design."
"What I'm looking forward to is creating a flag that we can all be proud of and a flag that everybody can look at and say, 'Yeah, that's Minnesota's flag, that's a cool flag!'" said Dr. Anita Gaul, a pick by Gov. Tim Walz who teaches history at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
They appointed a chair and vice chair and discussed how frequently they should meet; some suggested twice per month and others advocated for weekly meetings. Some members raised concern about the prescribed timeline: The law requires the group to submit a report with the designs to the legislature by Jan. 1.
The old flag and seal will retire and the new ones become official on Statehood Day May 11.
Secretary of State Steve Simon, whose office is the "keeper of the state seal," said he would advocate for an extension of that deadline. He and others stressed the importance of making time for public input, which the law also mandates.
"I don't mean this to sound pessimistic, but it seems to me that we have to be thoughtful and thorough about this," Simon said. "We have two big tasks ahead of us — flag and a seal — even one would make this an ambitious project."
Any change to that date would need to happen during a special session of the legislature, which Gov. Walz this week said might be a possibility to resolve issues with
Supporters of changing the emblems say the current seal contains offensive imagery because it displays a settler tilling the land as a Native American rides off into the distance. The current flag is the state seal on a blue background.
They also argue it violates tenets of "good flag design": simple and distinct with meaningful symbols, according to the North American Vexillological Association, a group that studies flags. The current design has flown over Minnesota since 1957.
"This is important for us to identify and represent who we are as Mni Sota," said Shelley Buck, vice president of the tribal council in the Prairie Island Indian Community, referencingfrom which the state gets its name.
Some Minnesotans have already put forward their own ideas. At Herold Flags in Rochester, owner Lee Herold enthusiastically," a design he has pushed for years. A seventh-grade history class in South St. Paul
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