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Commission adopts new state seal, narrows flag designs to top three

Commission narrows flag designs to top three
Commission narrows flag designs to top three 01:54

ST. PAUL, Minn.  Minnesota is one step closer to a new state flag after the commission tasked with reimagining it landed on the top three designs.

The State Emblems Redesign Commission on Tuesday voted to cut the group of finalists in half after it had narrowed more than 2,000 submissions to just six last month. They allowed the public to give feedback online and received thousands of comments.


But these designs are far from final. Their vote to choose them came with the caveat that they could make changes. They discussed some of those ideas, from altering the shape of the stars on each flag or changing and rearranging colors.

Still, Tuesday's meeting marked a step forward for the panel which is running up against a deadline of the end of the year to complete its work. Members must put together a report with the new flag and seal design, explaining the symbolism, by Jan. 1. 

"I thought all six were strong, but emerging from public opinion and what I had heard and feedback from people from fellow Minnesotans, these were the top three that I think are the most unifying of all of them," said Dr. Anita Gaul, vice chair of the commission, after the meeting.

The commission also formally adopted the state seal design after it made small tweaks from the original submission it selected from all the rest last week. It changed the color of the loon's eye color to red and removed 1858, the year of statehood.

Members also voted to take off "L'Etoile du Nord," the state's motto, from the center of the seal above the loon, which is the prominent design element. Instead, they opted to include "Mni Sota Makoce," the Dakota word from which the state gets its name. It translates to "land where the water reflects the clouds."

State seal design adopted by the commission. They adopted changes Tuesday, including removing the the year "1858" and "L'Etoile du Nord'   SERC

But at times, the changes to the seal sparked fierce debate. Native American members of the commission advocated strongly for the removal of the year Minnesota became a state, arguing that it is traumatizing for their communities. 

"If our task here as a committee is to think about how to make these emblems more inclusive and more representative of who we are as a state, including the year 1858 on here does the opposite of that," she said. 

The discussion about the seal took up the first half of their seven-hour meeting, admittedly longer than what some anticipated because of the broad consensus when the panel selected it last week. 

Others worried that including the Dakota name for Minnesota could open the door to lawsuits and the legislature could veto the design as a result. 

The charge for the commission, according to statute, is to come up with designs that "accurately and respectfully reflect Minnesota's shared history" and cannot include symbols that "represent only a single community or person, regardless of whether real or stylized." 

"Understand that when you make this vote, you will be saying do we or do we not want taxpayers dollars to be spent defending this decision here," said Rep. Bjorn Olson, R-Fairmont, who is a non-voting member of the commission. "This is controversial. This is on a line." 

Before the commission voted on the three flags finalists, they heard from the designers of the top six who explained their visions.On Friday, members have a goal of picking the new flag, which will debut alongside the new seal on Statehood Day, which is May 11. 

Gaul was confident they would complete their work and comply with all statutory deadlines.

"Look at what we have accomplished in just 12 weeks," she said. "We're going to get this done."

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