Minnesota is Finally Changing Its Offensive State Flag

Percy Bartelt, opinions editor

Earlier this year, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed into law an official commission into law to change the state’s flag. In this proposal, Minnesota has until Jan. 1, 2024 to settle on an official design and will have to adopt it by May 11, as explained and reported by the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune. And this commission is also open to the public for suggestions!

The reason for this change is very obvious and long overdue as its design was extremely offensive to Indigenous communities not only in Minnesota, but to Native populations across the U.S. It depicted a white man working in a field with a rifle right next to him while an Indigenous person approached him riding on a horse. Now this simple explanation seems suspicious already, but becomes even more so with the obvious context of what happened to Native populations across the U.S. and the added poem written by the wife of the flag’s designer, the last half of which states, “The rock bluff and prairie land / The white man claims them now, / The symbols of his course are here, / The rifle, axe, and plough.” Defenders of the flag say that it’s supposed to show Native people and the white settlers coexisting (somehow) but with this poem and the atrocities that settlers brought upon America in general, it’s clear what the intentions for this flag were. 

Though the flag’s offensive nature is reason enough to change it as soon as possible, there are also many design flaws that artists, graphic designers and vexillologists – those who study flags – have pointed out. These artistic critiques are mostly surrounding its overly complicated design. There’s so much going on in the scene, there’s no coherent color palette and it’s not easily identifiable — neither up close nor afar in my opinion. 

Going back to its offensive design, it was about time that this changed. It was first created in 1893 and stayed that way until 1957 where it did actually change, but funny enough they didn’t change the offensive, racist and harmful depiction of the theft of land. No, instead they changed the background color to a different shade of blue and had the Native man looking indifferent rather than fleeing the white man’s field while he was farming, which was what the original had depicted. 

Out of all the beautiful things about Minnesota, its landscape and nature, diversity, even just some colors that are important to our history – that aren’t offensive – why the hell was this chosen? Well, we all know that answer. Rather, I should ask: why was this still the flag up until this year? After all the things and historical context to Minnesota, it’s sad that it took this long but I am glad to see these changes being made for the betterment of Minnesota citizens -– especially our Indigenous population. It’s wild how easy it is to not be offensive.