Commission selects new state seal, but ‘hurtful’ elements could be removed

The State Emblems Redesign Commission unanimously chose a final design from among five finalists on Tuesday; they plan to choose a final flag design next week.

The final design for Minnesota's new state seal.

The official state bird of Minnesota will be the featured image to anchor a new state seal design that the State Emblems Redesign Commission voted to approve on Tuesday as its favorite among five finalists to submit to the legislature later this month. It plans to select a final flag design next week. By statute, it has until Jan 1. to select a new seal and flag and submit a report to the legislature explaining their choices. Both the flag and seal would then become official on May 11, 2024.

The Tuesday vote came after the commission received more than 6,000 comments from the public over the five finalists it chose last month from among several hundred design entries.

The design chosen sets a scene where a loon appears to be taking flight from the surface of a body of water. Included in the background of the design that the 13-member body unanimously agreed on are a few grains of wheat, a north star, and what appears to be coniferous forest in the distance.

The design is bordered by the year “1858,” which memorializes Minnesota’s statehood date, the phrase “The Great Seal of the State of Minnesota,” and the official state motto “L’etoile du Nord.”

The year ‘1858’ and phrase ‘L’etoile du Nord’ criticized

The commission said in a statement Tuesday that the specifics of the design it selected may still be modified in the coming days, including such elements as: dates, language, design of the stars, and color of the loon’s eye. That is relevant as just two weeks ago two commissioners said they objected to any incorporation of the statehood date and state motto (which is French for “Star of the North) in the state seal.

“ … The seals that included the year 1858, I had a hard time [when the submissions included] that year from statehood,” said commissioner Kate Beane, executive director for the Museum of Minnesota Art, during the commission’s Nov. 21 meeting. Beane was one of the founding organizers of a movement that began nearly a decade ago to rename Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.

“For us Dakota people, [that date] is tied to land cession treaties … it is a hurtful, hurtful date,” said Beane, who was selected as a commissioner by the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board. “We need to think about how the symbolism of that date truly impacts others in Minnesota.”

Shelly Buck, who was one of Gov. Tim Walz’s three appointees to the commission, has said she is wary of any use of the phrase “L’etoile du Nord” in a state seal.

“Even with the French words, I don’t feel that’s who Minnesota is,” said Buck last month, who serves as vice president for the Prairie Island Tribal Council. “The original inhabitants [of Minnesota] are Dakota, and to this day we are still invisible in our homeland. I do think in some way, shape, or form that needs to be commemorated.”

The statutory instructions to the commission are to create a design that “accurately and respectfully reflect Minnesota’s shared history, resources, and diverse cultural communities.”

“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.”

During the Tuesday meeting, the commission also heard testimony from a few dozen members of the public with constructive criticism on the six flag finalists it chose last month from among a pool of more than 2,000 submissions.

One of those testifiers was Anne Krsnak, who says she is the mother of a handful of Minnesota elementary teachers. She said she was testifying for her adult children to let the commission know that whatever flag design they settle on should be a flag children can easily identify and learn from.

“I have a fourth-grade teacher son, and I am kind of his proxy today,” Krsnak told the commission. “He said they love the idea of having a flag they can look at and see, and it speaks to them … and includes those things they love about Minnesota … Please keep those elementary students in mind as you think about what flag you want to represent our state.”

The commission has been working on a new flag and seal design since September. It was formed via legislative declaration this summer after the DFL-controlled House and Senate passed an omnibus state government bill along party lines that included a controversial provision to ditch the state’s official flag and seal in favor of a new design.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.