Minnesotans are already leaving thousands of comments on nearly a dozen finalists for a new state flag and seal, hoping to influence the process before a new state commission picks final designs.
The State Emblems Redesign Commission opened commenting to the public on its website this week, receiving thousands of comments within 24 hours, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. The commission has a Jan. 1 deadline to settle on a final design for both and present them to the Legislature.
Last week, the commission winnowed down more than 2,000 submissions from the public to six finalists for the state flag. They also picked five finalists for a new state seal. Critiques of their choices quickly flooded social media, including the apparent lack of the loon — Minnesota's state bird — in any of the final flag designs. One of the finalists for the state seal did include a loon.
"The loons seem to be a huge outcry in the public," Luis Fitch, chair of the State Emblems Redesign Commission, said during a commission meeting Tuesday. "The loon is beautiful, I can see why."
But Fitch reiterated that the loon didn't make the final cut in the state flag designs because it's not common in all parts of the state. Of the flag designs submitted by the public, 291 included loons and 1785 included the North Star, referencing the state's French motto "L'etoile du nord," or the star of the north. All of the flag finalists incorporated imagery of the North Star.
"Yes, [the loon] is our state symbol, but it doesn't really represent the people of Minnesota everywhere in the state," said Fitch, who added that he's also been personally flooded with emails from the public.
The 13-member commission was created by the Minnesota Legislature last session to change the design of both the flag and the seal after decades of criticism that the white settler imagery on the state's current emblems is offensive to tribal communities. The law required them to come up with designs that "accurately and respectfully reflect Minnesota's shared history, resources, and diverse cultural communities."
The public can weigh in on each finalist individually for the state flag and seal on the commission's website. The commission members plan to review those comments when making their final decisions, including what modifications they might make to the design.