Letter to the Editor: Please support the new Minnesota State Flag

Published 5:00 pm Friday, January 26, 2024

I do not believe that the new flag design is “ugly” or will “erase history” at all. In fact, I strongly believe  that the new flag design will support a deeper understanding of Minnesota history – a history that  preceded Minnesota statehood.

The symbolism of a “north star” shining bright in the dark sky over the  land and water should be a beacon of hope and pride for every person living in our great state. The word  Minnesota itself comes from words in Dakota: “mní sóta,” which means “clear blue water”, or  “Mníssota.” which means “cloudy water.” History does matter.

Yes, the new flag is much simpler and depicts more abstract imagery than past designs. I also  understand that change is sometimes difficult to accept and is not always fully understood. However, I  am confident that over time the people of Minnesota will grow to love, support, and appreciate the new  design.

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I think we can all use this moment in time to learn from the past and examine why it is finally time to  change. To fully understand why the images on the current flag are indeed offensive, we need to do a little research. At first glance, the scene shows a pioneer and Native American in what some “perceive  as the two living in harmony.” However, when diving deeper into the history of the original territorial  seal and examining a poem written by Mary Eastman, the wife of the original artist, Seth Eastman, we learn more about the image and how it was reflecting the dominant feelings of white Minnesotans at  the time, most of whom wanted to eradicate Native Americans from their homeland.

As such, the seal  and flag represents sentiments that led directly to the genocide of Dakota people, and is one that  Minnesotans should not celebrate in any way.

Give way, give way, young warrior, 

Thou and thy stead give way – 

Rest not, though lingers on the hills, 

The red sun’s parting ray. 

The rocky bluff and prairie land 

The white man claims them now, 

The symbols of his course are here, 

The rifle, axe and plough. 

(Mary Henderson Eastman, ca 1850)

History can never be erased. History is not always pretty or easy to explain. Growing up, most of us were  given biased and inaccurate information with respect to indigenous peoples. The way we talk about  history and share information from the past can and must evolve. We need to learn from the past and  respect what it teaches.

I look forward to Statehood Day on May 11, 2024 when the new flag will wave. I urge you to support  the new Minnesota State Flag as a symbol of pride for everyone living in our great state.

Randal J. Forster

Austin, MN