An issue that hasn't yet been unfurled in Iowa

New design of Minnesota state flag

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and can be reached at

We Iowans apparently have been kidding ourselves.

Somehow, as we focus on taxes, water quality and allegations of big-government overreach, as we wrestle with immigration, inflation, drug abuse, school choice and women’s reproductive freedom, and as we contemplate transgender issues, academic freedom, religious rights and free speech on college campuses, Iowa has missed another issue—one that appears to be gaining momentum, and controversy, in some states.

The surprising topic of debate? State flags.

Earlier in December, after sifting through hundreds of proposed designs and digesting countless comments, a special state commission in Minnesota settled on a new design for that state’s flag. Unless the Minnesota Legislature vetoes the new design, it automatically becomes official flag pole banner for our neighbors to the north on April 1.

The new design is intended to correct what some people in Minnesota see as flaws with the current flag—a design that critics believe is too complicated and too offensive, especially for indigenous people. The flag includes the state seal, which, like many states’ seal, is chock full of symbolic doodads and images. Especially irksome, in the eyes of some critics, is that the Minnesota seal depicts a Native American riding off into the sunset while a white settler remains to plow the fields.

The new design has a dark blue angular graphic element that advocates say is a stylized depiction of Minnesota’s shape. There is a white, 8-pointed star that represents the North Star, a nod to Minnesota’s state motto, “Star of the North.”

Before you jump to the conclusion this must be some wacky idea cooked up by out-of-control progressives in the land of loons and walleyes, I need to remind you what happened last winter in Utah, which is much redder than Minnesota.

Utah’s legislature approved a simpler design for the state flag. It features Utah’s beehive symbol and a graphic depiction of the state’s mountains. The old flag had the beehive, too, but it also had an eagle, crossed American flags and a couple of dates—just what you would expect from an industrious bunch of flag designers a century ago.

The fever to redesign flags has spread beyond Minnesota and Utah. In 2020, Mississippi voters approved on a new flag that features the magnolia instead of the controversial Confederate theme. In 2024, Illinois, Maine and Michigan are expected to decide whether to replace their flags with new designs, too.

More people pay attention to state flags than just knobby-headed opinion columnists. The North American Vexillological Association, an organization of flag fanatics, conducted a survey in 2001 that rates the state, territorial and provincial flags of the United States and Canada. Iowa’s flag finished 42 out of 72 flags. Minnesota’s flag finished sixth from last in the survey.

Lee Herold, who owns Herold Flags in Rochester, told the Minnesota Post, “A lot of people don’t know we have a flag. That’s not a good situation when you live in a state and you don’t even know what your own state flag looks like.”

Kevin Jensvold, the chair of the Upper Sioux Community in Minnesota, told the Post the state flag is not displayed on many tribal lands there because of the way it depicts indigenous people.

Some states like Minnesota have had lots of practice in designing and modifying their state flags. Minnesota’s first flag was adopted in 1893. The design was revised in 1957 and again in 1983.

Iowa has not been so fidgety over its flag. Although there was no official state banner for 75 years after statehood, the legislature finally adopted the design by Dixie Gebhardt of Knoxville in 1921.

The absence of any organized effort to rework her handiwork has not stopped some vexillologists from doing so what-if designing. Here are two Iowa flag designs that have been shared on a vexillology website.

Evan Parris suggested this option:

From Leonardo Piccioni de Almeida:

I salute both artists for their creativity. But Iowans already have enough on our plates of political issues to keep us occupied.

About the Author(s)

Randy Evans

  • A very polite no-thank-you to both those Iowa flag proposals

    I am already reminded every day, by living in rural Iowa, that Iowa has less of its original landscape left than any other state. I’m already reminded that Big Ag gets pretty much whatever it wants from Iowa’s state government, with massive consequences for soil, water, and native biota. I would rather not see that reality totally dominating the Iowa state flag. Seeing it celebrated in the Iowa Legislature and Governor’s office is enough.

  • Keep our flag

    I’ve always liked our flag, and the design strikes me as much much better than the old flags of Utah and Minnesota. After all, it’s more than just our state seal on a solid background. Plus, if we had to redesign I wouldn’t want to leave it to the current legislature or governor to decide the change!

  • the eagle should be flying down to gorge on a pile of pig carcuses

    this shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who payed attention to the conflicts (ongoing) around official displays of the Confederate flag and the related worldwide protest movement trying to remove memorials to White Christian Supremacy, sadly our Daughters of the American Revolution-ish state flag is well suited to our current government. As for people who want to salute a flag which celebrates the genocidal displacement of native peoples I guess they can always move here…

  • apparently still an all too timely issue

    “As she ran for governor in 2010, Haley, in an interview…described the war as between two disparate sides fighting for “tradition” and “change” and said the Confederate flag was “not something that is racist.”

  • For anyone interested...

    …there are more Iowa state flag design proposals on this website.