Judith Harrington is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and she’s offended. She doesn’t like the image on Minnesota’s state seal that appears on the state flag.
“The image of the pioneer, a peaceful man who has laid down his gun and is plowing his field, is juxtaposed with the image of the Indian, who may still want to fight (his spear is at the ready) but who seems to be riding away,” writes Judith Harrington.
“The pioneer/farmer is using a plow, a symbol of civilization. The white man is depicted as a ‘doer’ who is entitled to the land, trees and water, empowered by the concept of Manifest Destiny. The Indian is the vacating tenant. A peaceful transition is suggested, but this ignores the tense and problematic history of conflict between European settlers and Indians, such as the complicated history of treaties and the Dakota War of 1862.
“A close examination shows the central figure to be a white pioneer dressed in work clothes,” Harrington writes, “wearing a wide-brim hat and pushing a plow. He is an iconic image of a hardworking, rugged individualist who works alone to chop the trees, plow the land and protect his home. He is looking over his shoulder at the Indian, who is riding a horse and holding a spear.
“It does not reflect the values and sensibilities of Minnesotans today,” she writes.
If the seal is removed or changed, there will be something else that will offend this professor. I suspect that if the seal did not include a Native American, she and other liberals would be offended. They most likely would argue that since Minnesota comes from the Dakota word for “clear blue water,” a representative of the state’s Indian name should be included.
When I first saw the seal, it look to me like there was peace between the Indian and the farmer. Both are living in harmony with the land. The farmer plowing the earth and the Indian hunting. The farmer is not wearing a gun. His weapon is at rest.
The following is an official description of the meaning of the seal:
“There is great symbolism to items inscribed on the seal: The sun, visible on the western horizon, signifies the flat plains covering much of Minnesota. The Indian on horseback is riding due south and represents the Indian heritage of Minnesota. The Indian’s horse and spear and pioneer’s axe, rifle, and plow represent tools that were used for hunting and labor. The stump symbolizes the importance of the lumber industry in Minnesota. The Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls are depicted to note the importance of these resources in transportation and industry. The cultivated ground and the plow symbolize the importance of agriculture in Minnesota. Beyond the falls, three pine trees represent the state tree and the three great pine regions of Minnesota – St. Croix, Mississippi, and Lake Superior.
Let’s suppose the image is changed. Will it do anything for Native Americans? It will only make people like Professor Harrington feel better until she can find something else that offends her.