Monday, January 19, 2015

Sealed with a Rifle

This, believe it or not, is the Minnesota state seal:

Yes, it shows a white settler plowing a field while a native man rides past. The settler has his rifle handy, leaning on a stump, for just such an eventuality.

This is a simplified version of the seal I saw recently on the wall at a Smash Burger restaurant in the Saint Paul suburb of Roseville:

In reducing the graphic complexity of the original, they have turned the rifle with powder horn into something that looks more like a hoe. They've also made it look as though the native rider is brandishing a weapon of some sort (although he also appears to have no head). So the poor defenseless farmer is now being threatened by a headless Indian.

It's also of note that they got rid of the waterfall -- a key Minnesota feature -- and made the hills in the background much larger. I don't think we have anything in the state that approaches that kind of height relative to our fruited planes.

Not to mention the way the whole thing looks like an inverted Target logo.

So overall, it's not an improvement, in my opinion. And this is a state seal that could use a re-do. As design blogger Steve Lovelace put it,

By showing a Native American riding off into the sunset while a white farmer tills the soil, the Seal of Minnesota is stuck in a 19th century worldview. Even if you interpret it more innocently, it’s still too...complex [of a] design...
 Most attempts to redesign the seal or the state flag involve the North Star (we are L'Etoile du Nord, after all). I'd probably go with the loon, myself, maybe with a waterfall in the background. It emphasizes the lakes and natural habitat of the state without excluding anyone. It's aspirational, saying, "We will take care of our environment for future generations." No rifles needed.


Michael Leddy said...

That's one ghastly seal.

I too saw a headless rider with weapon, but after looking some more, I think it's meant to suggest the End of the Trail, a rider with head slumped down. No matter. Still ghastly.

I looked at the Illinois state seal: an eagle with a banner that looks like it's made of link sausages. Your seal beats our seal.

Daughter Number Three said...

I spent some time looking at state seals, overall, last night as well. They are generally dreadful. I liked Louisiana's (pelican with baby pelicans) and a few others that were less pictorial and more singularly symbolic.

I see what you mean about the Illinois sausages... though I think I prefer that to ours. Even though it is a bit more generic (eagle, starred-and-striped shield, etc.).