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A New Flag for South Dakota

Jan 24, 2012

South Dakota needs a state flag, and this week more than 80 of the 105 lawmakers introduced a bill to adopt a design. (I should make a concession that may surprise some South Dakota Magazine readers — I work "nights" as a state legislator from Yankton, and I am one of the sponsors.)

You’re thinking we already have a flag, and in a sense we do. For years, our Great Seal has doubled as a flag symbol. We all like the seal — which shows a riverboat, a farmer and wheat fields — but a seal is not a flag.

The United States of America has a seal, but we also love the Stars and Stripes, and Old Glory unifies us as a people. Texans have a Great Seal, but they proudly fly the Lone Star.

South Dakota had a real flag more than 100 years ago. A sunburst on a bright sky blue background was created in 1909. But somewhere along the line, an efficient bureaucrat decided to fill the backside of the flag with the seal. Then another bureaucrat decided it was too cumbersome to print the seal on one side and the flag on the other, so he dropped the flag symbol.

Way back when South Dakota celebrated the state centennial in 1989, artist Dick Termes of Spearfish began to contemplate the need for a flag for South Dakota. He did some design work, but he also created the famous Termesphere and since then he has become firmly established as one of the greatest artists in South Dakota history.

Termespheres now hang in many of our state and country’s finest galleries and buildings, and Dick Termes has achieved international acclaim.

But Dick continues to live and paint from a small, humble studio outside Spearfish and he would like nothing more than to give South Dakota a flag that could help promote pride in our state. He wants nothing in return other than that.

I’m proud to work with other legislators to try to adopt his design as our flag. Some people ask why we don’t open it up to competition. If we did so, we would receive hundreds of designs and the 105 legislators would each have a favorite — many times their favorite would be the design by their brother or neighbor. But few of the other artists would have Dick Termes’ skill, and none of them will have spent 20 years thinking about what a great flag should be.

The proposed flag gives a nod to the 1909 flag, featuring an abstract sunburst on the same sky blue background. It also features a medicine wheel, a cultural symbol of our oldest residents. The medicine wheel represents the four directions of the Earth and the great outdoors that we all love.

This won’t be an easy sell, even though we have 80 co-sponsors. There are more opinions on flag designs than on merit pay and gas taxes.

We won’t spend a lot of time on it. I’m sure some citizens complained when the U.S. Congress adopted Old Glory, but I’m glad they took the time. The budget, education reforms and economic development are our priorities and they will come first.

But we will find time to try to make a good decision on the proposed flag. I like it. I’m sure that many people won’t. We all know the controversies that erupt when our favorite school changes mascots or our car companies come out with new designs. I still like the ’57 Chevy.

So this may take some getting used to. If you like it, I hope you’ll help by contacting your local legislator. If you don’t like it, take another look … and another. It might grow on you.

Comments

01:19 am - Wed, January 25 2012
kevin wright said:
I like that new design. It looks very native which I like. And it is how SD should celebrate it's heritage. NICE !!!
03:35 am - Wed, January 25 2012
It's FANTASTIC!!!!! Go for it.

06:53 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Nick Nemec said:
I like the design and feel it gives proper homage to past flags. Good luck.
07:21 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Megan said:
The centennial was in 1989... not 1889.
07:29 am - Wed, January 25 2012
E. Lea Totton said:
I like the new design, but then I liked the seal on the flag as well. I like the new design because of the symbolism. When I went to school a long time ago the teacher told us that SD was called the sunshine state but then Florida is also called the sunshine state, so this brings back a little of that sunshine and I like the medicine wheel idea that celebrates our native sons and daughters for they are are large part of our history. It is a great design. My com;liments to Dick Termes. I like the flag design.
07:29 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Darin said:
I like the native flair, but it just seems the rest is boring compared to what we have now.
07:38 am - Wed, January 25 2012
SD Magazine said:
Thanks for the catch, Megan. We've changed the date.
07:42 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Karen said:
Although acknowledging Native heritage is a nice touch, I do not care for the design as a whole. It does not embrace the past and the future in a way that captures the spirit of South Dakota. I agree it should be open to a contest and let the people of this great state decide on a design.
07:46 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Sandy said:
First of all I think we have way more pressing issues to address while our legislature is in session than redesigning the state flag! I personally do not like the design - it looks like someone did a google search for a abstract version of the sun. I have lived in SD for all 60 years of my life - when I look at the current flag I know immediately it is the SD state flag. Anytime you have to have someone "explain" the meaning of an image then you have lost my attention. When I or anyone else in the USA looks at our flag it should immediately tell them it is South Dakota!
07:57 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Jodie said:
Why is it that you have already decided this issue? Aren't you working for us not telling us what it is? Let us vote! Let there be a contest! Let people from all across this great and wonderful state compete for the design. Let them submit them anonymously so there is not favoritism. It can be done and should be done this way! That is what build up pride and enthusiasm for our beautiful state.
07:59 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Richard said:
I like it. It does embody the spirits of the state, past, present and future.
08:11 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Ryan said:
Personally, I like the idea of changing the flag. The Seal is to convoluted to mean anything from atop a flag pole.

What is the purpose behind the two shaded blue circles behind the sun and medicine wheel? It kind of makes the flag look like a target. It also reminded me of the Cubs logo after staring at it for a few moments.

I think it would be great to see a similar design with the traditional colors of the medicine wheel portrayed - red, yellow, white, and black.
08:14 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Bernie Hunhoff said:
Jodie -- you raise a good point. But when it comes to a "yes" or "no" on something like a design, somebody has to present one and ask for the vote. This is our proposal. If lawmakers vote no, then someone else can present something else. I have no problem with that. But it has to start somewhere.

Sandy -- I'm sure that people complained when the congress took time away from the fight for independence from England and other pressing business to consider and adopt the 13-star flag in 1777. We're not quite as busy on important matters as that first revolutionary congress (although I do have some important education bills), so I think we can multi task on this.
08:34 am - Wed, January 25 2012
J said:
Although I appreciate the talent of the artist, I would prefer to keep the current design of the flag.
08:43 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Cory Knight said:
Great design and a much needed improvement. Hope to see it soon.
08:43 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Michelle said:
Nice idea but I think if you are going to use the medicine wheel to represent the natives that the medicine wheel should be in its true colors.
08:44 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Marla Hausauer said:
Dick Termes is very talented. But I really do not like this new design.

But I really, really like the old design. We don't always need change. When I see the SD flag flying today - I know it is the SD flag.
Maybe it has something to do with me being in my 50's. New is not necessarily better.
If it isn't broke - don't fix it!
08:49 am - Wed, January 25 2012
John Andrews said:
Marla, some people do think our flag is broken. The North American Vexillological Association (it truly does exist) ranked our flag 68th out of 72 states, territories and provinces. If anyone has their March/April 2011 issue of the magazine handy, Paul Higbee wrote a column on this subject. It's on page 66.
08:50 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Rebecca said:
I like this design. The current flag has way too many things going on. I can't even make out any of the images when the flag is flying. And I can't even tell you from memory what is on the state seal. I would have to google it. To me, Dick Termes' design is much more memorable and recognizable.
09:09 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Doris said:
My daughter is doing her state report on SD, this will be a great piece for her report. "The real flag of SD"
09:34 am - Wed, January 25 2012
K.Knapp said:
To have artwork or photography shown at any state exhibit the artist would have to be selected or juried to do so. It is always an honor when your work is selected, but why has our state turned to favoritism by only allowing one artist to submit design ideas on such an important representation of our state? Nothing against Mr. Termes' design, but having only one South Dakota artist submitting the only flag design idea to be voted on, speaks of the very same favoritism that was mentioned above.
09:53 am - Wed, January 25 2012
GLY said:
I like the design, but would really like the name, i..e, South Dakota on it somewhere.
09:59 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Shawn said:
Agreed with K Knapp above. Something stinks. The article slanders 'bureaucrats', but then rambles on like someone else already decided that this is our guy, and the design has been chosen. Seriously? What's the motive behind this?

Furthermore, you certainly CAN put the design up for public bid. They do it all the time in construction projects where your company needs to show proof of past achievements, your available work force, etc.. This is to weed out the problem of getting bids for $40 million construction projects from guys that work out of their garage, who obviously doesn't have the man power, credit, or experience to handle such projects.

A similar process can be developed for this task (if one isn't already in place). I can't imagine this is the first time the state needed something 'art' related.

And finally, this artist has some nice pieces out there, but his particular style is not inline for what is REQUIRED of such a task. If you want to change the flag, fine. But you have to have something that represents authority, timelessness, strength/courage, and unwavering dedication. This particular design looks like something for a 12th century European pagan cult.
10:03 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Miranda said:
I agree with the seal being hard to see. I had to google it to find out. I like the new design. I think it would be very recognizable and I believe it embodies who we are.
10:09 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Laura said:
I was a flag buff in my youth, so I'll admit I may be unduly excited at the prospect of a state symbol change. A good flag has a simple design. This is something that's going to be representing us while whipping around in strong winds or lurking in the corners of classrooms. A glance should tell you what it is. Flags aren't meant to be read - they should be instantly recognizable. To me, this says sun and sky, and those seem like two pretty good ways to represent our South Dakota.

I would also suggest that there are much better places we could take out our concerns of favoritism.
10:09 am - Wed, January 25 2012
kld said:
I don't live in SD (though I vacation there as frequently as possible, I *love* your state!), so I don't get an "official say" in this. (But I'll say I like the design anyway. :)

But regarding the complaints of one artist/design, people should keep in mind that states commission artwork, sculptures, etc. all the time from specific individuals. There is nothing underhanded about it.

Good luck in the process, and I hope I'm traveling your highways again this summer.
10:10 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Bernie Hunhoff said:
Shawn, sorry if the article came off as knocking bureaucrats ... I was just trying to point out that the decisions were not made by elected officials.

One hundred people would have 100 different designs. If this one fails, I look forward to seeing the next one. I guess that's why we don't have a flag after 123 years of statehood.
10:53 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Katie said:
Well said, Laura!
11:14 am - Wed, January 25 2012
Jason said:
Rediculous. Leave the flag as it is and move on to more important issues.
12:51 pm - Wed, January 25 2012
anonymous said:
It reminds me of a compass.http://www.clker.com/clipart-compass-rose-2.html
02:41 pm - Wed, January 25 2012
south dakota said:
Wow, I am happy to hear that our politicians have nothing else to worry about than a flag. That being said I think the new design is terrible, but since we need to have all these decisions made for us I am sure that it will pass with flying colors. Just let us know how much it will cost us to replace all the flags. It's only money......easy come easy go
05:47 pm - Wed, January 25 2012
Joseph said:
The state flag was designed by Ida M. Anding, legislative librarian, in 1909 according to the following specifications:
"The Flag of South Dakota shall consist of a field of blue, one and two-thirds as long as it is wide, in the center of which shall be a blazing sun in gold, two-fifths as wide in diameter as the width of the flag. Above this sun shall be arranged in the arc of the circle, in gold letters, the words 'South Dakota' and below this sun in the arc of the circle shall be arranged the words in gold letters, 'The Sunshine State', and on the reverse of the blazing sun shall be printed in dark blue the Great Seal of the State Of South Dakota. The edges of the flag shall be trimmed with a fringe of gold, to be in proportion to the width of the flag. The staff shall be surmounted by a spearhead to which shall be attached cord and tassels of suitable length and size."
Yes she was a bureaucrat but Bernie; this was an elected official’s decision as it was again in 1963. Maybe you should do some research in the LRC before you try changing something that should be in our constitution like the state seal is found their so lets leave the flag alone and focus on the more important issues of the day.
In 1963, Representative William Sahr of Hughes County introduced House Bill No. 503, proposing that the flag be modified to display the Great Seal on both sides. This measure would significantly reduce the cost of manufacture and presumably increase the flag's presence in the State. House Bill No. 503 was signed into law by Governor Archie M. Gubbrud on March 11, 1963.
05:48 pm - Wed, January 25 2012
Max said:
Well thanks for your comments Mr. Hunhoff. But I Do Not like this, it looks like a 2 year old drew this up and I completly agree with Shawn's comment,. Would you also agree than that every other state flag make up a new flag simply because they have their state seal on it (roughly half the states) in some form or another, simply because "but a seal is not a flag." To an outsider this design doesn't tell you anything about South Dakota and the color combination is a little horrendous.
05:51 pm - Wed, January 25 2012
Carol said:
I don't live in SD any more; but I do like the flag. I enjoyed reading your article about the history of the flag. Just a note on the Texas seal and flag....since I live in Texas now....some Texans still fly the confederate flag and talk about the civil war...I keep on reminding my friends that the war is over and they lost.
07:21 pm - Wed, January 25 2012
Michael Snow said:
Darin said:
I like the native flair, but it just seems the rest is boring compared to what we have now.

I agree with Darin's comment.
07:27 pm - Wed, January 25 2012
Bernie Hunhoff said:
Joseph, thanks for the LRC history. I wasn't sure of the 1963 date, but historians say that the legislatute codified what was already being done ... codifying the drop of the sunshine flag so it was cheaper to manufacture.

Max ... this would be a more personal flag than most. Many countries and flags just use a few stripes of colors. Our history of the sunshine and the medicine wheel offer a much more complex flag than almost anyone else has.

I know traditiion is hard to change. i like tradition too. But somebody has to start new traditions once in awhile. States have been changing their flags through the years, dropping the seal, etc.

And we are not dumping the seal. You can still display it on a flag if you wish.
07:28 pm - Wed, January 25 2012
Michael Snow said:
"So this may take some getting used to. If you like it, I hope you’ll help by contacting your local legislator. If you don’t like it,..." Be sure to Do The Same: Contact your legislator.
08:23 pm - Wed, January 25 2012
Kris said:
Seems to me that there are so many other things in our state that need fixing....the flag is the least of our concerns! This is really a non-issue. I also feel it would be a needless expense. Please concentrate on important issues facing our state instead!
08:23 pm - Wed, January 25 2012
Joseph Bryant said:
Bernie, the part you’re missing here is that just because they changed how flags were done in 1963, it doesn’t mean that that’s when our flag came to be. In 1909 flags were done with the sun shine state on one side and the seal on the other. I find it hard to see how someone of your intelligence wants to make our state better by making our flag more “personal”. Our flag is personal because it is our state seal and we don’t have to explain that this is a man plowing his field, or this is a river. With your flag we would have to explain the meaning of everything. After a flag that’s been around since 1909, let’s stay with our history and maybe you can become greater in some other area, not a new flag. If it aint broke don’t change it. Let’s get back to real issues like education, Native American relations, and boosting our economy. Let’s make South Dakota great together and not an embarrassment. Instead of ignoring the issues you have risen how about you study them fully and not just wing it, that’s the problem with Pierre. Maybe the thing you could do is change the state seal to an updated form of South Dakota, not the flag.
11:11 pm - Wed, January 25 2012
Prairie Sunshine said:
As Joseph pointed out -"The Flag of South Dakota shall consist of a field of blue, one and two-thirds as long as it is wide, in the center of which shall be a blazing sun in gold, two-fifths as wide in diameter as the width of the flag. Above this sun shall be arranged in the arc of the circle, in gold letters, the words 'South Dakota' and below this sun in the arc of the circle shall be arranged the words in gold letters, 'The Sunshine State'.
I am a history buff, I like the idea of keeping with our history. I agree the seal is too busy, let's drop it. But let's have Mr. Termes re-design it more like it was originally thought up. I personally do not like the sun in this design, it reminds me more of a star, I do, however, like the medicine wheel idea, so let's incorporate the blue sky, a new sun, the medicine wheel in true colors and the wording in gold letters. I think Mr. Termes could do a great job on this, a blazing sun should look more like a sun than a star. Personally, Mr. Termes is fantastic, let him do up two or three designs and then let the people choose their favorite. People like to feel a part of such things as this.
12:10 am - Thu, January 26 2012
Alex said:
I'm from Spearfish and I'm a fan of Termes, but this looks like a little kid made it. It has too many sharp points for the eye to rest.
05:42 am - Thu, January 26 2012
Dave said:
Don't like the new design.
Don't change it.
Keep the original flag!
11:19 am - Thu, January 26 2012
dave tunge said:
Jeez Loueeze..........
Think you're right Bernie. More comments on this than I've seen on anything else.
From my hunting background I personally like the design because I can use the flag to sight in my rifle.
Good luck !!!
02:31 pm - Thu, January 26 2012
south dakota said:
From the sounds of it this flag is a real pressing issue. I find it interesting that if a person likes the flag, well you are invited to contact your local legislator. If you do not like it, well thats too bad. You will learn to like it. Ah yes, the attitude of the state government. Seems like they have way too much free time on their hands these days. At least all the states problems are solved and all that is left is this "new" tradition.
03:09 pm - Thu, January 26 2012
south dakota said:
It's amazing how easy it is to criticize something somebody else is doing hiding behind generic names on a blog.

Bernie,

The state thanks you for work in politics as well as promoting our state in general.

06:37 pm - Thu, January 26 2012
West of the Potomac said:
See what you and 79 others have started? Will this "Flag Bill" generate the most buzz of the 2012 session? At what political cost?

In and around our nation's capital, we see hundreds of state flag displays that show all 50, plus the territories, the District of Columbia and doubtless some places I'm overlooking. I always look for the South Dakota flag because I know its color, about where it falls in the line of accession into the Union and mostly because it represents "home." But as an easily recognizable symbol, the South Dakota flag has a face that only the locals love. For comparison, look at a display of all state flags and see if your eye isn't quickly and favorably drawn to Ohio, Maryland or even "we're better than y'all" Texas.

That said, our long-standing (or waving) blue banner is pretty blah. So are the other states that use just their seal on a solid color field. Lawmakers who are brave enough to stick with this campaign to introduce a new (better) flag have my support. I'm just not certain that Dick Termes' design is a reflection of his best work, despite his unique and very impressive talents. What's wrong with asking South Dakota's many other talented artists (especially graphic artists) to join the effort?

Let's see what others have to offer. Run them up the flagpole and see which one earns the most salutes.
06:58 pm - Thu, January 26 2012
Allie said:
It doesn't need to say "South Dakota" to be recognizable. Take a peek at New Mexico's flag, or Alaska's. Speaking of Alaska's, it WAS designed by a child, if I'm not mistaken...

In my opinion, a flag should be simple and recognizable. I don't mind our current flag, but I do find it too complex. When I was young I didn't understand it and I couldn't for the life of me draw it.

I like the proposed design. I'd love to fly it. There's a beautiful simplicity to it that makes it inviting--it's not as formal. I personally can connect with it more than I can the seal--for me, the blue easily calls to mind the sky in this design. In the current design it's just a blue backdrop for the busy stuff going on in the middle.
08:09 pm - Thu, January 26 2012
Jim said:
WOW Bernie talk about opening a hornets nest on this one. I do agree that we have alot of important education issues to deal with, but I also think it is time for a change on the flag. This design, or another design the discussion has to start somewhere.
Change can be a good thing due to contrary belief.

Dave Tunge, great point I'm with you
10:44 pm - Thu, January 26 2012
Greg Latza said:
I have to respectfully disagree with you on this issue, Bernie. I am very fond of our current flag and what it represents to me on a personal level. I'm proud of our state and nearly everything about it, including our longtime flag design. And while I deeply respect Termes' talent (and have even photographed him in that unique Spearfish studio you speak of), for some reason this proposed design doesn't look quite right, and I have a hunch that a majority of South Dakotans would agree. I don't think we have any need to do something trendy just for the sake of changing, and even though people could still fly the "old flag" along with the "new flag," it would just be way more confusing to have two flags in use. Our flag isn't broke. Don't fix it.
06:36 am - Fri, January 27 2012
Rebecca said:
Nice comment, Allie!
09:32 am - Fri, January 27 2012
Bernie Hunhoff said:
I'm also considering a name change for South Dakota. Anybody have any good ideas?
03:00 pm - Fri, January 27 2012
HMSR said:
People's Republic of Dakota should fit with your agenda. Really, why would you ask? Don't you know we need the government to make all decisions for us?
05:41 pm - Fri, January 27 2012
Karol said:
OK Bernie -- I did my homework -- I looked up all fifty states flags. Many of them have the state seal, several have a coat of arms, some have latin mottos (of course Latin is rarely taught in public schools anymore, so how is someone to know what they are saying). Several do not have the name of the state, but then we know the Lone Star State -- but do you know at C is Colorado and O is Ohio? And if you really want to see a weird one, look at Virginia.
But there is no harm in reviewing the design of our state flag, but maybe we could have a few more entries to consider. And while you are on this review wagon, PLEASE do something about the design of our license plate when it comes up for renewal. South Dakota and Ohio are the only two plates in the Union that you have to be within five feet to be able to read the name of the state. Keep up the good work, Bernie, for Yankton and the State.
05:45 pm - Fri, January 27 2012
Karol said:
And one more thing, Bernie. The state flag in California says that it is a Republic and the state flag in Kentucky says that it is a Commonwealth.
05:55 pm - Fri, January 27 2012
AirMin said:
Personally, I don't think it was the best choice by the author to say "The United States of America has a seal, but we also love the Stars and Stripes, and Old Glory unifies us as a people. Texans have a Great Seal, but they proudly fly the Lone Star." It seems a little pointless to only us the U.S. and one state as an example. I suppose this is kind of the reason I take so much issue, not with the topic, but with this article. I feel like the author didn't really take time to think about, and reread the article, he just sort of had a thought and typed it out(I'm sorry if you actually did spend a lot of time on it, it just seems this way) Also, it's a very biased article and the dates are presented in a way that seems strange to me.

However, I have nothing against looking into changing the flag and applaud you (the author) for having an opinion
09:45 am - Sun, January 29 2012
Bill Collins said:
Thanks for the idea - where would be without ideas. The proposed design is neat, done by a great guy - Dick is a friend of mine. But, polls around the state are showing HEAVY support to leave it as it is. It seems our flag is LOVED as is. And I agree wholeheartedly! Please, kill the bill in respect for the citizens' responses, and let's move on to the next topic.
Thanks for your service as a legislator.
01:39 pm - Sun, January 29 2012
The graphic design, brand identity and arts industries have evolved immensely since the 1980s, when Mr. Termes designed his flag concept. Regardless of opinions on design appropriateness, I'm disappointed to see readers expect work from artists and designers for free or on spec. A properly engaged designer would apply a creative process that addresses criteria and audience. South Dakota's past, present and future is simply too layered and colorful to reduce into a single symbol.
08:23 pm - Sun, January 29 2012
Jason Orlofsky said:
Please leave the flag alone. This new design says nothing of my native South Dakota. (I'm away for school but will be back shortly.) Seeing our current flag in Philadelphia's display of the 50 flags makes me proud. Please don't replace it with this design...it evokes no sense of SD to me (in addition to being a REALLY poor choice of colors.)

In the meantime I'm going to go out and buy a few extra of the current design, just in case this goes through...
10:04 am - Thu, February 2 2012
Richard Nordstrom said:
I like the points Prairie Sunshine makes here. Somewhere along the line the state changed the flag taking away "The Sunshine State." If you're going to keep the flag design as-is or most of as-is, put "The Sunshine State" back. Please. If the flag changes completely, I hope for more recognizable symbols. There must be something in Oscar Howe's work that would make a great flag.
11:29 am - Wed, February 15 2012
Delmar Batterman said:
E We sent you to Pierre to waste time on the flag,may be you all should stay home and that way you can't screw things up. What ever you do don't think of getting some jobs that would pay a livable wage,so people can support them selves,

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