SD State Flag Debate – Do you want to change our flag or not?

If you haven?t looked yet – there are 2 huge reasons to oppose HB 1235. This is the bill to change the South Dakota Flag.

Proposed State Flag - Design by Dick Termes of Spearfish

Regarding the fiscal impact ? during these lean times, has anyone requested a fiscal note on what the impact will be to schools, cities, counties, and state government to order new flags for every classroom and office that currently has a South Dakota flag on the wall, desk, or flag pole?

Regarding the historic impact, read the latest edition of the South Dakota Blue Book, on page 233 where it tells the story of the South Dakota State Flag:

The South Dakota flag features the state seal surrounded by a golden blazing sun in a field of sky blue. Letters reading ?South Dakota, The Mount Rushmore State? ?the official state nickname ? are arranged in a circle around the sun. South Dakota had no official state flag until the year 1909. As recounted in Wi-iyohi Bulletin Volume II, November 1, 1948: ?In 1909 Senator Ernest May of Deadwood came into the Historical Society office. Seth Bullock wanted a state flag. May asked Doane Robinson about it and was told by Robinson that Ida Anding, now Mrs. McNeil, former operator of KGFX radio of Pierre, who was then a stenographer in the Historical offices, would design him a flag. She did. It was a blazing sun, on an azure (blue) background. May liked the design, Senate Bill 208 ws introduced. On the floor later, May moved that ?on the reverse of the blazing sun shall appear the Great Seal of the State of South Dakota in dark blue.? This was adopted and the bill passed. Money to buy two flags was appropriated. One went to the Secretary of State, and Seth Bullock of Camp No. 1, United Spanish Veterans of South Dakota, got the other.? This flag is still displayed in the Secretary of State?s office to this day.

The state flag was then 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.?

This was the only official state flag until the year 1963. It became increasingly evident by this time that the cost to manufacture a flag with a different emblem on each side was expensive to the degree that there were few South Dakota state flags in existence, and they were seldom flown. In the legislature of 1963, House Bill 503 was introduced by Representative William Sahr of Hughes County, enacted, and was approved by the Governor on March 11th.

It appears this was a wise decision as the cost of the South Dakota state flag was greatly reduced, and more requests for the state flags were made than ever before.

In 1992, a measure sponsored by State Representative Gordon Pederson of Pennington County, South Dakota changed the wording on the flag to read ?The Mount Rushmore State?. Codified law now reads as follows:

1-6-4. State flag–Description.

The state flag or banner shall consist of a field of sky-blue one and two-thirds as long as it is wide. Centered on such field shall be the great seal of South Dakota made in conformity with the terms of the Constitution, which shall be four-ninths the width of the flag in diameter. The seal shall be on a white background with the seal outlined in dark blue or, in the alternative, shall be on a sky-blue background with the seal outlined in dark blue thereon. Surrounding the seal in gold shall be a serrated sun whose extreme width shall be five-ninths the width of the flag. The words “South Dakota” symmetrically arranged to conform to the circle of the sun and seal shall appear in gold letters
one-eighteenth the width of the field above the sun and seal and the words “The Mount Rushmore State” in like-sized gold letters and in like arrangement shall appear below the sun and seal. Flags designed of such material as may be provident for outdoor use need have no fringe but flags for indoor and display usage shall have a golden fringe one-eighteenth the width of the flag 0n the three sides other than the hoist.

Our current South Dakota flag bears the fingerprints of Seth Bullock, Ernest May, Ida Anding, William Sahr and Gordon Pederson. To cast away a flag whose basic design pre-dates the completion of the capitol seems sacrilegious to our state?s proud history, as well as the memory of our forefathers.

I hope everyone who reads this contacts our legislators, and encourages them ? Don?t Bag the South Dakota Flag!

83 Replies to “SD State Flag Debate – Do you want to change our flag or not?”

  1. Anonymous

    Don’t know who Dick is and I would never want to rip on his design but I like the state flag we currently have.

    How about we fix something that is brocken instead of what works?

    My beef is don’t change the flag.

    1. Arrowhead

      I hope not! Didn’t someone check it out before submitting the flag? Were all of the legislators just at the mercy of Mr. Hunhoff and his designer?

  2. Bill Fleming

    More like How Kola:

    South Dakota State Greeting

    How Kola!

    South Dakota is the land of the famous Sioux or Dacotah Indians. Dakota Territory and later South Dakotans were named for the tribe. Their greeting, “How Kola!” means “Hello, Friend.” We extend that greeting to you and with it a warm invitation to visit and enjoy the many scenic and recreational attractions that you’ll find across South Dakota.

    Medicine wheel:

    1. 73*


      My hunch is that you and your flag designing crew will next submit a proposal to give back the black hills. The state is more than native american. That is an important part of our history but not the only part.

      Keep our flag the same!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. ***Draft Jim Hundstad for US Congress 2012***

      Personally I would have liked to see a three legged stool on the flag rather than a star. The stool would symbolize the three types of taxes our state should pay. Income, property and sales tax. I don’t mind if you call this plan 9-9-9, 6-6-6 or a three legged stool.

    1. Bill Fleming


      On the reservation, grudz.

      You’ve probably seen it a thousand times.

      The nice thing about the current flag (puts tongue in cheek) is that it’s so easy to see what the picture on it is at a distance.

      It really sends a message… like:

      “Is that a picture on that flag? I wonder what that picture is? Do you know, Bob?”

      “Um, no, Grudz, do you?”

      “Uuhhh. No. But nice flag, huh?”

      “Yep. Nice.”

      1. grudznick

        Bill. You just heard me sayin, when I’m eatin’ my gravy taters after my morning pledge I’d rather ponder over a picture with a story in it than something that my granddaughter’s step-niece put together in art class. I’m just sayin.

    1. Anonymous

      The forefathers of the American Indians came to American via crossing the Bering Strait. Nothing native about. My forefathers came across the Atlantic.

      1. PNR

        coulda fooled me… 🙂

        Sorry. Just left that hanging out there and I couldn’t resist whacking it.

        The flag. Right. New design looks like a windsock I’d pick up at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s Craft store. Present flag looks like about a dozen other state flags – blue field, state seal in the middle. Not exactly “inspiring” in either case. Haven’t seen other designs proposed, but I’m sure we can do better than either the current or this one.

  3. BF

    Another very straightforward way to look at the Termes design is to recognize it as the 16 points on a compass with bullseye crosshairs in the center.

    This is appropriate because South Dakota is the geographic center of the United States.

    That of course ties into the four directions on the Lakota medicine wheel, but also into our sense of direction out here in “Big Sky” country, where we are just as likely to say “Go east two blocks then a block north” instead of “Go right for two blocks then hang a left.”

  4. Anonymous

    NO WAY AS we are a 100 plus years old so why change now. If we were a new state it would be ok but no reason to change…………

    I like yesterdays history…………………

      1. grudznick

        I’m forming a group against those 80. Rest easy, the people will be heard and The 80 will back way with silliness dripping from their jowls.

  5. Anonymous

    Why did someone decide this was worth the time to promote in the the legislature?

    I guess they don’t deserve a pay raise.

  6. Bernie Hunhoff

    Thanks for raising the flag issue. This won’t cost anything, and in fact my idea is that eventually the state should make some money on it because we should charge a small amount for use of the design. Dick Termes, one of America’s great artists, wants nothing.

    Schools and courthouses won’t have to change the flag unless they want to. The bill says that the Great Seal may still be flown as a flag, if that is your preference.

    But a seal is not a flag. It’s a seal. The USA has a great seal, but aren’t you proud when the Stars and Stripes fly over football stadiums, on planes delivering food to the hungry, on smalltown courthouses and in humble houses’s front lawns?

    Texas has a seal, but Texans proudly fly the Lone Star. We should adopt a symbol for South Dakota.

    As far as finding the time, the Continental Congress found time to debate and settle on the 13-star flag as they were waging war with Britain so I’m confident the state legislature can multi-task as well in this 33-day session.

      1. Rapid City

        How many people do you think will pay to use that design? My hunch is that the state has made more money off of the Noem families speeding tickets than we will off of this flag design.

        But if you have a better idea for increased revenues I’m all ears. But no I don’t want higher taxes.

    1. anon

      I really don’t have any problem with the reasoning behind changing the flag, but I just don’t care much for the design that’s being proposed.

      Let’s back up and take another run at it next year.

    2. LFoss

      I appreciate your thought and theory behind the “new” flag, however the design is not that good. I would not be “Proud” to fly this flag. I get the idea behind a seal is a seal and not a flag, but let’s come up with a better design. I am not knocking the ability of the designer, but don’t think it represents anything in South Dakota. Let’s not just jump into this design!

  7. Ivan

    I’m sorry, Dick Termes is a great guy and my neighbor for the last twenty-five years, but this is not his best rendering. We have more pressing business than worrying about the design of a flag that has served us well.

    1. LFoss

      I agree…seriously feel like every passing thought and conversation has turned into a bill this year! Don’t we have more pressing issues to take care of then these frivolous bills?

  8. Troy Jones

    This is the first I have heard of this. Has this been in the works?

    Is there a motive/benefit beyond making us buy new flags?

    I am with Grudz. This is flat out awful to look at. Keep the current flag.

  9. BF

    Before you click on this link, get out a pen or pencil and get ready to write.

    Ready? Okay. Now click on the link, and as fast as you can see and write, write down, in order, which of the designs attracts your eye first.

    Don’t look at the names first, just the designs.

    Is the current SD design in the top 5?

    Could you even find it without looking up the name first?

    1. BF

      A camel is a horse designed by a committee. Our current flag is a camel. As per my link above, you can easily see that quite a few other states have camels for flags as well. The question is simple. In the context of state flag designs, do you want your state to standout or not?

      By the way, as per Cory, we shouldn’t even be asking this crowd. We should be asking the kids. My hunch, Troy and Grudz, is that children would pick the Termes design over our current one at least 70% of the time.

      1. BF

        In the above exercise, the following states have outstanding designs: Arizona, Alabama, New Mexico, Colorado, Alaska, Texas, and South Carolina (plus a few others).

        By “outstanding, I mean simply that they “stand out.”

        By contrast, look at the designs for South Dakota, Kentucky, Nebraska, Minnesota, and New Hampshire and tell us with a straight face that you would be able to immediately distinguish one from the other at a distance if you were shown all 5 in a group at once.

        1. BF

          Final installment. Graphic design is art on an errand. It has a job to do. In the context of state flags, the job is to distinguish your state from the other 49. The questions to be asking ourselves are, “Is the current graphic design of our South Dakota flag doing it’s job? Does the Termes design do the job better?”

          1. springer

            If the current flag is so awful, anyone has the right to design a different one. And then trying to get a lawmaker to sponsor and bill and get it done. But, this design is not good; it does not reflect the state of SD in apparently most of the citizens’ minds based on the comments here and elsewhere. It doesn’t matter either how renowned the flag’s designer is either; animals have been known to “paint” hugely expensive paintings but that doesn’t mean they are good!

            So back to the drawing board if a redesign is necessary. I don’t care if our flag stands out anyway; it has a history and meaning to our state. If you want a design that will stand out, how about using Mt. Rushmore, or a beautiful yellow sun on the same blue background as my hubby suggested, or a pheasant? These are ideas that are more in line with our state and would be unique to our state.

            But, this proposed design is bad!

              1. springer

                I don’t know what your point is here. I stated some ideas above. IMO a flag doesn’t have to “stand out;” it just should represent the state, and this particular proposal does not represent the entire state.

                1. BF

                  Mostly just interested in your taste in art, springer. And wondering if you liked Matisse or not.

                  As far as not representing the whole state, are you suggesting that there are parts of the state that don’t ever have blue sky, sunshine, water or four directions on the compass? ;^)

  10. duggersd

    Of all of the flags of the union, I believe the one most recognized by people in all of the states is the Texas flag. But then again, we learn a lot about Texas when we learn about Texas being separate country, having a flag with one star on it. Everyone can picture the Alamo with the flag flying.
    If one wants to change the flag, perhaps I can propose an idea. How about we keep the sea of blue. On the left there is a small rendering of Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Mountain. Down the center we have a blue line representing the Missouri River. On the right we have a rendering of the Corn Palace. Perhaps we can think of a couple of other things. At least one would look at that flag and be able to say it was either South Dakota or North Dakota. And it would be shaped in general like our state.

  11. William

    Perhaps, since I’m a “transplant” to South Dakota, although I’ve seen many Medicine Circles depictions, the first though I had when I saw this proposed design was “why would they use the international symbol for “white pride” as it’s centerpiece?

    Unfortunately, outside of this part of the county, the Celtic Cross is pretty well universally known for its association with neo-fascism. The symbol is banned in Germany for it’s association with the NAZI party.

    As this design is already out on the internet, I’m afraid this is going to be an embarrassment.

    Perhaps this issue illustrates a bigger problem facing the legislature, when the number of bills and resolutions is as great as they are, are they guilty of “passing bills to find out what’s in them”?

  12. MC Post author

    The entire idea appears to be sprung on us.

    Replacing a symbol such as a flag, should not be simple task.

    I am not opposed to replacing the current flag, as it does have it problems, namely words. The flags I can most identify with do not have words, rather clean lines and bold colors. I’m not sure I can support the proposed design. I don’t see anything wrong with it, in fact, it is a nice design, somehow it doesn’t represent all of South Dakota.

    If we are up to replacing the flag, then let’s have three or four different even a half dozen different designs, and let the legislators take them back to their constituents and get their opinions.

    Let’s keep the names of the designers off this, please. Let’s make this our flag.

    1. springer

      If this hadn’t been innocently posted on facebook by a fan of the design, seen by others who were not in favor of it and then publicized here and other places, I believe it would indeed have been “sprung on us.” Kinda like you said, you have to pass it first to see what’s in it. Well, this time we have seen what’s in it, and most of the people don’t like it. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the same thing could have happened with the monstrosity known as Obamacare?

  13. anon

    While I think our current flag is not the most attractive, I do not care for this design AT ALL. I hope the bill does not pass. If we feal the need to change the flag, let’s get a chance to look at several different versions.

  14. Cliff Hadley

    Being conservative, I trust tradition as the accumulated wisdom of a people. South Dakota’s flag is part of our tradition. Yes, it came about as many things do, almost serendipitously, but it does tell a compelling story of settlement and commerce.

    I don’t give a fig about pleasing graphics or finishing in the Top 10 in the state flag standings. What I do care about is that our flag, warts and all, reflects accurately who we are and where we came from. The current flag does this with flying colors.

  15. anooner

    Why does it seem that every session gets hijacked by a few issues that really aren’t that important to the success and prosperity of the state?

    I’m also afraid my friend DUH is so upset about this that right now he is eating a South Dakota flag.

  16. troy jones

    Here is a summary of the comments:

    Four distinct posters support the change.

    Twenty-four oppose it.

    While I like the flag, I am not set in stone it can’t be changed but something this symbolic should have more input from the people. It is a matter of taste/choice and does not require expertise and significant research.

    Table this bill now. If someone wants to initiate a flag change process, go for it.

    1. ymous

      Jones is spot on on. Change for the sake of change makes no sense. Does it create jobs? Improve education? Balance the budget? Correct a wrong or injustice? I could go on but even BF can get my point. I will never understand the faith based religion of a liberal. If it makes me feel warm and fuzzy and good about myself, so I want —– fill in the blank. Uggggg!

      1. BF

        What’s that all about, ymous? If you like the current flag, fine. I don’t care. But give me a break with the liberal bashing. It’s not my fault all your taste is in your mouth. And there are plenty of conservatives who are art lovers, chump.

        1. BF

          Just a quick reminder, ymous. South Dakota’s tourism industry is based on people from all over the world to see a couple of pieces of artwork carved into mountains, and the berauty of nature. If that makes you sick to your stomach, maybe you should move to North Dakota.

  17. springer

    Nothing wrong with status quo, Bill, if it isn’t hurting anyone, isn’t a big issue with most people, and there are many more important issues in the state and nation. I actually don’t think most people would have a problem with changing the state flag if they were allowed discussion and choice, without having it sprung as a surprise with a design that obviously has flaws.

  18. troy jones


    I don’t think it is about conservative or liberal or necessarily a reaction the design (although over half of the no votes were against the design). I think it more a function of human nature. Attachments to the flag become ingrained and emotional (not bad). To drop a change to something so symbolic does not get buy-in, regardless of the merits.

    1. Bill Fleming

      True enough, Troy. We have a rule in our business. Never critique the logo of a prospective client unless he asks you to. And even then, proceed with caution. If it’s particularly awful, chances are either he, his wife or his daughter designed it. ;^)

  19. bs

    I suspect most of the reason is to create controversy so that the true problems will be overlooked by the general population. It is a typical way to hid behind or to have secrecy as secrecy is power…………..

  20. Duh

    The posted proposed flag means nothing. Most flags give a pictorial history of the state that it represents. This flag looks like a high school tribal flag contest entry.

  21. Gary Jerke

    Say it isn’t so. Our state should honor all who made it great which includes our Native American population but by passing this legislation you are casting aside a rich MULTI-cultural history. For all my Republican colleagues who I once served with I would hope that you seriously reconsider what you are doing by co-sponsoring this piece of legislation.

  22. William

    BF, when you do graphic design work for a client, do you research any symbolism you use in the design in order to ensure that it’s not actually offensive, or BANNED by certain groups or nations?

    I would certainly HOPE you’d do so, or I’d be sure to steer clear of your services if I were looking for someone to design something that represented my reputation or livelihood.

    Fifteen minutes on Google, for anyone that didn’t immediately recognize the symbolism of the Celtic Cross, should have been enough to discover that information.

    If a State Flag has value, doesn’t it have enough value to involve the citizens it represents, enough value for an open discussion and enough value to research it’s design to ensure it makes us proud? If it doesn’t have value, why bother to have a flag, at all?

  23. Duh

    This flag does nothing but attempt to appease the percieved downtrodden. This state was founded by immigrants, peasants, farmers, miners, norskies, germans, irish and lots a buffalo. Should the natives be recognized? Of course. Should it be 100% of our state’s identity? No. All this flag does is obscure all of that for ’60s style leroy neiman, Oscar Howe pot head designs. Better yet, put it on felt and sell it at Sturgis for all those bikers who need something to hang over the holes in the bars…

  24. Doug Wiken

    The Termes design would be good for design on dogfood or hogfeed bags. This is an inane diversion at this time. This, The Bible in the classroom, crackdown on “disruptive” free speech, more legislator travel pay,etc seem to all argue in favor of a Unicameral legislature with split sessions for first and second passage of bills separated by a month or so.

    I do wonder who has the time to worry about “good and bad” flag design. Below is link for an appropriate design;


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