By CAITLIN DeLUCA
Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan may see a new state flag waving over the Capitol in the coming years.
A bill was introduced in the senate that proposes a contest that would create a new design for the state flag.
Sen. Steven Bieda, D-Warren, sponsor of the bill, said the idea came from students in his district.
“A few students wrote me a letter telling me about how they didn’t like the state flag and how other states had held similar contests with success,” Bieda said.
“The flag is a little over a hundred years old, we have another couple generations who have gone on, we have lots of diversity and having a design that shows the contemporary nature of our state would be a great thing,” Bieda said.
The current flag is the Michigan coat of arms on a deep blue background.
The coat of arms includes an elk and a moose surrounding a shield labeled “Tuebor.” Inside the shield is a man with a raised hand and a gun, a rising sun, a peninsula and a lake, which represents the state’s geography.
Above the shield is a bald eagle holding an olive branch and arrows as well as a red banner with “ E Pluribus Unum” on it. Below the shield is another banner with the state’s Latin motto, “Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice,” which means “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you.”
The contest to pick a new flag would be limited to an original work by the person submitting and the reverse side must be a mirror image of the front, according to the proposed legislation.
Under the bill, a flag commission would control the state flag design contest.
The commission would be composed of historians, artists, representatives from art and design programs at numerous universities and elected officials.
Should the bill pass, the current design would fly until the end of 2018, but, beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the flag commission would choose a new design.
Not everyone is on board with the proposed change.
Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan History Center, was reluctant due to the history of the flag.
Michigan’s current flag was first unveiled in a ceremony at Gettysburg on July 4, 1865. After being approved by public act in 1911, it became Michigan’s third flag since 1837 when it became a state.
“As a historian, I think it’s neat that we have a flag that goes all the way back to our beginnings because the coat of arms that is on it is literally from the year we became a state in 1837,” Clark said.
“I don’t know what people would have in mind for what a different state flag would be,” Clark said.
Bob Myers of St. Joseph, president of the board of trustees of the Michigan Historical Society, echoed those sentiments.
“I guess it would depend on what it was changed to,” Myers said.
“I would hate to see the state seal removed, because that’s a lot of Michigan history and United States history,” Myers said.
Though there was no contest to design the current flag, the coat of arms in the flag is based on the Hudson Bay Fur Company’s coat of arms.
What’s more, the Latin word “Tuebor,” which is included in the shield, means “I Will Defend.”
The reason that “I Will Defend” is on the shield, said Myers, is not because of threats from the English or French or Native Americans. It was a challenge from Ohio in the Toledo War from 1835-1836.
Michigan and Ohio disputed who had sovereignty over the Toledo Strip, and both governors called out the militias.
Ohio had more political power, because Michigan was not a state yet.
Michigan eventually conceded Toledo for the rest of the Upper Peninsula and entrance into the Union, thus becoming a state.
“There’s a lot of symbolism in the flag,” Myers said.
The bill was referred to the Committee of Government Operations.