PIERRE, S.D. — At least 80 South Dakota lawmakers say it's time the state fly more than just its official seal. They want a separate design for a flag.
Rep. Bernie Hunhoff announced Thursday that he's sponsoring a bill aimed at adopting a flag design that would differ from the state's seal. It would still use the Texas' Lone Star flag as its inspiration.
Hunhoff says the Texas design is "a source of unity and pride."
"I believe a flag can do the same thing for South Dakota," he said.
Artist Dick Termes of Spearfish drew the design, which has a Native American medicine wheel surrounded by yellow rays of sunshine on a sky-blue background. He made the artwork at least 20 years ago.
Termes said he posted an image of the 23-year-old flag design on his Facebook page a few months ago. Since then, talk of a redesign has been resurrected.
"It shows the power of social media," Termes said, adding that the point of the design is to be simple and recognizable from a distance.
"It's pure geometry," he said. "I could tell kids how to draw it, and they could draw it."
He doesn't mind that some residents have balked, he added, because it's "something that needs to be talked about."
Still, the 70-year-old acknowledged, "It'd be cool for my design to be on the state flag."
Hunhoff said the medicine wheel is not a religious one. Instead it's a symbol of unity, he said, "and that's exactly what we want our flag to accomplish."
Rep. Ed Iron Cloud, III, D-Porcupine, a Native American legislator, said having such a symbol indeed could show unity and coexistence.
"Native American people are indigenous to here, and later South Dakota became a state," he said.
South Dakota entered the union in 1889.
"It's important we note that we're not in any way shelving the great seal," Hunhoff said. "It will continue to be the great seal, but a seal is a seal. It's not a flag. It should be visible from a quarter mile away with no wording or slogans."
The bill would not stop South Dakotans from flying the state seal as a flag, as many now do. The existing seal is encircled in blue and gold and includes images of a farmer next to a river with a nearby smokestack and mountains in the distance.
Though Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he likes the present flag — the seal on a blue background — "if it can be improved, I'm open to that," he said.
However, he suggested that the state should consider giving other artists a chance to submit designs as well.
The design presented by Hunhoff sparked debate online and in public.
In Pierre, people on the street didn't seem to mind the change. "It's not as troublesome as when the state named its soil 'gumbo,'" Glenda Woodburn, 57, said. "It's pretty important to have a flag. I'm happy with what we have now but if we change it, I'll live with it."
Nick Peterson, 39, also of Pierre, liked the design. "It's something new and something Native, so it shows it's from here," Peterson said. "It wouldn't influence me if other people in the state don't like it, but it would be interesting to hear what people think."
Hunhoff said the project is still in its infancy.
"I promise you in 20 or 30 years they'll fly the flag as proudly as Texans do," Hunhoff said.
Associated Press reporter Chet Brokaw contributed from Pierre, S.D.
House Bill 1235