Wisconsin’s capital city changes its flag because of cultural appropriation

DCNFNeetu Chandak, DCNF

A Wisconsin city modified its flag because a symbol from a Native American tribe was claimed to be a form of cultural appropriation.

The original flag was designed by brothers Rich and Dennis Stone, who wanted to incorporate the area’s topography, The Caps Time reported Wednesday.

The light blue background represented Lakes Mendota and Monona. A white, diagonal strip represented an isthmus, a black cross represented the capitol building, and the yellow sun symbol was supposed to represent the capitol’s dome.

Madison’s City Council, however, said the sun symbol was culturally appropriated from the Zia Pueblo tribe in New Mexico and needed to be replaced. The new flag changed the sun to a yellow circle.

“Madison’s flag was designed in the 1960’s by two Boy Scouts, who assuredly meant no ill will to the Zia people by using their sacred symbol,” Madison Common Council members Ald. Arvina Martin and Ald. Maurice Cheeks wrote on Madison365. “And yes, the symbol looks quite a bit like the Capitol from above, but regardless of the intent behind the symbol’s usage, it does not absolve our continued use of an appropriated symbol today.”

The change was proposed on June 5 and was co-sponsored by Cheeks and Martin. They were motivated to make the change because, “As parents of young children, we want our home to be more welcoming, and we want our kids to feel represented,” they wrote on Madison365.

Martin, who is part of the Ho Chunk nation, said the symbol was problematic because it was considered as the most sacred symbol for the New Mexican tribe.

“Within the Indian community here in Madison this was always an issue we saw, but not having a lot of connection to city government we didn’t really know how to do anything about that,” Martin said to The Cap Times.

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