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MN Tartan History & Information

The primary color in the Minnesota Tartan is blue. The name Minnesota is from a Dakota word minisota meaning "water that reflects the sky". The colors in the Minnesota tartans were chosen to represent the symbols of our state:

Blue for The Land of 10,000 Lakes, the royal blue background of the state flag, the blueberry in the state muffin. Attributes: devotion and reverence.

Green for the forests and fields, the Norway Pine ( the state tree), forestry, fishing and conservation of the environment. Attributes: constancy and hope.

Dark Pink for the pink in the Showy Lady¹s Slipper (the state flower), and the
heart of the people. When the color runs through the blue, it becomes purple, the color of the thistle, Scotland's national flower.

Yellow/Gold for the fall colors, maize, the Yellow Lady's Slipper, a color found in
the agate (the state gemstone), and Monarch butterfly (the state butterfly), and the color
trim on the state flag. Attributes: sincerity and golden opportunities.

White/Ivory for the white in the Common Loon (the state bird), snow, the morel
(the state mushroom), and milk (the state drink). Attribute: purity

Black for the black in the Common Loon (the state bird), highways and byways, and
wild rice (the state grain).

These colors represent the nature, quality and beauty of Minnesota, the diversity of the
it¹s people, and all that weaves us together as a great state.


The Minnesota Tartan Story

The Minnesota Tartan Project began in February of 2001 at the Landmark Center in St. Paul. Barbara Fayth Humphrey invited Jackie Johnston to present her ideas for a tartan to the newly formed Minnesota Tartan Day Cooperative as well as information she had learned about the process of creating a tartan from the designer of the Colorado Tartan, Rev. John B. Pahls. The Minnesota Tartan Day Cooperative is made up of fourteen Scottish organizations in the state for the purpose of celebrating Tartan Day. The idea for a Minnesota Tartan was well received and the group asked Jackie Johnston to coordinate the project. They also requested a design for a dress tartan.

A system was designed to have each of the organizations submit colors for the tartan and describe what the color symbolized for Minnesota. When the colors where all submitted, the top ranked colors were chosen. The colors were blue, green, pink, gold, black and white.

Mark Osweiler of Clan Guthrie offered to be the designer. He is a member of the Scottish Tartan Authority and had software for designing tartans and tartan research. He worked with Mary Libhardt and Richard Cady who are experienced kilt makers, to ensure that the design could be kilted. They submitted 22 designs to the Minnesota Tartan Day Cooperative at a meeting at the Macalester Scottish Country Fair on May 5, 2001. The group reviewed the designs and decided on a pattern with the corresponding dress tartan design. Their decision on the design was unanimous.

Mary Libhardt, assistant coordinator, researched mills and distributors of tartan. She recommended as they could produce the tartan at the best price because it would be woven in Canada, it would be available on the web and orders could be charged to credit cards. She also collected samples of yarn colors from E-Scot and from Scotland. Jackie Johnston contacted Peter Wilson of E-Scot and requested samples of fabric in the colors chosen.

The Minnesota Tartan Day Cooperative met at the Renaissance Festival Highland Fling Weekend to consider the exact shades. The color pink was the most difficult but they settled on a shade of fuchsia. It would turn purple when it ran through the blue and would represent the thistle, the national flower of Scotland. That would be a tribute to the origin of the tartan and to the Scottish organizations that initiated the project. They decided on royal blue, pine green, bright yellow,as well as the fuchsia and black and white.
The next step was to get a sample of the woven tartan. Stuart Hoarn offered to fund the basic costs of the project from his family trust in memory of his grandparents. Samples of the Minnesota Tartan and Dress Tartan were ordered from, also known a Peter Wilson was very helpful in working with the project team. The original sample was slightly off, but the weavers assured the project coordinator that they could produce the tartan in the chosen colors.

Jackie Johnston researched the level of interest in the tartan and got an estimate for the various weights of each pattern. The samples were taken to a Scottish music and dance concert at Macalester College on November 3, 2001 for their first public viewing. Audience members were asked if they had an interest in the tartan and what they would like to see produced. Jackie Johnston gave samples of the tartans to Barbara Humphrey, Coordinator of the Tartan Day Cooperative to distribute it to the member organizations for their final approval. There was only positive feedback so the project went to the next stage - ordering the tartan.

Jackie Johnston contacted Peter Wilson and they determined from those who had signed up at the concert that there was enough interest to set up an order for 60 yards of the 12 ounce Minnesota Tartan, 100 yards of the 14 ounce Minnesota Tartan, and 60 yards of the 12 ounce Dress Tartan. That number was later lowered for the 14 ounce to 60 yards and 30 yards for the Dress Tartan.

Mark Osweiler checked with the Scottish Tartan Authority to see what had to be done to register the tartan and he was told that it had to be available to the public and needed legislative action by the State of Minnesota to recognize it as the official tartan to call it the Minnesota Tartan.

The Minnesota Tartan Project team decided to try for a Senate Resolution instead of a Bill of Law due to the budget crisis facing the state. A bill of law would require the tartan be added to all the states official symbols and that would cost the state money. They decided to wait for better economic times to ask for that level of recognition. The Scottish Tartan Authority said they need a legislative act to recognize the tartan and a Senate resolution would do that.

The next step was to contact state senators on a bipartisan basis.
Jackie Johnston presented the Tartans at a Kirken of the Tartan at The Church of the Epiphany in Plymouth on St. Andrews Day, November 29th. Susan Keith Ricketts and her husband Ray attended, and offered to contact their senator, Sheila Kiscaden from Rochester.

Jackie Johnston emailed Senator Ellen Anderson of St. Paul, who responded that she was a Scottish Anderson! What are the odds in Minnesota to contact the first person on the list with a name like Anderson and find she is Scottish?

Jackie also contacted Senator Satveer Chaudhary of Fridley, Minnesota. Sen. Chaudhary is of East Indian descent and she felt his support would help demonstrate that the tartan was to represent all the people of Minnesota. Having a mixture of nationalities sponsoring the resolution would broaden its appeal. Sen. Chaudhary was very excited about the project. He grew up in Columbia Heights where their high school mascot is the Highlander. He said I always thought I had the legs for a kilt! He has been to Scotland several times and admires the Scots.

Jackie Johnston and Barbara Humphrey contacted Senator Jane Ranum of Richfield. She is Barbara's state senator, and was very pleased to co-author the resolution. Jackie also contacted her state senator, Gen Olson of Minnetrista. Senator Olson was very excited about the project and asked to chief author the resolution, that is if they did not mind a Swede doing it. She was assured that if it is to represent Minnesota, then certainly Swedes have to be involved.

The project members learned that California had adopted a tartan in July, and three other states were in the process. Minnesota was not the first and wasn't going to be the last state to have it's own tartan. Information was circulated throughout the Minnesota Tartan Day Cooperative organizations to contact their senators and lobby for the support of the resolution. Information was also provided for ordering the tartan. A sample resolution was written by Jackie Johnston and edited by Barbara Humphrey. It was signed by Jackie Johnston, Barbara Humphrey and Mark Osweiler, and sent to the sponsoring senators with a sample of the tartans and additional information. This sample wording was used for the Senate resolution except for a few lines in the "be it resolved" section.

In late January, Senator Olson reported she had it on the docket for February 4, 2002. She invited the members of the Minnesota Tartan Project and the Minnesota Tartan Day Cooperative to come to the Capitol and witness the passage of the resolution. Members of Scottish community arrived at the State Capitol with Sean McRoberts, pipe major of the Twin Cities Metro Pipe Band, to pipe for the senators. They presented each senators with Minnesota Tartan commemorative buttons, corsages and boutonnieres as a thank you. The buttons and flowers were made by Nydia and Mark Osweiler, Mary Libhardt and Kelly Bray. A list of the 14 organizations that make up the Minnesota Tartan Day Cooperative, a card with the tartan color legend and information on how to order tartan was also given to each senator.
An enthusiastic group attended with their Scottish tartans of all different colors: Clan Bruce, William and Phyllis Bruce; Clan Cameron, Michael Martindale, Barbara F. Humphrey, SaDee Söderlind, Forrest Söderlind; Clan Campbell and St. Andrew's Society, Jack Campbell; Clan Kincaid, Ron Kincaid; Clan Stewart and Minnesota Coalition of Scottish Clans, Stuart Hoarn; Clan Johnston/e, Dennis and Jackie Johnston, Dee Johnston; Clan Napier, Mary Libhardt; Clan Guthrie, Mark Osweiler; Clan Macalister, Nydia Osweiler; Clan McClellan and the Minnesota Coalition of Scottish Clans, Eva McClellan; 42nd Highlanders, Scotty Roberts; Twin Cities Metro Pipe Band, Sean McRoberts.

There was a problem getting into the gallery. This was the day that two new state senators were being sworn in, Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, and Sen. Mee Moua, the first Hmong state legislator in U.S. history. The galleries were filled with their families and supporters. The Scots had not been told they needed to contact the senators for tickets to the gallery and all available tickets had been given out. Following the swearing in ceremony, the galleries emptied out and the Scots filed in to witness Sen. Olson present the resolution. Sen. Anderson and Sen. Chaudhary spoke in support of the resolution. Sen. Chaudhary referred to himself as Sen. MacChaudhary. Minnesota's two new senators, Prettner-Solon and Moua, cast their first vote for the Minnesota Tartan.

Sen. Olson called for a roll call vote and it was unanimous, 59-0. The senators were very excited about the Minnesota tartans. There was a tartan display near the main door to the chambers but some of the senators had come in through side doors and did not see the tartan before the vote. Those that had, spread the word that it was beautiful. Senator Moe, Senate Majority Leader, who had not seen the tartan prior to the vote, came out of the chambers afterward to see what it looked like. He said "It is beautiful! Thank God it is not ugly".

The resolution and tartans were displayed at the Scottish Ramble on February 16 and 17 at the Landmark Center in St. Paul where it all began one year earlier. Flags of the Minnesota Tartan and Dress Tartan were made by Mary Libhardt with material donated by Barbara Humphrey. Alan J. Cameron, Clan Cameron, and John L. Fairbairn, Clan Armstrong, each donated a beautiful hand crafted flag pole to the Minnesota Tartan Day Cooperative.

The Minnesota Tartan was featured at the 4th Annual Tartan Day Capitol Celebration at the State Capitol on April 6th and at the Tartan Day Ball that evening. The Minnesota Tartan Day Cooperative and the Minnesota Tartan Day Project, presented the Minnesota Tartan and the Minnesota Dress Tartan to the Deputy Director of the Minnesota Historical Society, Ian Stewart, who accepted the tartans and a copy of the resolution on behalf of the people of Minnesota.

The tartan is a symbol of freedom to the Scots and this gift of a tartan to the State of Minnesota represents the love and respect Minnesota Scots/Americans have for the land, the people and the characteristics that make up our great state.

Thanks goes to Jackie Johnston for the text used on this page.