Monday, May 23, 2011

New Flags for Yukon and the Northwest Territories

A few weeks ago I briefly discussed Nunavut, one of the three Canadian territories that lie on the Arctic Circle.  Today I'll attempt to fix the other two, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Both of these flags share a basic template, but first we'll look at Yukon:

Another shield flag it's true, but unlike some provincial flags (and more than a few state flags) Yukon at least went to the effort of giving it a tricolor background, rather than a single color.  This flag also scores points on the abstract elements of the shield.  The cross of St. George shows up again, and the husky and flowers are a little detailed, but the central imagery is not as obvious.  Turns out, they are geographically symbolic, representing the rivers, mountains, and mineral wealth of the territory, not to mention the roundel of vair (an old heraldic device used to depict squirrel fur and standing for the fur wealth of the area).

Despite the cleverness of the vague central devices, most of it has to go.  The downfall of generic symbols is that almost any area with mountains, rivers, and mineral (and fur) wealth could use it just as easily.  Thus, I've eliminated two major components of the flag, the majority of the shield and the central white stripe.  The shield is for the reasons previously stated, the stripe because it is a common flag design and I want to try something new.  As with other Canadian flags thus far, I have also changed the ratio from 4:3 to 3:2, making it a little less long and narrow:

The symbolism of the white stripe (snow) has been retained, but now that comes from the mound the husky is standing on.  The dog was kept because how many other flags have dogs on them?  (They may be out there, but I can't think of any)  The image isn't the best, since I basically just enlarged and tried to clean up the image at the top of the coat-of-arms, but it only uses three colors, and isn't all that detailed.  I have no doubt it could be improved, just not by me.

Ok, confession time.  I had an ulterior motive for keeping the husky.  I went to the University of Washington in Seattle and found it impossible to resist putting my school's mascot on a flag.  In my defense though, I picked one where it was appropriate and it was already on the coat-of-arms.  I just took advantage of the situation in favor of a little school pride.

The second flag for today is that of the Northwest Territories, like Nunavut a vast, sparsely peopled area of the arctic.  Their flag is similar to Yukon's, employing three bands (but only two colors) and a central shield:

The river at the top I understand, also the arctic fox's head.  The gold rectangles on the green though, let's just say it looks a little too much like Tetris to me.  Based on the previous flag fix, the obvious change would be to enlarge the fox and remove the rest, but I tried that and it didn't look so good.  However, Yukon did give me the idea to look at the rest of the coast-of-arms and what I found was this:

The details are a little different, but that could easily be the source.  The important point is the figures at the top.  Once again, this coat-of-arms provides the opportunity to put a unique and relevant animal on a flag, this time a pair of narwhals:

The star can serve the same purpose here as it does for Nunavut, Alaska, and a handful of other northern entities, that of pointing out the importance of the North Star to their identity.  The narwhals, like the husky, could be simplified, but the stern visage they share seems appropriate.  Perhaps they're steeling themselves for the long, harsh winter, or are tired of eating seafood, but whatever the reason it gives them a hint of character that a pair of silhouettes just wouldn't have.

I could go into great detail about why I chose to move to a monotone blue background rather than keeping the three stripes, but the real reason is I couldn't get the tusks to fit in without making the narwhals tiny or the central stripe too wide.  Not super exciting.

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