L'Étoile du Nord

Minnesota, The Star of the North

L'Étoile du Nord is a French phrase meaning "The Star of the North". It is the motto of the U.S. state of Minnesota. Chosen by the state's first governor, Henry Hastings Sibley, it was adopted in 1861, three years after admission of Minnesota to the union. 

Minnesota Statute 1.135 describes the seal, its historical symbolism and its uses. Until 1974, the Minnesota Constitution required that the seal “shall be attached to all official acts of the governor requiring authentication.”

In 1849, Henry Sibley proposed that a picture created by Seth Eastman be adopted as the official Minnesota territorial seal. This proposal was adopted by the legislature. When Minnesota became a state in 1858, officials continued to use the territorial seal until 1861 when Minnesota Laws 1861, Chapter 43 was passed, creating an official state seal.

The 1861 seal showed a settler plowing a field beside the Mississippi River near St. Anthony Falls. In the background, an Indian on horseback rides toward the setting sun. A banner shows the state motto “L’Etoile du Nord”. In 1983 the seal was redesigned. (Laws of Minnesota 1983, Chapter 119) Norway pines (the state tree) were added behind St. Anthony Falls and the direction of the Indian was changed. He now rides toward the farmer rather than away from him.

Because of this motto, one of Minnesota's nicknames is The North Star State. The hockey team, the Minnesota North Stars, chose the English translation for their name.


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