Teen spotted flaw in state flag

D. Joseph Louviere (houmatoday.com)
D. Joseph Louviere (houmatoday.com)

One of the more unusual – and somewhat gruesome – state flags features four birds and three drops of blood. The flag belongs to Louisiana, which is marking the 205th anniversary of its admission to the Union.

Louisiana’s state flag was incorrect for many years, but a high school student with sharp eyes, D. Joseph Louviere, corrected the error in 2006. The 14-year-old spotted something no one else saw: Part of the flag’s image was being omitted by many flag-makers.

Louisiana's state flag (louisiana.gov)
Louisiana’s state flag (louisiana.gov)

Like a good mystery story, the missing elements were blood drops, which had been left out to save money by not including another color in the manufacturing process. Louviere contacted a state legislator to call attention to the unpermitted change in the flag. As a result, stricter guidelines were put in place by the state.

Keeping the flag intact, blood drops and all, is now one of the responsibilities of the secretary of state for Louisiana. On his website, he outlines the flag guidelines, such as demanding that “the crest consist of a nest bearing three chicks, a mother pelican vulning herself with her head turned to the viewer’s right and displaying three drops of blood on her breast.”

That outline sends curious people to their dictionaries to find out what “vulning” means. It means “wounding,” which is what the bird is doing to feed her chicks, an ancient myth of self-denial in order to nourish others. Beneath the baby pelicans’ nest, a banner unfurls to show the state motto, “Union Justice Confidence.”

Baton Rouge flag
Baton Rouge flag

Furthermore, the secretary of state precisely requires that, “for positioning purposes, the center of crest is the center of the triangle formed by three drops of blood.”

The state flag comes with its own pledge of allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the state of Louisiana

and to the motto for which it stands:

A state, under God, united in purpose and ideals,

confident that justice shall prevail

for all of those abiding here.

Louisiana’s capital, Baton Rouge, has a flag filled with clues to the history of the city. The banner is red, white and blue. The field is mostly red – or rouge, reflecting the French history of the town. So does another French touch, the fleur-de-lis, a symbol of France.

Two other nations also played a role in the evolution of Baton Rouge, so a castle is imprinted on the flag as a pun on the Kingdom of Castile, saluting the Spanish involvement in the city. Finally, the flag honors England with the British flag, the third nation the contribute to Baton Rouge’s development over more than two centuries.

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