Big Turnout for Flag & Seal Hearing

State Senator Jo Comerford (Hampshire- Franklin-Worcester District)  tells supporters 'The Time has Come!" to Change the Massachusetts Flag and Seal - at a rally on the State House steps on November 19th. Holding the large banner in back are (l-r) Jonathan von Ranson and Jim Thornley of Wendell - where the town meeting campaign to change the flag and seal got started at an Earth Day event in 2018. Holding the lower banner, (l - r) Faries Gray, Sagamore of the Massachusett Nation, Jean-Luc Pierite, president of the board of the North American Indian Center of Boston, and an unidentified supporter

State Senator Jo Comerford (Hampshire- Franklin-Worcester District) tells supporters ‘The Time has Come!” to Change the Massachusetts Flag and Seal – at the rally on the State House steps on November 19th.

Holding the large banner in back are (l-r) Jonathan von Ranson and Jim Thornley of Wendell – where the town meeting campaign to change the flag and seal got started at an Earth Day event in 2018. Holding the lower banner, (l – r) Faries Gray, Sagamore of the Massachusett Nation, Jean-Luc Pierite, president of the board of the North American Indian Center of Boston, and an unidentified supporter.

Photo by: Anaelisa Jacobsen, Manos Unidas Multicultural Educational Cooperativa; Pittsfield

The Coalition to Change the Massachusetts Flag and Seal Comes to Boston

By Anna Gyorgy, for Traprock Peace Center –

These days there are many wrongs waiting to be righted, many victims of economic and racial injustice waiting to be aided, and more environmental damage waiting to be addressed than ever before. Action needs to be taken on all fronts. But sometimes this takes a symbolic form with great meaning.

With that in mind, Traprock supported and joined a recent delegation from Western Mass, helping to charter a bus to Boston to bring supporters to rally and testify at the State House in favor of a package of legislation introduced and supported by many members of the First Nations who reside within the present borders of the Commonwealth.

The November 19th, 2019 hearing at the State House before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight focused specifically on the House and Senate bills H. 2776 and S.1877, to establish a special committee to recommend a new designed for the state seal and flag of Massachusetts.

In this Thanksgiving season, and on the eve of 2020, the 400th anniversary of the landing of the first European colonists in Massachusetts, it is appropriate for all who live here now to take a new look at the symbol of our state.

The original from 1629 depicted a Native American clothed only in a loincloth of leaves, with a speech bubble that said, ”Come Over and Help Us.” This image was updated to a design adopted by the legislature in 1898 that supposedly shows the “ideal Native American.” The original saying was replaced by a Latin motto beginning: ”By the sword we seek peace…”

Over the composite image of a Native American holding one upside down arrow, our flag and seal also features a white hand holding a drawn sword, modeled on the broadsword of Myles Standish. As Faries Gray, Sagamore of the Massachusett Nation testified to Senator Marc Pacheco, co-chair of the Joint Committee on State Administration, the sword of Myles Standish is remembered for the ambush and beheading of leaders of the Massachusett only two years after the Pilgrims were rescued from starvation during their first winter on these shores.

Once the image and history of the symbol is understood, the need to change it becomes clear.

From Traprock’s written testimony to the joint committee: “For 35 years, Rep. Byron Rushing introduced legislation to create a commission to consider changing the symbol adopted in 1898. Now, as the 400th anniversary of the colonial landing in our state approaches, it is time to move towards replacing the racist and implicitly violent symbol with one reflecting peace, justice, liberty and equality for all.”

Symbols Count

The testimony continues: “We have seen and support a movement in the southern states especially to dismantle visual symbols of white supremacy. The campaign to change the symbol on our flag, a symbol which has been long opposed by the indigenous peoples it is supposed to represent, is long overdue. This process is opening eyes to the grave and violent mistakes of our past.

“In our part of the state alone, 23 of 26 towns in Franklin County support this legislation and its intent. In this, we are following the leadership of indigenous communities in our state and beyond.

We therefore request that the bills S.1877/H.2776 “A Resolve providing for the creation of a special commission relative to the seal and motto of the Commonwealth.” be reported out of committee with a favorable vote.”

The Western Mass. delegation to the hearing was met and supported by Senator Jo Comerford, a cosponsor of the bill in the Senate, along with another Western Mass State Senator Adam Hinds. Cosponsors in the House include presenter Lindsay Sabadosa, Paul W. Mark, Mindy Domb, Natalie M. Blais and Susannah M. Whipps. We thank all of the local legislators for their efforts.

There is still time for supporters of the bill to change the State Flag and Seal to submit written testimony to Sen. Marc Pacheco marc.pacheco@masenate.gov  and Rep. Danielle Gregoire, danielle.gregoire@mahouse.gov the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on State Administration. Write your own legislators and ask them to support all five bills in the Mass Indigenous Agenda: FIND YOUR MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATORS BY ZIPCODE

The Mass. Indigenous Legislative Agenda 2019 – 2020 http://maindigenousagenda.org supports five pieces of legislation. Besides the effort to Change the Flag and Seal, other bills include: Honor Indigenous Peoples Day, replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day to celebrate Indigenous resilience and survival; Protect Native American Heritage, protecting objects of cultural patrimony; Remove Racist Mascots, end the use of Native American mascots in Massachusetts public schools; and Educate Native Youth, to improve educational outcomes and opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Native students.

For more information see: maindigenousagenda.org 

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