Today, on the day when the Vatican finally bowed to the demands of Indigenous People of the western hemisphere and formally repudiated the infamous Doctrine of Discovery, we are happy to announce that Governor Maura Healey has signed legislation that will give the Special Commission on the Official Flag and Seal of the Commonwealth eight more months to complete their work: to recommend a new seal and motto for Massachusetts.
The Special Commission, appointed by former governor Charles Baker in 2021 following unanimous action by the legislature, saw its mandate run out on December 31st of last year. It has been in limbo for the last three months.
After failing to provide any funding to the commission in 2021, the legislature, in mid-November of last year, gave the special commission $100,000 to work with to pay for public polling on new design elements and to solicit artwork for a new state seal and motto.
That money remains available to the special commission to spend until 2025.
However, late last year, the legislature neglected to grant an extension on the December 31st, 2022 deadline by which the special commission was supposed to have completed its work.
The commission finally had the funds it needed, but no time to finish its work in an orderly fashion.
That unfortunate set of circumstances has now been corrected with a line item inserted into the supplemental budget bill signed by Gov. Healey yesterday.
Special commission co-chair Brian Boyles said today that he has reached out to the other members of the special commission to let them know they have the needed extension to resume their work, and to take the steps necessary to bring a recommendation for a new design for the flag, seal and motto of the Commonwealth to the legislature for action, by November 15th, 2023.
The special commission, which includes six leaders of Indigenous nations of the area we now know as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, agreed to unanimous findings in December of last year that the present state symbol is causing harm and needs to be totally revised.
Fifty seven cities and towns in Massachusetts have taken formal votes in support of changing the flag and seal of Massachusetts. At least two dozen more cities and towns are preparing to vote this spring on a resolution in support of a new flag and seal that better represents harmonious relations between all the people who now call the Commonwealth their home.
Looking back over centuries of genocide, land theft, forced removal of Indigenous children to boarding schools, and the ongoing oppression of Indigenous peoples, we can take small comfort that the voices of the First Nations of this hemisphere are finally being listened to on Beacon Hill and in the Vatican.
Today, March 30th, 2023, the Vatican finally repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, which provided the US Supreme Court cover in 1823 to dispossess the Cherokee Nation – and many other Native Nations since – of their lands, in complete disregard of outstanding treaties signed by the US Congress.
The Doctrine of Discovery was cited by the US Supreme Court as recently as 2005.
It was first enunciated in the 15th century in the form of papal bulls maintaining that the “principle of discovery gave European nations an absolute right to New World lands,” despite the fact that these lands were already occupied, for thousands of years, by the Indigenous people who live here still.
Today, Massachusetts also takes a small and long overdue step to right historic wrongs by agreeing to continue the consultation with Native Nations of the area now known as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on a new design for a seal and motto to represent the ideals of peace, justice, equity and inclusion for all the people of this land.
This is a very small step, but a necessary one, with more substantive measures such as land back yet to come.
To get involved in the grassroots effort to change the flag and seal, check the map on the homepage of this website to see if there is upcoming action in your city or town, or use the “contact us” link on the homepage to get in touch.
To view the recent inspirational presentation on the effort to change the flag and seal given to the Partnership of Historic Bostons by special commission members Elizabeth Solomon of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag and Brittney Walley of the Hassanamisco Nipmuc Tribe, here’s the recording .
For more information on the timeline extension granted to the Special Commission this week, read this news article: