November 16th, 2023
Yesterday, the Special Commission on the Seal and Motto issued their long anticipated final report. To several statewide media outlets, such as WGBH and the Boston Globe, the results were underwhelming.
Nevertheless, the Commission did essential work, and have moved the issue back to the legislature, calling for the creation of an advisory body to be funded and charged with the task of working with the Secretary of the Commonwealth to hire a professional designer to create a new image for the flag and seal of Massachusetts.
The commission also called for the legislature to establish and fund K-12 and adult educational programs to teach the history and present usage of the flag and seal, including examination of the harm caused by the current seal and motto, and an overview of the movement to change it.
What the commission did not do, wisely, was try to synthesize the results of a statewide survey (which closed on Sept. 27th after more than 10,000 people – including 244 Indigenous residents of the area – responded) in time to come up with final artwork before their reporting deadline of November 15th.
There was no time for them to do so. The commission was only able to access funds to conduct the survey in June of 2023, and it took time to coordinate with UMass Boston to get the survey out to the general public.
Yet the results of the survey show broad support for incorporating new, aspirational design elements in the state seal and motto, around the top-picked theme of “Peace.”
Not “Peace Under the Sword,” as our current state motto is commonly translated.
And certainly not the image on our present flag and seal of an Indigenous caricature (with the face of a Montana Chippewa chief, body proportions taken from an Indigenous skeleton unearthed in Winthrop, and the bow of an Indigenous person shot and killed in Sudbury ) under a Colonial broadsword modeled on the sword of Myles Standish – infamous for ambushing and killing Native people in the 1620s.
Now, it is up to the legislature to establish and fund the advisory group called for by the Special Commission, and give them a tight deadline to complete their task and return with a final design and new motto.
Toward that end, it would be helpful now for all supporters to reach out to their state legislators. Ask them to make the creation of a new flag and seal for the Commonwealth a top priority in the current legislative session.
Legislators should be reminded that, as of now, 79 cities and towns in the Commonwealth have taken formal votes in support of changing the current, racist symbol. More town votes are coming soon.
Also, importantly, please take a moment today to contact Sen. Nick Collins Nick.Collins@masenate.gov / (617) 722-1150 and Rep. Tony Cabral Antonio.Cabral@mahouse.gov / (617) 722-2017; co-chairs of the Joint Committee on State Administration, and urge them to schedule a hearing, promptly, to approve the final recommendations of the Special Commission.
Sen. Collins and Rep. Cabral served on the Special Commission on the Seal and Motto. They do not need to be educated about why it is causing harm today, or why it needs to be changed. They need to act, now, to implement the recommendations of the Special Commission, and schedule a hearing on those recommendations without further delay.
The legislature has been studying (or stalling) this issue for more than 40 years.
Indigenous leaders of the area have been calling for this genocidal symbol to be changed for far longer than that.
Changing the flag, seal and motto of the Commonwealth has been a top legislative priority of the MaIndigeousAgenda.org, as well as Mass Peace Action, UU Mass Action, and many other racial justice organizations and peace groups across the Commonwealth.
.Justice for Indigenous people delayed is justice denied.
We must change the flag and seal of Massachusetts. Your help is needed, now.