A commission will be created to recommend a new seal and motto after Gov. Baker signed a resolve on Monday that had emerged for votes last week as the two-year session was winding down.
The resolve calls for the panel, after study, to recommend a new or revised seal or motto by Oct. 1 of this year “to ensure that they faithfully reflect and embody the historic and contemporary commitments of the commonwealth to peace, justice, liberty, and equality and to spreading the opportunities and advantages of education.”
The current seal depicts a Native American standing beneath a disembodied arm wielding a sword and the Latin motto, “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.” Elizabeth Solomon of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag has said the imagery “promotes a history of conquest, appropriation, and genocide.”
Rep. Nika Elugardo of Boston last week credited former Rep. Byron Rushing for his work on the matter. “For over 35 years native leaders have asked the Legislature to re-examine the harmful elements of our state flag and seal,” she tweeted. “Today the Legislature stands on the shoulders of long-time champion Representative @ByronRushing as we answer the call of our generation.”
The commission, she wrote, “lets us re-imagine the symbols representing our commonwealth’s values of justice and perseverance in a way that honors our shared heritage and our debt to indigenous communities.”
Mahtowin Munro from United American Indians of New England said the resolve represents a “first step toward repairing the harm done to Indigenous people.” Last week, he identified other bills addressing Native American issues.
“As the new session opens, we will be back at the State House to present bills to ban Native American sports team mascots, to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day statewide, to protect Native heritage, to ensure improved educational outcomes for Native students, and to include curriculum on Indigenous history and cultures in MA public schools,” he wrote.
According to the resolve, the commission will include five members appointed by the Commission on Indian Affairs who descend from tribes with a historic presence in Massachusetts, four members appointed by the governor with cultural and historical expertise, and seats to be filled by the heads of the Commission on Indian Affairs, the Mass. Historical Commission, the Mass. Foundation for the Humanities, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.