February 24, 2010

Indians protest Massachusetts seal

Indians object to state seal

By George BrennanWhile Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, said it's an "appropriate honoring" of Indians to have them as part of the seal, it's the arm and sword at the very top of the seal that Indians find offensive.

Gill Solomon, a member of the Massachuseuk tribe for which the state is named, called on lawmakers to remove the arm and sword completely.

"The seal of Massachusetts represents a conqueror," he said. "That's our objection."

The armored hand symbolizes leadership and the sword stands for military honor and justice, according to various military Web sites.

But regular folks who look at the seal see a sword over an Indian's head, said Rep. Byron Rushing, D-Roxbury, who is the sponsor of the bill to change it.

Peters said the objections go beyond the arm and sword. The Indian depicted in the seal is dressed in regalia of a Montana tribe and doesn't properly represent the Native Americans of Massachusetts, he said.
What the seal allegedly means:
  • The Indian represents the native people of Massachusetts for which the state is named.

  • The arrow is pointed downward to indicate the Indian is peaceful.

  • The star indicates Massachusetts is one of the original 13 states.

  • The sword illustrates the Latin motto written in gold on a blue ribbon on the bottom of the shield, which is translated to mean: "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty."
  • Comment:  "The sword over the Indian's head is horrific," said Executive Director Jim Peters. If you say so. Looks to me like a coincidental placement not intended to send a harsh message.

    Sure, the sword symbolizes killing people, mainly Indians, to secure the peace. It's possible to read the seal's message as "sword arm...conquering...peaceful Indian." So yes, I'd update it to bring it into the 19th or 20th century. But I'd consider this a low-priority task at best.

    As for the so-called "regalia," looks to me like the Indian is wearing generic buckskin clothes. You'd be hard-pressed to say he comes from the Plains or anywhere else. Sure, the state could give him a Massachusetts-specific outfit, but again, I'd deem it a low priority.

    For a related subject, see Town Seal of Massapoisett, Mass., Features Plains-Style Chief.

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