BOSTON (CBS) — Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday signed a resolve creating a commission that will study the seal and motto of Massachusetts and recommend changes. Native American tribal leaders and activists have been calling for a redesign of the state seal for decades.
The current seal features a Native American man and above his head is an arm holding a sword. The motto in Latin is translated to “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.”
Sen. Jason Lewis, who took up the legislation, said the creation of the commission starts the process of changing “our state’s offensive flag and seal.”
“The imagery on our state seal has long been viewed by indigenous people and others as racist, symbolizing white supremacy and ethnic cleansing perpetrated against the indigenous peoples of this region,” the Winchester Democrat posted to Facebook.
A version of this legislation was first filed in 1985, and lawmakers say the Black Lives Matter movement and the focus on racial justice has helped bring the issue to the forefront.
“We’re talking about imagery that is very evocative of the violence and the intergenerational trauma that our local community has faced,” Jean-Luc Pierite, President of the North American Indian Center of Boston, told WBZ-TV over the summer. “It is well time for us to reconcile with that image.”
The commission will be made up of people who are descendants of tribes located in Massachusetts, lawmakers and other appointees who have “relevant cultural and historical expertise.” The commission will report its proposals and recommendations no later than Oct. 1.