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The Massachusetts flag glorifies the violence committed by colonizers – Native Americans need it modified

Christoph Strobel does no longer work for, seek advice from, own shares in or get hold of investment from any employer or employer that could advantage from this article, and has disclosed no applicable affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
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Given the violent history of English colonizers in New England, it’s a surprise why the nation insignia of Massachusetts, fully emblazoned on these days’s state flag, nevertheless consists of a sword dangling over the top of a Native American.
It changed into a little greater than 30 years ago when the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority bumped off its offensive logo that featured a pilgrim’s hat with a Native American arrow shot via the middle of it.
The country insignia nevertheless stands, and prefer many campaigns to rid colleges and cities of demeaning mascots and public statues, the efforts to put off it starts with an correct version of records. In the case of the Mass Pike brand, it commenced with a letter-writing campaign via 2nd graders mastering about the records of Plymouth Plantation in 1620.
The tale of the modern Massachusetts insignia begins with the seventeenth century seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This insignia depicted an nearly naked Native American, blanketed in a few leaves, with a speech bubble mentioning: “Come over and assist us.”
This earlier seal was replaced by way of some others, however in 1895, the picture of a Native American become reintroduced to the state flag. At first glance, the present day seal seems much less offensive. The Native American is dressed at the least, and the speech bubble was deleted. But there may be a sword dangling over the Native American’s head.
This sword is modeled after the weapon used by Miles Standish, who turned into in rate of Plymouth Plantation’s military affairs. As English colonial facts display, Standish led numerous violent battles in opposition to Native Americans.
During one such fight, a Native American was decapitated and his head turned into displayed on a pike as a trophy outside of Plymouth, a commonplace exercise in early modern English war. Moreover, the belt at the photo is based on the only worn through Metacom, a tribal chief of the Pokanoket Tribe and the Wampanoag Nation who turned into called King Philip with the aid of English settlers. Metacom led an anti-colonial resistance movement inside the 1670s in what's referred to as King Philip’s War.
Again, and following an established pattern within the area, after Metacom became killed, his head was impaled on a pike at Plymouth and left displayed there for two a long time.
Given the valuable position that violent struggle towards Indigenous peoples played for the duration of the colonization of New England, the state motto, “By the sword we searching for peace, but peace simplest underneath liberty,” increases questions about the accuracy and sensitivity of the kingdom’s desire of snap shots and words to represent its history and values.
Native American groups which include the United American Indians of New England had been critical of the nation seal and different misguided Indigenous representations for many years. The seal is not the handiest target of protests.
The insignia and mottos of several Massachusetts cities, in addition to statues, homes and sports activities mascots throughout the kingdom, have induced controversy. The town seal of Andover, which depicts an Indigenous chief who supposedly sold land for a exchange of apparel, is one example. The Hannah Duston statue in Haverhill has also been a source of dialogue. It depicts a seventeenth century New English girl who, after her capture by way of Native Americans, led the killing and scalping of 10 sleeping Native Americans, the bulk of them youngsters, ladies and aged.
Of path, similar discussions occur on a national stage about how we take into account the past. Just take the these days abolished Mississippi kingdom flag, which covered Confederate symbolism, or the debates surrounding controversial statues of Confederate infantrymen.
What has been restricted inside the past to street demonstrations is now a legislative precedence for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. He recently created a “Special Commission Relative to the Seal and Motto of the Commonwealth.” According to the internet site describing the unique fee’s first listening to, hung on July 19, 2021, it is charged with no longer only making “tips for a revised or new layout of the seal and motto” however additionally with growing “an academic program on the history and meaning of the seal and motto.”
Baker’s initiative underscores Native American agencies’ efforts to result in legislative exchange and create greater respectful representations of Indigenous peoples. But the suggestions of the all-volunteer committee were due on Oct. 1, 2021. To this date, they have got no longer been submitted, and it is doubtful whilst they'll be.
While Native American activists and allies are keenly privy to this demanding New England history, my experience as a public speaker and pupil of Native American records suggests many citizens in Massachusetts have little consciousness of the seals’ symbolism and the region’s beyond.
Given this reality, the state has any other option similarly to legislative acts – provide extra sources for public schooling, along with historic signage and markers in public spaces.
Separate from the commission, a campaign to train the general public may prove to be a more optimistic manner to inform the story of Native Americans as well as English colonists. This might be done through partnerships amongst Native American and educational nonprofit corporations and number one, secondary and university educators, in addition to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Through public talks and instructor workshops, of which I even have given close to 20 in 2021, I even have seen a need for a more expansive initiative. Many Massachusetts citizens are interested by getting to know extra approximately the legacies of New England colonization and the way they affected Native Americans. More crucial, educators are keen for sources to educate this difficult subject.
In Massachusetts, and for the duration of america, offering assets to dispose of demeaning depictions of Native Americans would cross a long way in the direction of significantly coming to terms with the usa’s violent beyond.
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