Should the state scrap its official seal and motto? A Hadley couple wants their town to join five other Massachusetts communities in pushing for a change, saying the images that appear on the state flag are inaccurate and offensive to Native Americans.
Michele and Andrew Morris-Friedman are circulating a petition that calls upon the town to support legislation that would create a committee to study the issue and potentially recommend replacements.
Critics say the seal, which was adopted in 1898, depicts violence and subjugation. It shows a Native American holding a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other, while a disembodied arm brandishes a broadsword above him. Written in Latin, the motto translates to, “By the sword we seek peace, but peace under liberty.”
Supporters of the seal and motto say they should be preserved as historic symbols. Metro Minute asked the Morris-Friedmans to reflect on why they are speaking out.
Why do you think it’s important to change the state motto and seal?
Andrew: This is a movement to reevaluate historical imagery and the meanings associated to our historic symbols across the entire country. They’re doing it in the South with the Civil War, and we have our own history in New England that we need to evaluate. The seal and the motto represent us, our state, our political beliefs and our history. If it’s not accurate we should change it.
Michele: When we make a state flag or a seal, we make it representative of the state. How we portray ourselves affects schoolchildren and how we are perceived in our history. We’re not trying to erase history, but broaden our history and include other voices.
You propose having Native American voices included if the motto and seal were to change. Have you spoken with Native Americans about this issue?
Michele: We have many [Native Americans] who have been working on this. Many native people have voiced many concerns about historical inaccuracies, and I think it’s time to include their voices. We have a native person depicted on the state seal, but there has never been any native input of that seal.
What should the motto be instead?
Michele: I personally have no idea, and I’m hoping that a commission representative of various groups will come up with good ideas.
Andrew: We need imagery and a motto that reflects modern values of inclusion and an accurate portrayal of history. Maybe a cod fish, like the carving [that hangs] in the State House.