A State Wrestles With Its Imagery: A Sword Looming Over a Native American

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tags: Massachusetts, state flags, Native American history

When former State Representative Byron Rushing first looked closely at the Massachusetts state seal, he could not believe his eyes.

Created in the 19th century, the official seal, which appears on the state flag, depicts a colonist’s arm brandishing a sword above the image of a Native American. It includes a Latin motto that roughly translates as: “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.”

Mr. Rushing, a Democrat, viewed the seal as threatening and denigrating to Native Americans; he also saw it as contrary to the image that progressive Massachusetts likes to project.

With support from Native Americans, Mr. Rushing began a quest to prod the state to change the seal and flag. That was in the 1980s. Yet for decades, they heard mostly opposition.

“Here’s a state that had gay rights, gay marriage and kept voting against the death penalty,” Mr. Rushing said recently. “But when you talked about changing the flag, people went bananas.”

Now, more voices are calling for change. Mr. Rushing lost his bid for re-election last year, but a bill that he first submitted in 1984 — naming a commission to reconsider the seal — has been introduced by new sponsors.

Read entire article at NY Times

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