A local organization in Massachusetts is seeking to have the state’s flag changed citing the flag’s offensive imagery to indigenous individuals.
“The imagery of the Massachusetts Flag and Sea—a white hand holding a Colonial sword over the head of an Indigenous person, above a Latin motto that translates: “She Seeks by the Sword a Quiet Peace under Liberty”—is seen by many as a symbol of violence against Indigenous people, and a memorial to the violent colonization of their homelands,” the organization, Change the Mass Flag, says on their website.
Last month, the Newburyport City Council received a resolution requesting that council members back the Special Commission Relative to the Seal and Motto of the Commonwealth, which previously voted to change the state flag, the Newburyport Daily News reported. The local news outlet reported that the resolution received a 9-2 vote in support, with two council members voting in opposition.
The recent resolution comes over a year after the Massachusetts State Legislature voted in support of creating the commission to review the state flag.
The state flag flies over the Massachusetts State House. On Monday, March 6, 2023, a local Massachusetts town voted on a resolution in support of a special committee that will investigate changing the state flag. David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe/Getty
“For over 35 years native leaders have asked the MA Legislature to re-examine the harmful elements of our state flag and seal. Today the Legislature stands on the shoulders of long-time champion Representative @ByronRushing as we answer the call of our generation,” Massachusetts State Representative Nika Elugardo wrote in a tweet in 2021.
While speaking with the Newburyport Daily News, two Newburyport residents who are in support of changing the flag, Marianne Vesey and Linda Lu Burciaga, explained that some other local communities in the state are also “considering the same resolution.”
“One of the reasons that we can ignore this so easily is that our white supremacy culture has really allowed for the disappearance of the Native American world. We’re really trying to say that they are not gone. They are here among us and we really need to, not only recognize that, but to honor it,” Vesey told the Newburyport Daily News.
David Detmold, the coordinator of the Change the Mass Flag organization told Newsweek on Monday that Vesey and Burciaga are local volunteers with the group and said that calls for the state flag to be changed began roughly 40 years ago.
“Finally the state Senate and then the state House joined the Senate on January 6 of 2021. An overwhelming vote of the legislature to set up the special commission,” Detmold told Newsweek. “Finally by November of 2021, that special commission was fully seated and six indigenous leaders from the commonwealth were appointed to sit with state legislatures, historians, the Secretary of State’s designee and others and to investigate the state flag and seal and to recommend changes to it.”
“The legislature may move slowly, but they need to move on this,” Detmold added.
On the other hand, one of the council members who voted against the resolution in Newburyport, Councilor Sharif Zeid, told the Newburyport Daily News that he has been against voting on statewide resolutions like this one.
“We’ve got enough stuff to do here in the city of Newburyport, much of which we would like to make some headway on. So I don’t think this is the right expenditure of time,” Zeid told the Newburyport Daily News.
Some other Twitter users have also expressed opposition to changing the Massachusetts State Flag.
“Hell NO! Everyone has to take a stand in their own city and state. The only way to stop this crazy mess,” Twitter user Ermias said.
In 2020, voters in Mississippi voted in favor of changing their state flag to remove confederate imagery.