NEW STATE SEAL AND MOTTO CONTROVERSY ON BEACON HILL

By Bob Katzen

Bill number H 1707 was approved by the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight and stuck in Ways and Means since February 12, 2018 is a bill that would create a special commission to examine the state seal and motto including those parts of it which have been controversial or misunderstood.

The commission would develop a revised version of the seal which currently includes a Native American holding a bow in one hand, an arrow in the other hand and a disembodied arm holding a sword above him. The motto is “By the sword we seek peace, but only under liberty.” The commission would determine whether the seal and motto accurately reflect and embody the historic and contemporary commitments of the commonwealth to peace, justice, liberty and equality, and to spreading the opportunities and advantages of education.”

Supporters of revisions say the current seal is politically insensitive and the bow and arrow depict violence. “I sincerely request that you consider our shared history and be cognizant of the genocidal accuracy of the symbolism that the seal in part portrays,” said John Peters, executive director of the Commission on Indian Affairs and a descendant of the Indians who met the Pilgrims in 1620. Peters testified in favor of the proposal at the hearing on the bill back in April 2017.

No one testified against the bill at the hearing but in the past supporters of the current seal have said that it is a sacred symbol. They argue that the depiction is appropriate and note that the arrow is pointing downward which is known as a Native American symbol signifying peace.