NEW STATE SEAL AND MOTTO

By Bob Katzen

The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker 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 make recommendations for a revised or new version of the seal and the motto. The seal 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 current 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 the special commission say the current seal is politically insensitive and the bow and arrow depict violence. They note the sword-wielding arm is that of Captain Miles Standish, a pilgrim whose army killed many Native Americans in the 1600s and portrays Indians in a “surrender state.”
Supporters of the current seal say 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.

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