By Bob Katzen
The State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee’s public hearing included a proposal creating 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 said 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.
Wompimeequin Wampatuck, chief of the tribal council of the Mattakeeset Tribe, said the sword-wielding arm is that of Captain Miles Standish, a pilgrim whose army killed many Native Americans in the 1600s. He testified that this antiquated image portrays Indians in a “surrender state.”
No one testified against the bill 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 arrow is pointing downward which is known as a Native American symbol signifying peace.