MA commission revisits state motto, seal design seeks more time

BOSTON – Members of a new commission to review the state’s seal and currency appeared to agree on at least one point at their first meeting on Monday – they will need more time than their deadline to ‘October to complete their work.

The Legislature passed a bill in January that created the panel to investigate the state’s seal and currency, “including features which may be unintentionally detrimental or misunderstood by Commonwealth citizens,” and ensure that its elements reflect the “Commonwealth commitments to peace, justice, liberty and equality and to the dissemination of the opportunities and benefits of education.”

He gave the 19-member commission until October 1, 2021 to submit recommendations for a new or revised seal and currency.

“We are, really, starting an important conversation about the seal and the motto of Massachusetts,” said Representative Antonio Cabral, co-chair of the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee. “It won’t be an easy conversation sometimes. It will be difficult and sometimes uncomfortable, because confronting the story and breaking the mythologies is always okay. It will be important that we do it right.”

The Seal of Massachusetts, which appears on the state flag and many official documents, depicts a Native American standing under a disembodied arm wielding a sword and the Latin motto: “By the sword we seek peace, but peace. only under freedom. “

Defenders have been pushing for years to reexamine the seal, arguing that its imagery is hostile and perpetuates stereotypes. Bills to create such a commission were first introduced in the 1980s.

Melissa Ferretti

Melissa Ferretti, president and president of the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe, said the exercise could also help educate the public about the history and contemporary existence of Massachusetts tribal nations.

“This is an opportunity for the Commonwealth and all of you here and anyone who cares to know about some of these other communities that have kind of been taken out of this narrative for all these many years,” she said. “I see this as a good opportunity to educate the Commonwealth about the Herring Pond tribe, the Nipmuc people and some of these other communities that are still there and… give them a place in the story.”

On Monday, when the committee held its first meeting by videoconference, not all of its members had been appointed. Members said they were still waiting for Gov. Charlie Baker to make two of his five appointments, and Hirak Shah, legal adviser to Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, said Tarr’s office would have someone appointed. ” soon enough “.

Representative David Vieira, R-Falmouth, who sits on the committee as the representative of Parliamentary Minority Leader Brad Jones, said he would follow up with his fellow Republicans to finalize their choices. Vieira called the seal conversation “long lasting.”

David Vieira

In addition to lawmakers and representatives who are direct descendants of tribes with a historic presence in the Commonwealth, the commission should include members with relevant cultural and historical expertise.

The person designated by Secretary of State William Galvin is Michael Comeau, Executive Director of the State Archives. One of those named by Baker is Micah Whitson, Creative Director at Athenahealth, who was involved in the redesign of the Mississippi state flag.

Whitson said that in Mississippi’s effort, a tight schedule – needed to get the new flag proposal before voters on that state’s ballot – served as a “really valuable push function” to help finish the job. .

Although the COVID-19 state of emergency in Massachusetts has been over for more than a month, the State House remains closed to the public. Several members of the commission expressed interest in holding in-person meetings, which Cabral said he did not believe would be possible until September or early October, depending on when the capital may reopen.

The New Bedford Democrat said logistical hurdles surrounding face-to-face meetings make the October deadline “unrealistic.” He said there are other structural issues the commission needs to resolve, including personnel and resource issues. Members also wait to choose their chair until all appointees have been appointed.

Cabral said he would return to the committee with suggested wording to extend the deadline beyond the current October 1 deadline.

Senator Marc Pacheco, Senate Chairman of the State Administration Committee, suggested that he, Cabral and Vieira could contact the legislative leaders “to see if there is a way to add an appropriate amendment to ensure we are extend the deadline “.

It was not clear from the discussion how much more time the body might take to complete its work.

The legislative language that created the commission stipulated that members must be appointed within 60 days of its effective date, and allows the commission to grant itself an extension by passing a motion by two-thirds of the vote.


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