Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The Massachusetts state flag is among those flying at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2016. (Photo: Marco Verch via Flickr)

Legislation is expected on Beacon Hill this month to change the flag flown over Massachusetts for more than a hundred years, and a meeting and panel discussion is planned for this week in Cambridge to explain why and urge residents to support the amendment.

The flag and state seal depict a Native American showing and surrounded by elements troubling to Massachusetts Peace Action, the North American Indian Center of Boston and the Quakers, hosts of the meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Friends Meeting House, 5 Longfellow Park, near Harvard Square.

Above the Native American is an arm wielding a sword, illustrating the Latin motto below that begins “by the sword we seek peace”; historians say the logo is based on a Massachusetts Bay Colony seal from 1629 that shows a Native American saying “Come over and help us.” When colonists arrived there were some 30,000 Native Americans on the land, 99 percent of whom were “helped” to death by the end of the century – plenty from violence and cruelty, but 90 percent just from disease, according to historians. The Native American on the flag is armed, but the arrow he holds faces downward, not ready for use.

The flag shows Native Americans in a “surrender state,” state legislators heard last year from Wompimeequin Wampatuck, of the Mattakeeset Tribe – which was based in Pembroke in 1620 when colonists set up in Plymouth, about 13 miles south. Looking at the flag and seal, the “first thing that jumps to mind is it’s a hostile environment,” he said.

With next year being the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing, “it’s time to change the Massachusetts flag and seal,” meeting organizers said.

The Wednesday event will share information about legislation to be filed and a town meeting campaign as well as on the Trump administration’s challenge to Mashpee Wampanoag sovereignty, they said. Planned speakers include Jean-Luc Pierite, president of the board of directors of the North American Indian Center of Boston; Hartman Deetz, a Mashpee Wampanoag; David Detmold, organizer of the Change the Massachusetts State Flag and Seal Campaign; Kevin Peterson, founder and director of The New Democracy Coalition; and Elizabeth Solomon, of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag. Information is here.