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And what would that new standard look like? If the artist suing the state has any say, it would feature male and female Native Americans holding a puppy. Extending towards this central graphic would be white, yellow, brown, and black arms with various messages of gratitude toward Native Americans inscribed upon them. The interfaith minister implores Massachusetts to “take away all this violence and racism and replace it with art that reflects unity and respect.”
DeGuglielmo’s name may be the only one on the lawsuit but it isn’t the only one behind the sentiment. The Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs seeks a reconsideration of the emblem. State representative Byron Rushing of Boston has worked for several decades to change the state seal. DeGuglielmo cites Rushing’s failure to make headway in the state legislature as inspiration for his attempt to change the seal through the courts.
The seal’s sword-and-Indian imagery combines the Indian on the original seal authorized by Charles I and the Revolutionary-era seal depicting an armed colonist surrounded by the motto advocating liberty and peace through strength. Defenders of the flag contend that the words and imagery have to do with the Revolutionary War and the 17th-century Massachusetts Bay Colony and not with anything that occurred in neighboring Plymouth Colony. Mourt’s Relation, the famous history of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, notes that Miles Standish was instrumental in bringing about a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and Massasoit. The non-Puritan soldier’s military exploits included fending off a pre-dawn Indian attack at a place dubbed “The First Encounter,” and the more controversial ten-man raid on the Narraganset rivals to Massasoit in 1621 and the 1624 preemptive strike on the Indians encroaching upon the doomed Wessagusset outpost. The secretary of state’s history of the Massachusetts seal makes no mention of the depicted arm or broadsword belonging to Standish, who technically never lived within the Massachusetts Bay Colony—Plymouth Colony becoming part of Massachusetts thirty-five years after his death.
The Cambridge activist nevertheless maintains that the Massachusetts flag is a more menacing symbol for Native Americans than the Confederate battle flag is for African Americans or the swastika is for Jews. The born-again Indian maintains that “the sustaining presence of the state seal intimidates me.”
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