Cambridge officials and Native American advocates want the Massachusetts state flag gone, saying it’s offensive and needs to be changed.
“It symbolizes the colonization of native lands through military means, and I don’t think that’s a good thing,” Mahtowin Munro of the United American Indians of New England told the Herald.
The Cantabrigian city councilors on Monday voted in favor of a resolution in support of state legislation to start a process to change the flag. They are also mulling whether they’re allowed to remove the commonwealth’s flag.
The flag has a shield featuring an American Indian man holding a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other. A flexed arm holds a sword above the shield. Activists claim that’s the arm of Myles Standish, who founded the Plimouth colony and led expeditions against the local Native American tribes.
“It’s offensive to Native Americans,” Cambridge City Councilor Quinton Zondervan told the Herald. “It reminds them of the fact that this land was taken from them. It’s violent imagery. The depiction of Native Americans in that symbol is not how these people want to be represented.”
Munro said, “There’s a lot of great things in Massachusetts, but I don’t think the desolation of a people and their lands is one of the things that should be celebrated.”
Jean-Luc Pierite of the North American Indian Center of Boston said the flag hearkens back to the bloody King Philip’s War, a brutal 17th-century conflict labeled with Wampanoag chief Metacomet’s English name. Pierite said the Native American on the flag’s clothing is that of Metacomet.
“The state flag and seal, those were forged commemorating that war,” Pierite told the Herald. “This commemorates the violence between indigenous people and non-indigenous people … the current flag and seal reflect a sort of one-sided view of history. It reflects the view of the colonizers.”
But Jim Lyons, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said, “The people of Massachusetts have much more important things to discuss than something that has been around since the 1880s. If the city of Cambridge’s priorities are changing the flag, it’s clear they don’t understand the real issues that are facing the people of Massachusetts.”
Secretary of State William Galvin’s office declined to comment, with spokeswoman Debra O’Malley saying, “Our regulations cover only improper use, not lack of use.”
The office’s website says the state seal was adopted in a different form by then-Gov. John Hancock in 1780 and then made official in essentially its current form in 1885 after a statewide contest before being tweaked again in 1971.
Cambridge City Councilor Dennis Carlone said, “The main goal was to say to Massachusetts, ‘re-think this … No people should be falsely honored with a sword hanging over their head.”
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