Changing the Massachusetts Seal & Motto

The image of a sword held over the head of a Native figure marks the Massachusetts state flag and seal, embellishing every state building and many more. Is it time to change these relics of heraldry and the 17th century? In this illuminating presentation, David Detmold of the Campaign to Change the Mass Flag, Elizabeth Solomon, elder of the Massachusett at Ponkapoag, and Brittney Whalley, Nipmuc, explain why they think it’s time for a change. Click here for an 86-minute video by the Partnership of Historic Bostons.

(Above, left) Elizabeth Solomon is an enrolled member and elder of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag.(Above, center) Brittney Peauwe Wunnepog Walley is a Nipmuc tribal member who continues advocacy work as a public speaker, a member of the Massachusetts Mascot Steering Committee, and is a weaver. (Above, right) David Detmold is the founding editor of the weekly independent newspaper, the Montague Reporter and coordinates the website.

Elements of the Commonwealth’s seal and motto incorporate imagery first used in the 17th century by the earliest colonists of Massachusetts. The state motto, adopted in the 18th century from 17th century civil war republican Algernon Sidney, begins: “By the sword we seek peace.” (It ends “but peace only under liberty.”)

Today, for the first time since the 1880s, there is serious consideration being given to the meanings, use, and broad social impacts of the current seal and motto of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There are increasing calls to change both the seal and motto in order to mitigate harm and better reflect the contemporary values and aspirations of our citizens.