State Flag Resolution

This is the text of a resolution that’s about to begin moving through the council process. Thanks to all of the folks who contributed to this–most of the work is not my own, and hopefully other towns will be passing very similar resolutions this spring.

In short: the state flag is wicked racist and racism is bad, so let’s change it.

Resolution in Support of Changing the State Flag and Seal of Massachusetts

Whereas the history of the State of Massachusetts is replete with instances of conflict between the European colonists and the Native American nations of the region, who first extended the hand of friendship to the colonists on their shores in 1620, and helped them to survive starvation during the settlers’ first winters on their land;

Whereas members of the Native nation for whom the State of Massachusetts is named were ambushed and killed by Myles Standish, first commander of the Plymouth Colony, in April of 1623, barely two years after the Pilgrims arrived on their shores;

Whereas the naked colonial broadsword above the head of the Native man on the Massachusetts state flag and seal is copied from Myles Standish’s own broadsword, borrowed from the Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth by the illustrator Edmund Garrett in 1884;

Whereas the belt binding the Native man’s cloak on the flag and seal is modeled after a belt worn by Metacomet, known to the English as King Philip, who was among the Wampanoag leaders who resorted to a mutually destructive war in 1675-76 in defense of Native lands against colonial encroachment;

Whereas the proportions of the body of the Native man in the flag and seal were taken from a Native skeleton kept in Winthrop, the bow modeled after a bow taken from a Native man shot and killed by a colonist in Sudbury in 1665, and his features taken from a photograph of an Ojibwe chief from Great Falls, Montana, considered by the illustrator to be a “fine specimen of an Indian,” though not from Massachusetts;

Whereas Native nations within the boundaries of Massachusetts were kept in a state of serfdom, and their members legally considered incompetent wards of the state until the nonviolent action of the so-called Mashpee Rebellion of 1833 led to the granting of Native self rule by the Massachusetts legislature in 1834, as if the sovereign right of Native self-government was the Massachusetts legislature’s to confer;

Whereas Native Americans were legally prohibited from even setting foot in Boston from 1675 until 2004, when that law was finally repealed;

Whereas the 400th anniversary of the landing of the colonists at Plymouth Plantation, which gave rise to the long chain of genocidal wars and deliberate policies of cultural destruction against Native nations of this continent, is approaching in the year 2020, affording every citizen of the Commonwealth a chance to reflect upon this history and come to a new awareness of a better relationship between the descendants of the Euro-colonial immigrants and the Native nations of these shores;

Whereas Native Americans have long suffered the many abuses of racism, the appropriation of their symbols, the diminution and pollution of their ancestral lands and the encroachment of their cultural lifeways;

Whereas the Town of Greenfield, settled in 1753, shares a rich Native history, going back 12,000 years, and has put in place a Native American Burial Ground Ordinance;

And whereas the Town of Greenfield has within the township a protected 67-acre Native village and burial ground at Wissatinnewag;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Town Council of Greenfield, Massachusetts hereby adopt this resolution in support of HD.2968 and SD.1495, a “Resolve Providing for the creation of a Special Commission relative to the Seal and Motto of the Commonwealth,” and request that Representative Paul Mark and Senator Jo Comerford continue their strong advocacy and support for the aforementioned Resolve (HD.2968 and SD.1495) in the General Court, and that the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, after holding a public hearing on the Resolve report it out favorably, and if the legislation shall pass that the governor shall sign it and work with members of the General Court to ensure its enactment.