Change the Mass. State Flag and its Symbol of Violence

Change the Mass. State Flag and its Symbol of Violence

The imagery of the Massachusetts Flag and Seal – a white hand holding a Colonial sword over the head of an Indigenous person, above a Latin motto that translates: “She Seeks a Quiet Peace by the Sword, but Peace with Liberty” – is seen by many as a symbol of violence against Indigenous people. Learn more about the symbol here,

Indigenous leaders have been calling for a change for over 50 years. On January 6, 2021, the Massachusetts Legislature finally passed a bill which had been stalled in committee for 32 years to "Establish a Special Commission Relative to the Seal and Motto of the Commonwealth".

Change the Mass Flag is a grassroots community of people who wish to represent our state and our history as something more, something better than what is symbolized by a raised sword over the head of an Indigenous person. This grassroots effort to push for changing the state symbol of Massachusetts began in 2018 with the passage of a resolution in support of changing the flag and seal of the Commonwealth by four small towns in Franklin County, Massachusetts. The approval of the flag and seal resolution by the towns of Gill, Wendell, New Salem and Orange that year has been followed since by the approval of similar resolutions calling for a new state flag and seal in dozens of other cities and towns, from Great Barrington to Provincetown.

If need be, we will petition every town and city in Massachusetts to support the work of the Special Commission, but the legislature should heed the voices of the 57 cities and towns in Massachusetts that have already called on their state representatives to make this long-awaited change occur. Governor Maura Healy should also heed the call of the six Indigenous leaders who serve on the Special Commission Relative to the Flag and Seal, who were joined in a unanimous vote of the 19-member panel last year to seek a total revision of the flag, seal and motto. Governor Healy should exercise her executive authority and immediately retire this symbol of past violence and call upon the legislature to create a public process to replace it with a symbol that expresses the highest ideals for peace, justice, inclusion and harmony among all the people who share the Commonwealth today.

The Congregational Churches of the United Church of Christ have been at the heart of all Massachusetts towns and cities since they were first organized. We are seeking the help of these same churches to get their communities involved to “Change the Mass Flag.”

For more information on how your church can help in your local community, please reach out to Change the Mass Flagand thank you. The Pilgrim and Puritan forebears of our churches need to be remembered for what is far more honorable than what is symbolized by the raised sword. Please help us to stand up for those forebears and for the Indigenous Peoples who were already here, and whose tribal nations remain on these lands. Help us raise up the ideals Massachusetts should teach to our public school students when they study the state symbols in grade school and which we would display to the world at large: peace, justice, equality and harmonious relations for all the people who now call the Commonwealth their home.


Randy Calvo

Rev. Randy Calvo is pastor of The First Congregational Church of Hatfield, Mass.

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