Massachusetts commission studies design of new state seal and motto

Members of a Massachusetts commission formed to review the redesign of the state’s seal and motto offer preliminary proposals.

The current state seal, in place since 1898, depicts a severed arm holding a sword above a native holding a bow and arrow. “Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem” is the state motto, a Latin expression meaning: “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty”.

At a meeting on Thursday, members of a commission subcommittee agreed that local plants and animals could be stronger visual images than humans in a new design.

Commission co-chair Brian Weeden spoke about the possibility of using a pin on the seal. Weedon, who chairs the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, explained how the tribe gave pine needles to those who died as a last offering from the natural world.

“We talk about the story of how because the pines loved each other they received the gift of eternal life and that is why they are the only tree you see that has life throughout the four seasons,” Weeden said.

Other members agreed that it would be beneficial to include a list of plant and animal images not to use as they may be offensive to native tribes.

When the idea of ​​possibly using cranberries was introduced, Melissa Ferretti, president of the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe, described her tribe’s history.

“I know the cranberry is really important. It’s been very important to the people of Wampanoag, I think. But the Herring Pond Tribe in particular, we have a kind of love-hate relationship with the cranberry, because a lot of our lands were destroyed and taken because of the cranberry,” Ferretti said. “So that’s something that might look very different to us, as opposed to maybe some communities that didn’t have that.”

Members of the sub-committee will present their suggestions for discussion next week to the full Special Commission on the Official Seal and Motto of the Commonwealth.

This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media.

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