Massachusetts' Senate unanimously approved legislation Tuesday creating a special commission to review the state motto, flag and seal, which includes a controversial depiction of a Native American man.
The seal depicts a Native American man, a colonist's arm brandishing a sword, and a Latin phrase that reads, in part, "By the sword we seek peace."
The bill still needs House approval, but Native American groups praised the vote.
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"A white hand holding a colonial sword over the head of a Native person is a terrible and racist symbol that has no place representing our state," North American Indian Center of Boston, the United American Indians of New England, and other groups said in a joint statement.
They also called on lawmakers to take action on two other proposals ahead of their summer recess: a bill banning public schools from using Indian mascots and another strengthening protections for Indian burial sites and sacred objects.
The Senate's state seal bill creates a commission to investigate features of the official seal and motto that "may be unwittingly harmful" or misunderstood. It would also make recommendations for a new seal design or motto.
Members of the commission would include Massachusetts tribe members as well as representatives for the state commission on Indian affairs, the state historical commission and the state cultural council, among other agencies.
The commission would be charged with submitting its report to lawmakers by October 2021.