Week of December 17th-21st, 2018

New this week: Massachusetts State Flag

Two weeks ago, we highlighted a recent video available on our website, "Beaver Moon Gathering 2018." Hartman Deetz's talk at this event detailed the contemporary struggle of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe fighting for their land, and its historical context in the theft of Wampanoag children, language, and land for the past 400 years in a series of events which Deetz describes as amounting to genocide. Continuing in this vain, we'd like to describe how this video makes connections between the struggle of the Mashpee Wampanoag and the resolution to change the Massachusetts State Flag and Seal.

At the start of the video, historian David Detmold presents his research on the Massachusetts State Flag and Seal, which he conducted at the state archives to understand its symbolism: Does it honor Native Americans, as so many claim? Or is there a good reason for the objections to the flag?

Detmold found that the flag depicts a native American wearing the belt of Metacomet, the famed Wampanoag leader who was beheaded at the conclusion of King Philip's War, his head mounted on display in Plymouth for over two decades afterward. (This happened years Metacomet's brother Wamsutta was found dead suddenly, after Wamsutta refused to bow to the overseas crown, as Deetz informs us later in the video). After Metacomet's death, his wife and son were sold into slavery.

Above the depiction of the Native American wearing Metacomet's belt is a hand wielding the broadsword of Miles Standish. This combination of symbols speaks for themselves, but Detmold spells it out for us in more plain terms. He compares the flag of Massachusetts to the racist Confederate flag of Mississippi and says we must demand that Massachusetts "no longer symbolize White Supremacy for the rest of the nation."

Four towns in Franklin County, Detmold informs us, have already approved a resolution for the replacement of the Massachusetts State Flag and Seal.

In the keynote speech by Hartman Deetz following Detmold's presentation, Deetz stresses the importance of symbolism. He asks, knowing the genocidal acts toward the Wampanoag nation and the celebratory attitude toward these acts embodied in the flag, "What kind of people are we building? People who have compassion and treat each other as human beings? Or people who dehumanize one another, to gain as much as they can for themselves?"

The problems we are facing in the world today, from climate change to the fight for native sovereignty, Deetz suggests, require a people who can make decisions that are not based on greed, and by people who are willing to hold those in power accountable.

That concludes up our feature! Beaver Moon Gathering 2018 was co-sponsored by the Nolumbeka Project, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the New England Peace Pagoda. Catch more of our latest videos here!

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