Cambridge, MA– The United States of America serves as a symbol of freedom for people all across the world. Families seeking better futures have come here for generations. We've been at the center of the technological revolution. Our freedom of speech is unparalleled. However, there are parts of our history that aren't so bright.
Recently, the argument over whether to remove confederate symbols from government buildings in the South has been a heated debate topic. Some argue that those confederate symbols are offensive and cause great harm to people whose ancestors were oppressed by the Confederacy. Others argue that those symbols are part of our collective history, and it isn't our place to be rewriting history.
Obviously, here in Boston, we don't have many relics of the confederate era. But we have a complicated history with regards to Native Americans. Which is why some Cambridge leaders are considering removing the Massachusetts state flag from city hall.
In order to understand their reasoning, we have to understand context. Let's start from the very basics: Massachusetts. Ever wonder where that name comes from? In fact, the indigenous people who used to live in this area before Europeans arrived were the Masachusett tribe. Masachusett roughly translates to "near the great hill," which refers to the Blue Hills just outside of Boston.
Our state clearly has strong ties to the Native Americans who lived here, but what is offensive about the flag? According to WGBH, the indigenous person in the middle is not what makes it offensive: "The most prominent symbol on the flag is a blue shield with a figure standing in the middle. That figure is the Wampanoag leader Ousamequin, also known as Massasoit Sachem."
They spoke to Hartman Deetz, a living member of the Wompanoag Nation. His explanation is that what looms over Ousamequin is what causes offense. The sword belongs to American hero Myles Standish. "Deetz said Standish committed, 'one of the first recorded egregious murders of native people by colonists in north America…they document a murder of a man, Pecksuot, just south of Boston. Myles Standish … lured him into a house under the premise that they were going to conduct trade. And when he got into the house, they barred the doors, and he stabbed [Pecksuot] through the heart with his own knife.' "
It's specifically the sword near the top of the flag that causes this debate. Thus, the Cambridge city council voted to support state legislation that would create a commission to look into removing certain images from the seal.
In support of the proposal to remove the state flag from the City Council chambers, Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern said, "We really need to start dismantling all of this in our community and become a more inclusive community."