Redesigned New Mashpee MA City Seal Reflects Wampanoag Legacy


MASHPEE – For Brian Weeden, President of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council, the redesigned seal of the town of Mashpee reflects the makeup of the community of Mashpee.

“I feel like the design we came up with as a group really represents who we are as a tribal community, but also elevates the plant and animal environment,” he said of the seal. of the proposed city. “I think everyone can be proud that this symbol and logo are moving forward.”

In the seal’s limited space, the 4.8-mile-long Mashpee River takes center stage at sunrise, both representing a new day and recognizing the Wampanoag Tribe as “the people of the first light.” “. An eagle flies near the sun representing Mashpee’s connection to its creator, with “Welcome to Mashpee” written in Wopanâak, the Wampanoag language.

If approved at the Mashpee town meeting in May 2022, the new design would replace one that depicts the image of a Native American standing peacefully, with an arm and sword above his head and with a Latin inscription translated as: “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under freedom.”

How the current Mashpee seal was born

The seal, along with its Latin motto, was adopted in 1775 by the Provincial Congress, Weeden said. At the time, each incorporated municipality within the Commonwealth was responsible for submitting its own seal to the legislature. The Town of Mashpee did not submit one, resulting in its current seal, which is an older replica of the state seal and appears on the Massachusetts state coat of arms.

Often seen as a symbol reflecting Indigenous genocide, Weeden filed an article about a town hall assembly in 2019, asking the town of Mashpee to discuss changing the town’s seal. After collecting the required number of signatures, the article was passed unanimously, and the board established an ad hoc advisory committee, which included Weeden as the tribal representative; Evan Lehrer, Managing Director; David Weeden, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Selectmen; Selectman Theresa Cook; Kathleen Mahoney, director of the Mashpee Library; Patricia DeBoer, Superintendent of Mashpee Public Schools; and Joan Avant-Tavares, tribal chief, elder and historian. The advisory committee also began working with Bradford Schiff, president of Pierce-Coté, a communications firm.

Current Seal of the Town of Mashpee

There are “clearly issues” with the city’s current seal, Schiff said in an interview. It “does not reflect the history and culture of Mashpee.”

That’s why, after reviewing Brian Weeden’s initial petition in March 2021, the committee launched a 30-day investigation of Mashpee residents to provide input and help provide advice to the committee on updating the seal design.

New seal to reflect Mashpee Wampanoag, environment

“The survey results were very consistent with what we predicted and showed that residents wanted the seal to be built in the tradition of the Wampanoag tribe,” said Schiff. “Mashpee has been the homeland of the tribe for thousands of years and people wanted to put a lot of weight behind his link with the natural environment, natural resources and water and wildlife in particular.

For three months, the group brainstormed to create a design that could “span decades and literally hundreds of years.”

“We wanted to create something timeless that could represent the town of Mashpee for generations,” said Schiff. “A lasting legacy. “

Mashpee is not the only city in Cape Town to consider changing its seal.

Yarmouth is currently debating its city seal, which represents a Native American dressed in a war bonnet standing near a teepee. Through research and work with the Seals Committee, Lehrer said the illustration is “far from accurate” and that the indigenous people of this region “did not live in tepees” and had a different traditional way. to dress.

“Getting rooted in a sense of belonging is important and a seal can do that – can be a part of it,” he said. “The cultural irrelevance of some of the seals (in the Commonwealth) shows the disconnect with real history. Yarmouth has its official seal with an illustration or characterization of a past story that doesn’t even exist in reality. “

“I see it as a correction of history”:Seal of the town of Yarmouth under consideration

Review the Commonwealth Seal and Motto

On November 22, Brian Weeden also joined the 19-member State Seal Commission as co-chair for the Indigenous community, and will work with representatives from the State Commission on Indian Affairs, Massachusetts Historical Commission. and the Mass Cultural Council, among others. other agencies. The commission is currently working on a June deadline for review the Commonwealth seal and motto, and Brian Weeden said he hoped his experience with the Seal of Mashpee could help him make state-level recommendations.

“I think the town of Mashpee can lead the Commonwealth in the kind of process for the state seal commission,” he said. “But we are only at the beginning.”

When it comes to the initial concepts and design elements of the Mashpee Seal, David Weeden said it’s not always easy to agree on what should be highlighted.

“There were historical elements on the seal that people in the community were attached to, so some of us wanted to change the elements to a minimum,” said David Weeden. “But once the information from the investigation came in and we were able to get public comment, we all felt good about what we were up to.”

Regardless of the disagreements, Weeden said the committee was always “responsible and respectful.”

“The reality is that when you are working with a small image, and it is going to be scaled down to a small scale, it is difficult to agree on what to include and we cannot have a lot of details. “, did he declare. “I think he now has enough elements to capture what’s important to the tribe as the Wampanoag people and this place as the Mashpee.”


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