A Newton city working group has concluded its time to change the city seal, which now shows British missionary John Eliot lecturing the local Native Americans in the 1600s on why they should convert to Christianity.
Mayor Ruthanne Fuller says she will ask the City Council to formally approve the start of work to change the seal, which would include finding a graphic designer to replace the current scene with something that is not racist and relevant to the modern city and create a seal that would work well on everything from documents and vehicles to trash cans.
Natick is also considering changing its town seal, which also has a representation of Eliot lecturing Native Americans.
In its report, the Newton working group explained its conclusion that it's time to retire the current 1865 seal.
Pictured is a Colonial authority telling a people that their ways of living and worshiping are wrong. Certainly, most Newtonians would not want a symbol of cultural arrogance to represent their City made up of many faiths and cultures.
This scene lacks historical context and accuracy, glorifies the erasure of Indigenous culture, and is disrespectful to the Massachusett Tribe, on whose land we live
The committee continues:
In the period after the Civil War, images of Native Americans were popular as symbols of American identity separate from Europe. Art and fiction portrayed Indians as "noble savages," a "vanishing" people to be remembered with reverence, rather than as contemporaries with claims to land and rights of their own. Newtonians’ choice of a scene from 200 years earlier may also have reflected their pride in the city’s long history.
The working group also concluded that the word "Nonantum" should be removed, because that referred only to a small village of "praying Indians" that Eliot started and which only lasted five years until the residents went up river to found Natick. And that village is not even in the same place as the current neighborhood of Nonantum. A better choice might be "Quinobequin" (the Massachusetts name for the Charles), or "Cohannet," what the area was called before 1864, according to the working group. Also, all the founding dates should be changed to read "Founded in 1630 on Massachusett land."
The working group was meh on whether or not to replace "Liberty and Union," which might have been more relevant in the Civil War than it is today.