Shown at right is the first official seal of the Massachusetts Colony. It has a Native American dressed in a grass skirt with the words coming from his mouth: “Come Over and Help Us.”
First, the Wampanoag native to the area did not wear grass skirts. Second, does anyone believe that any of them ever said: “Come Over and Help Us”? In fact, the colonists soon cheated the Wampanoag out of their land and banned their language.
And so we continue with our tour of art in the various state capitols and statehouses to see how they depict Native Americans and early U.S. history. (Information on capitol art in Minnesota and other states is collected on 0ur Capitol Art page.)
Today’s tour is the Statehouse of the Massachusetts Commonwealth. This stained glass version of the first Colonial Seal appears prominently atop a large window over a main Statehouse staircase. The window includes all the iterations of the Massachusetts seal.
It might seem historically quaint to some, but this original seal reflects a narrative of the helpless Indian. The words are not legible to passersby even if they stopped and squinted. Still, is this an image that you would show with pride in your most important state building, especially with no counter narrative or sign of regret?