Official Government Seals and Their Painful Mythologies

We have been reviewing art in state capitols and the hidden stories of domination and conquest, and one of the interesting sub-genres are the artwork and mottoes on state seals.

A government seal is an important thing. It is an emblem, figure or symbol that tells the reader that this document is official and authentic. It says a lot about how a people (well, at least people in power) see themselves.

Battle Creek 1I was inspired to do a recap of official government seals when I saw a news item on the City Seal of Battle Creek, a Michigan town of about 52,000. From what I remember watching television as a kid, Battle Creek is where Kellogg’s Corn Flakes come from. The City motto doesn’t disappoint, it reads: “Breakfast Capital of the World.” The major images are a traditional Native man (with feathers), a surveyor mapping the land, a sail boat and a city skyline.

WMUK, Western Michigan University’s radio station, just ran an item on its webpage headlined: “Uncovering the Real Battle Creek City Seal.” It said the city seal you see above was adopted in 1981 for promotional purposes, something to use for things like city vehicles and public flyers. But it was never intended to replace the original seal — which shows a white surveyor clubbing a Native American. That’s still the official seal used for official business. But it seems city officials are embarrassed by it, because you can’t find the image on the city’s webpage. (Click here of the official seal, shown on a stained glass window.) Continue reading