Joan Tavares Avant

The Massachusetts State Flag is Insulting

Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight
The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
24 Beacon Street
Boston Mass
November 11, 2019

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Flag is insulting, demoralizing and of the utmost disrespect to Indigenous people. Too many of our ancestors have died and left Mother Earth with broken hearts after they saw this flag’s depiction of a sword over Native American head left flying in the wind, on state cars, on various decals for sale, letters and television. We all have choked back tears from time to time and still do Its long overdue and time to change so the tears and heartaches can stop.
Accordingly, our youth and future generations should not have to endure this humiliation or cultural hurt. We are a proud race of Indigenous people who has helped others to survive when they came across the waters to live after 1620, yet still seeing the flag we feel chopped like onions in a frying pan.

John Peters Jr., Mashpee Wampanoag and Director of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs told legislators in 2017, “It is long past due in Massachusetts to consider our shared troubled history and be cognizant of the genocidal accuracy of the symbolism that the seal in part portrays.”
Currently, legislative efforts to establish a special commission changing the flag and seal is underway. Our hope is that changes will reflect true peace, justice and liberty for all people including indigenous citizens. If in fact, this portrayal of a Native American is meant to honor native Americans in a respectful way, our suggestion would be to get rid of the sword and motto, keep the Indian and write People of the First Light Wampanoag and we hope with our broken hearts that this process will begin on the very next Sunrise or As Soon As Possible (ASAP)!!!

Joan Tavares Avant, Mashpee Wampanoag, Elder- Deer Clan Mother
Gail Melix, Wampanoag & Quaker

My Prayer

Great Spirit, Creator, Dear Lord Jesus
Happy Wampanoag New Year Day.
We thank you for giving us the strength to bring us together today.
Without your daily blessings we ask, how can we continue as a people?
Give us the strength to understand the winds of tragedy.
Wrap your blessings around our children
As we look out the window from the Old Indian Church this day
Ancestors and family have held us together
And still do.
We carry their spirits with us.
We feel sad and cry sometimes. That’s k
We heal each other and pass it on.
This day we see the Sun
Many nights you bless us with Grandmother Moon.
Sending light to the “People of the First Light” Mashpee Wampanoag’s
Are blessings of life energy. We will not forget.
Many of us are now in mourning, with light we pray together.
Many of us are ill, with light we stay together.
Today we serve with honor, caring and recognition of our Wampanoag New Year Day.

written May 3, 2014
Read at our Old Indian Church
Native American Thanksgiving
Saturday, November 23, 2019-11am

photo of Joan Tavares Avant

Joan Tavares Avant (Mashpee Wampanoag) is an educator who served for over two decades as Director of Indian Education for the Mashpee Public School District. She writes frequent columns for The Mashpee Enterprise and Cape Cod Times, and has published books of her own including People of the First Light.