The flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts displays, the state coat of arms on a white field. The shield is meant to depict an Algonquian Native American with bow and arrow; the arrow is pointed downward, signifying peace. However, the face of the figure is modeled on a photo of Ojibwe chief Thomas Little Shell. A white star with five points appears next to the figure’s head, signifying Massachusetts as a U.S. state. A blue ribbon surrounds the shield, bearing the state motto Ense Petit Placidam, Sub Libertate Quietem (“By the Sword We Seek Peace, But Peace Only Under Liberty”).
Above the shield is the state military crest: the bent arm holding a broadsword aloft. The sword has its blade up, to remind that it was through the American Revolution that liberty was won. The sword itself is a copy of one belonging to Myles Standish and signifies the philosophy that one would rather lose their right arm than live under tyranny.
The state flag was officially adopted in 1907, but had been used unofficially since the American Revolutionary War as the ensign of the Massachusetts State Navy. In 1971, the earlier pine tree was replaced by the current design.