A Central New York village has voted overwhelmingly in favor of keeping its seal, which appears to depict a white man choking a Native American.
Residents of Whitesboro voted 157 to 55 on Monday night to not change their current seal, which has been criticized as racist. It appears throughout the village on police cars, trucks, signs, highway equipment, letterheads and documents.
According to the village’s website, its insignia dates back to the early 1900s and shows a “friendly wrestling match” between the village’s founder Hugh White and a member of the Oneida Indian Nation.
“The wrestling match was an important event in the history of the settling of the Village of Whitesboro and helped foster good relations between White and the Indians,” the website says.
A notice of claim filed with the Village Board in 1977 said the seal depicted a “'white man choking an Indian' and said the seal demeans, disgraces and creates prejudice and distrust of Indian people,” the site noted.
“As a result, the seal was redesigned with Hugh White’s hands being placed on the Indian’s shoulders and not so close to his neck,” the site said.
Residents were reportedly presented with several drawings to choose from during Monday’s meeting, including settlers and Native Americans standing together as well as the old Erie Canal, which bordered the older part of the village.
“Whitesboro views this seal as a moment in time when good relations were fostered. It is a wrestling match, part of the history, and nothing more,” village clerk and historian Dana Nimey-Olney said, the Associated Press reported.
But an online petition created last summer garnered nationwide attention after it called for a change to the seal, reaching nearly 10,000 signatures.
“I want to express my disgust and disappointment in this image displayed on city police cars and letterhead. Many local nations, like the Oneida, Mohawks, Lenape, Shinnecock, Mahicans, and Onondaga, agree that the logo is very much disrespectful to Native American,” the change.org petition reads.
The petitioner, who describes himself as a “Lenape Indian and a citizen of both the Delaware Tribe of Indians and Cherokee Nation,” called on Whitesboro to redesign the crest, writing: “It is no longer appropriate to shroud oneself in the Confederate flat, or use Native Americans as mascots… Americans are standing up and speaking out against images and rhetoric that can be construed as hateful.
“It’s time to redesign the sign to something that truly reflects the friendship between native people and settlers.”
The vote was to gauge public interest and is not legally binding. Officials reportedly plan to discuss the results at a meeting Tuesday night.
(Photo Courtesy of Doug Kerr, Flickr)