Of­fi­cial seal changed

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Front Page -

WHITESBORO » More than 200 years af­ter lo­cal lore says a set­tler named Hugh White bested an Oneida In­dian in a friendly wrestling match, he’s still grap­pling with his op­po­nent — at least on an up­state New York vil­lage’s newly re­vised of­fi­cial seal.

Whitesboro found it­self mak­ing na­tional news in early 2016 when it held a pub­lic vote on whether to change the vil­lage seal, which de­picted a white man best­ing a Na­tive Amer­i­can in a hand-to-hand strug­gle. Some con­sid­ered the im­age racist and in­sen­si­tive, and an on­line pe­ti­tion to get the seal changed led to the non-bind­ing vote, which ended with 157 res­i­dents vot­ing to leave the seal alone, out of 212 votes cast.

But af­ter the vote, vil­lage of­fi­cials said they would change the seal, which ap­peared to show white man chok­ing his In­dian op­po­nent. The newly re­leased seal, de­signed by a stu­dent at an art school in nearby Utica, fea­tures bet­ter graph­ics but still de­picts a white­man— vil­lage founder White — go­ing head-to-head in a wrestling stance with an Oneida, al­beit one who’s cloth­ing and head­dress are more his­tor­i­cally cor­rect than the bare-chested, buck­skin breeches-wear­ing In­dian in the old seal.

“We didn’t have a prob­lem with the wrestling match” theme re­main­ing in the new seal, Dana Nimey-Ol­ney, clerk and regis­trar for the vil­lage, said Wed­nes­day.

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal his­to­ri­ans, in the late 1700s

White set­tled the vil­lage that would bear his name and es­tab­lished good re­la­tions with the lo­cal Oneida tribe. When one of the In­di­ans chal­lenged him to a friendly wrestling match, White threw and pinned his op­po­nent, ac­cord­ing to the vil­lage’s web­site.

“It was now they be­came friendly,” Nimey-Ol­ney said. “They wanted each other’s re­spect through things like this wrestling match.”

The new seal has been placed on vil­lage ve­hi­cles, signs and build­ings.

The Jan­uary 2016 vote to keep the tra­di­tional seal caught the at­ten­tion of Com­edy Cen­tral’s “The Daily Show,” which mocked the vote’s out­come in a seg­ment on the con­tro­versy. Other me­dia out­lets cov­ered the is­sue, bring­ing na­tional at­ten­tion to the vil­lage of 3,600 that’s lo­cated 80 miles (129 kilo­me­ters) north­west of Al­bany.

It wasn’t the first time some­one sought to change the seal. Ac­cord­ing to theOb­server-Dispatch, a news­pa­per in nearby Utica, the vil­lage was sued over the seal by a Na­tive Amer­i­can group in 1977. The vil­lage al­tered the seal slightly, but kept the wrestling im­age in­tact.

Vil­lage of­fi­cials said last year that they would work with the Oneida In­dian Na­tion to come up with a new de­sign for the seal. Joel Barkin, a spokesman for the Onei­das, said na­tion of­fi­cials had no com­ment on the new seal.


This photo shows the old seal, left, and the new ren­der­ing of the seal of the vil­lage of Whitesboro, N.Y.

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