(CN) – Just over a week after residents voted to keep a village seal that shows a Native American being strangled, officials in Whitesboro, N.Y., said they will work on a new symbol.
Appearing on vehicles and signs throughout the central New York village of Whitesboro, the emblem has been the topic of debate among the town’s nearly 4,000 residents for years because it shows white settler Hugh White apparently strangling an Oneida Indian.
Defenders have described the image as a depiction as a “spirited” wrestling match between the two as a sign of respect.
A village official said the logo has been modified over the years, but that the settler’s hands are clearly on the Native American’s shoulders, no longer around his neck.
Village Mayor Patrick O’Connor sought to put the issue to bed by letting voters decide the seal’s fate. Suggestions to change the image have included an image of hockey star and native son Robert Esche or the Erie Canal, an integral part of the village’s history.
But in a nonbinding vote earlier this month, residents cast 212 ballots in favor of keeping the logo, versus the 157 who wanted a change.
The mayor says descendants of the pioneer’s family have since contacted him and voiced support for a logo redesign after the international backlash.
“In speaking with a lot of the residents that voted to keep the seal, I think they were surprised at the negative attention that Whitesboro was receiving as a result of the vote,” O’Conner said, according to a statement from the village. “They wanted to preserve history at the time of the vote, but also want to ensure that village is seen as the inclusive place that it is.”
O’Connor called the redesign “an exciting opportunity for our community to create its own piece of history that they can be proud of for the next 100 plus years to come. “
“We are extremely fortunate to have members of the White Family and the Oneidas involved in this process,” the mayor added.
In addition to the White family, the redesign will receive input from the Oneida Indian Nation.
“As we’ve always said, we are happy to work with anyone who wants to make sure the symbols they are promoting are honoring and respecting all people. We applaud the village leaders’ willingness to evaluate their own symbols and how to make sure they accurately reflect their community’s core values,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative and Oneida Nation CEO Ray Halbritter said, according to the village’s statement. “This is but one of many important examples of communities taking welcome steps to be inclusive and promote our region’s commitment to civility.
Halbritter said the initiative is testament to American exceptionalism.
“We are an increasingly diverse county that is always working to make sure the messages being promoted by our political, cultural and government institutions reflect a respect for all heritages,” he said.
Whitesboro is so named not because it’s 94.3 percent white, but because the land once owned by the Oneida nation, near what is now Utica, N.Y., was settled in 1784 by Hugh White.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only five Native Americans are registered as living there.
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