Observer-Dispatch / AP

NY village to keep seal some call racist

Residents of Whitesboro, NY, vote to keep village seal, which appears to show white man choking Native American

Residents of a central New York village want to keep their logo that has been called racist and offensive because it appears to show a white man choking a Native American.

In a nonbinding ballot Monday night, residents voted 157-55 to not change their seal. The village board will decide later whether to proceed with a redesign.

Whitesboro's website says the emblem dates to the early 1900s and depicts a friendly wrestling match between village founder Hugh White and an Oneida Indian. It says White won the match and the lasting respect and goodwill of the Oneidas.

Regardless of the backstory, people tend to see the seal as depicting violence against Native Americans, Joel Barkin, a spokesman for the Oneida Indian Nation of central New York, said in July, when an online petition was started. He said that perception makes it an inappropriate symbol to represent a community.

The seal appears on village trucks, police cars, signs and documents. Controversy has waxed and waned over the years and came to a head last summer when an online petition was posted by someone from out of town who saw the logo and took offense.

The controversy echoes that of surrounding racially insensitive team names and mascots in sports, most notably the Washington Redskins. Many have been changed

Village clerk and historian Dana Nimey-Olney said residents were presented with several other drawings to choose from, including settlers and Indians standing together and the old Erie Canal.

The seal has been modified slightly over the years. After a notice of claim was filed in the 1970s calling the picture offensive, a new version was drawn with White's hands on the Indian's shoulders instead of on his neck, she said.

"Whitesboro views this seal as a moment in time when good relations were fostered," Nimey-Olney said. "It is a wrestling match, part of the history and nothing more."

The Associated Press

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