Mayor: Our Seal Just Shows Some 'Friendly Wrestling'

New York town's depiction of white settler, Native American decried as racist
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2015 2:47 PM CDT
Mayor: Our Seal Just Shows Some 'Friendly Wrestling'
Just a little friendly wrestling, they say.   (Village of Whitesboro)

Some are calling the official seal of Whitesboro a ridiculously racist depiction that could've come straight from the set of Parks and Recreation, but the mayor of the upstate New York town doesn't think anything's amiss with showing a white settler grappling with a Native American. "I am aware that people are upset about it," Patrick O’Connor tells the Village Voice. But "it's actually a very accurate depiction of friendly wrestling matches that took place back in those days," he says. O'Connor is regurgitating what's spelled out on the village's website: that the white man shown is Whitesboro founder Hugh White, who "lived among the Indians as their friend" after establishing the village in the late 1700s. The origin story similarly notes that "the Village Seal depicts a friendly wrestling match that helped foster good relations between White" and what the site calls "his red neighbors."

The seal has been a controversial symbol for some time: In the 1970s, Whitesboro was sued by a Native American group over the image, per a 2009 article in the Utica Observer-Dispatch, so the village made the concession of moving White's hands from the Native America's neck down to his shoulders. But not everyone is satisfied with the current incarnation, either. "The first thought that anyone has of this image is, 'There's some white guy killing an Indian, strangling an Indian'?" says the director of a Brooklyn Native American arts group, per the Voice. "It's utterly ridiculous that a town would have pride in a symbol like that in this day and age." Meanwhile, a Native American has started a petition to get the town to redesign the logo. (The Washington Redskins lost a big court battle today over the team name.)

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