Upstate New Yorkers will hit the polls Monday to vote on whether to change an off-putting village seal that depicts a white settler strangling a Native American.
Whitesboro officials kicked off the New Year by sending out postcards to the village’s 3,000 residents, alerting them of the vote.
“There’s been this nationwide controversy” over the logo, and “it was time to put it to the residents,” Whitesboro Village clerk Dana Nimey-Olney said in a phone interview on Friday.
“There’s no better way to be a democracy than that,” she said.
Surrounded by the town’s name, the round logo at the heart of the controversy shows two men grappling against a grassy horizon. The man with the upper hand, so to speak, has chalk-white skin and flowing hair. His mouth is clenched in determination, and he is wearing tan garments.
The dark-skinned man in his grasp is not wearing a shirt but has a feather in his close-cropped hair. His mouth is open in anguish, and he seems ready to collapse.
Nimey-Olney noted that the seal has changed over the years so that the settler’s hands are on the Indian’s shoulders and not his neck.
“But for some reason people still want to say it looks like the Native American is being choked even though the hands are on the shoulders not the neck,” Nimey-Olney said.
Whitesboro is a village within Whitestown, and its residents fit the name. City-data.com says 94.3 percent of the village’s 3,735 residents in 2013 were “white alone,” with just five Native American residents.
The Oneida County community took its name not from the color of residents, though, but from Hugh White, an early European settler who sat down a permanent site in 1784.
Voters will have eight to 10 options to choose from if they decide to change the seal. One of those options depicts the Erie Canal, which plays a big factor in the village’s history.
Hard to say how the vote will go, but Nimey-Olney said village residents seem to stand behind the image.
“I’ve gotten a few phone calls from residents who say they don’t want it to change,” she said.
The issue became fodder on Twitter on Friday. “Yes, that’s a good idea,” wrote one user. “No it isn’t. It’s a friendly image, not a violent one,” wrote another.
This story was originally published by Courthouse News.