This evening, denizens of the New York village by the name of Whitesboro will vote whether to replace its current seal with a new one, because the current one shows a caricature of a white dude strangling an offensive caricature of a Native American, complete with feather and crimson skin. Gosh, what to do!
Village clerk Dana Nimey-Olney told the Huffington Post that “There’s been this nationwide controversy... it was time to put it to the residents. There’s no better way to be a democracy than that.”
But it was put to the residents in 2009 and they voted to keep it, with then-Mayor Richard Pugh defending the image by saying “it takes a little explaining” and that the image was “friendly.” In July, Mayor Patrick O’Connor told the Village Voice that “you have to take all the facts into consideration. And if people take the time to do that and they reach out to us, or they do the research themselves, it’s actually a very accurate depiction of friendly wrestling matches that took place back in those days.”
Girl. I took the time and I did that.
The origin story of Whitesboro is that it was settled by Hugh White in 1788 by himself and “two hundred white inhabitants.” According to the village of Whitesboro’s homepage, which also looks like it was settled in 1788, Hugh White (a.k.a. U White)...
lived among the Indians as their friend and the Village Seal depicts a friendly wrestling match that helped foster good relations between White and the Indians. In the publication of the book commemorating the Whitesboro Sesquicentennial 1813-1963, complied by the First Historical Club of Whitesboro, is the Origin of the Village Seal.
And also that White (emphasis ours)...
dared not risk being brow beaten by an Indian nor did he want to be called a coward. In early manhood, he had been a wrestler, but of late felt he was out of practice. He felt conscious of personal strength and he concluded that even should he be thrown, that would be the lesser of two evils in the eyes of the Oneida Indians than to acquire the reputation of cowardice by declining. He accepted the challenge, took hold of the Indian and by a fortunate trip, succeeded almost instantly in throwing him. As he saw him falling, in order to prevent another challenge, he fell upon the Indian for an instant and it was some moments before he could rise. When the Indian finally rose, he shrugged his shoulders and was said to have muttered “UGH”, you good fellow too much”. Hugh White became a hero in the eyes of the Oneida Indians. This incident made more manifest the respect of the Indian for White. In all ways, White dealt fairly with the Oneida tribe and gained their confidence, which brought about good-will.
Ugh, you good fellow, dis tew much! Gosh. Jezebel could not find immediate proof that wrestling was or is a popular tradition within Oneida culture, but we have reached out to the Oneida Nation and are awaiting comment. (Judging by the official Facebook page of the Oneida Nation, though, Zumba seems to be pretty popular at present, which, same.)
The Whitesboro seal was first designed sometime in the early 1920s, a lovely era in which white people were incredibly enlightened regarding Native relations! Just kidding, some racist states actually started sterilizing Natives in those years, and simultaneously, that decade was when non-Natives began otherizing and exoticizing Natives in a time-honored tradition that would continue to this very second, where someone somewhere in the world is probably wearing a headdress and dancing to rave music. That said, the current incarnation of the seal was a redesign drafted in 1963, so the village had 40 years to learn and did not.
After the American Indian Movement signified a unified political awareness among Native Americans, the image began to be challenged; it was first criticized and demanded removal in 1977, noting it was “demeaning” and “prejudiced.” As a result, the white man’s hands were removed from the Native’s neck to his shoulders, which still looks like he’s being choked. But hey, it’s all just a fun game of Oneida wrestling, right? Fuck yeaahh!
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