Whitesboro Mayor Patrick O’Connor Issues Statement on Village Seal
The Village of Whitesboro continues to make national headlines this week following Monday's informal vote by residents to keep the seal of the village the same.
Some say the seal, which depicts a wrestling match between village founder Hugh White and an Oneida Indian, is racist.
Following the vote and the subsequent headlines - which were stronger than those which appeared prior to the vote - Whitesboro Mayor Patrick O'Connor has responded.
The full text of his statement reads as follows:
"The Village of Whitesboro seal has been called into question for decades, over the years, minor adjustments have been made, but the theme remains that of a “friendly wrestling match” between Whitesboro’s Founder, Hugh White and a Native American.
This friendly wrestling match, which was a normal occurrence during that time period, is what helped foster good relations between the settlers and Native Americans. It is documented that the two shook hands after the wrestling match took place. While there were various depictions of the seal over the years, the original seal dates back to the late 1800’s.
Of course, all of the media attention our village seal is getting has caused us to do extensive research into the accuracy and roots of the village seal. While the friendly wrestling match was being used as our village seal since the late 1800’s, this particular depiction was a drawing from a parade float during the Village’s Sesquicentennial in 1963. Soon after the Sesquicentennial, the drawing began appearing as the official village seal.
While our village board has changed regularly over the years, comments surrounding the seal seem to come up every 5-10 years. With the development of social media, it’s very easy to take a seal from a small town of 3,400 residents, and make it national news. Months ago, the village board was contacted by both the Daily Show and the Nightly Show from Comedy Central. Realizing that it was inevitable that our community was going to be the focus of such a controversial issue, the village board felt that it would be more beneficial to participate in the process as opposed to running the risk of having anything and everything be said about our village, its residents, and its history in a one-sided, comedic barrage. As a result of their participation, the Daily Show offered the assistance of its extremely skilled graphics department to create the viable choices that were to be voted on as alternatives to our current seal.
While some of the seals were clearly created for comedic relief, there were several exceptional and viable choices for the residents to choose from, including a drawing from a local resident, which was the intention of the informal vote from the very start. This vote was not legally binding as it was just an opinion poll to help us understand how our residents feel.
We are in the process of forming a committee to look at options for modifying the current seal to create a more modern, professional, and culturally acceptable option that will reflect the historic relationship between our founder Hugh White and the Oneida American Indian he befriended. We expect this to be a lengthy process, but ultimately it may include an updated depiction of the friendly wrestling match, that appears less offensive, while still representing the original encounters of our settler with Native Americans.
The history of the Village of Whitesboro Seal, as written by historians:
The seal goes back to the late 1800s and depicts a pivotal moment in the founding of our town and village. When Hugh White came here in 1784, the area was populated by Native Americans. One of their favorite pastimes was wrestling. The local chief challenged our founder, Hugh White, to a wrestling match which Mr. White dare not refuse and look weak so they wrestled. By Chance Hugh White managed to win the match and gain much respect from the chief and the whole of the Native Americans and thus they were able to live quite peacefully together for many, many years. Whitesboro views this seal as a moment in time when peace was made."
No exact date has yet been released for the committee's work to begin, although the groundwork has certainly been laid for much behind the scenes work already.