An upstate New York village has decided to change its official logo Friday weeks after residents decided to keep it despite critics calling it a racist emblem.
Whitesboro’s logo appears to show a white man choking a Native American. A non-binding vote earlier this month saw residents vote 157-55 to not change the current seal. A timetable for a new seal has not been determined.
Village officials and members of the nearby Oneida Indian Nation will meet to discuss the creation of a new image, Mayor Patrick O’Connor said.
O’Connor said the long-time village seal shows a historic wrestling match between village founder Hugh White and an Oneida Indian that figured into good relations between early settlers and the Oneidas. The crudely drawn seal has drawn media attention periodically over the years, most recently in July when someone posted an online petition saying its offensive and should be removed from village trucks, police cars and signs.
The seal appears on village police cars, signs and stationery. Controversy has waxed and waned over the years and came to a head last summer, when an online petition was posted by someone who saw the logo and took offense.
Ben Miller, of Manhasset, N.Y., started a petition on Change.org last summer to redesign the sign.
"Recently, I noticed a disturbing image emblazoned on the city seal of a town in my home state," Miller writes on the petition, which now has nearly 10,000 signatures.
"The city of Whitesboro, NY proudly displays what looks like a European settler choking, or violently handling, a Native American man. According to legend, the seal represents a famous wrestling match between the city’s founder, Hugh White, and a Native American man," Miller writes.
"White won the match, thereby gaining the local Indians’ respect. But to me, this seal is anything but respectful to my people and my heritage," said Miller, who also wrote that he is a Lenape Indian and a citizen of both the Delaware Tribe of Indians and Cherokee Nation.
Miller's sentiments have been echoed by residents from around the state.
"I'm signing because I am a Mohawk Native American from New York State and I am deeply offended by the seal depicting the slaughter of my people," wrote one supporter.
Recently, an episode of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” ridiculed the logo. The show even submitted alternate logos for Whitesboro to consider, including a white man and an Indian apparently dancing and a white settler and an Indian beating up a British soldier.
O'Connor said the new seal will preserve history with a more modern and culturally appropriate drawing.
"This is but one of many important examples of communities taking welcome steps to be inclusive and promote our region's commitment to civility," said Oneida Nation CEO Ray Halbritter in a statement.
The logo has been the subject of debate for more than 55 years. According to a 2009 article in the Utica Observer-Dispatch, Whitesboro was sued over the seal by a Native American group in the 1970s.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.