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Central N.Y. village votes to keep logo criticized as racist

Village of Whitesboro's logo.

CBS New York via Whitesboro Facebook Page

WHITESBORO, N.Y. -- A village whose logo has been called racist and offensive because it appears to show a white man choking a Native American said it's considering changing it, but a vote on Monday night appears it might be kept after all.

Whitesboro's website says the emblem dates to the early 1900s and depicts a friendly wrestling match between village founder Hugh White and an Oneida Indian. It says White won the match and the lasting respect and goodwill of the Oneidas.

The seal appears on village trucks, police cars, signs and documents. Controversy has waxed and waned over the years and came to a head last summer when an online petition was posted by someone from out of town who saw the logo and took offense.

CBS Albany reported on Monday evening that the overwhelming majority voted to keep it as is. reports that of the 212 votes cast, 157 of them were in favor of retaining the current seal.

A non-binding vote was scheduled for Monday evening to let residents weigh in on keeping the logo or changing it. The village board will decide later whether to proceed with a redesign.

Village clerk and historian Dana Nimey-Olney said residents were presented several drawings to choose from, including settlers and Indians standing together and the old Erie Canal.

The seal has been modified slightly over the years. After a notice of claim was filed in the 1970s calling the picture offensive, a new version was drawn with White's hands on the Indian's shoulders instead of on his neck, Nimey-Olney said.

"Whitesboro views this seal as a moment in time when good relations were fostered," Nimey-Olney said. "It is a wrestling match, part of the history, and nothing more."

Regardless of the backstory, people tend to see the seal as depicting violence against Native Americans, Joel Barkin, a spokesman for the Oneida Indian Nation of central New York, said in July when the online petition was started. He said that perception makes it an inappropriate symbol to represent a community.