The PJ Tatler

Should New York Town Take Down Its Indian-Wrestling Seal?

whitesboro

Dissent is gaining traction on social media against the longtime seal of a village on the road between Syracuse and Albany.

Whitesboro, N.Y., with a population under 4,000, was founded by Hugh White — who is immortalized on the village’s seal fighting with an Oneida chief.

According to the history page of Whitesboro’s website:

Most of the Oneida tribe of Indians had maintained their professions of friendship for the white man in an honorable manner. Judge White, as a frontier settler along the Sauquoit Creek, was required to exercise much diplomacy in dealing with his red neighbors. He soon acquired their good will and was fortunate to inspire them with very exalted ideas of his character. An incident that occurred between an Oneida Indian and Hugh White sealed a lasting friendship and confidence. An Oneida Indian of rather athletic form was one day present at the White’s house with several of his companions and at length for fun commenced wrestling. After many trials, the chief became conqueror and he came up to Hugh White and challanged him. White 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.

But the seal has come under scrutiny before:

In 1963, the Seal was re-designed by local artist, Gerald E. Pugh, to commemorate the Village’s Sesquicentennial. In an article of the Observer Dispatch, written by Joe Kelly in 1977, a notice of claim was filed with the Village Board saying the seal depicts a “white man choking an Indian” and said the seal demeans, disgraces and creates prejudice and distrust of Indian people. He asked the Village to stop displaying the seal. As a result of this, the seal was re-designed with Hugh White’s hands being placed on the Indian’s shoulders and not so close to his neck. The wrestling match was an important event in the history of the settling of the Village of Whitesboro and helped foster good relations between White and the Indians. The new version is displayed on Village trucks, highway equipment, letterheads and documents.

And now it’s under fresh scrutiny since Confederate flags started coming down: