Image courtesy
Residents of Whitesboro, New York, say their city's seal of a white man subduing a Native American is of the pair wrestling.

Manning: Open Letter to the Village of Whitesboro, New York

Sarah Sunshine Manning

Dear Residents of Whitesboro, New York:

Over the past several months, the official seal of Whitesboro has been under growing scrutiny for the controversial portrayal of a white man subduing an “Indian” man — an image in which many residents of Whitesboro have defended as an accurate historical portrayal of a friendly wrestling match between the village founder, Hugh White, and an Oneida Indian. 

Considering that changing the seal will be up for vote in Whitesboro on Monday and also considering that many residents of Whitesboro continue to defend the seal, I wanted to offer you all an indigenous perspective of the controversy, my perspective, as a Native American woman, mother, educator, and citizen of this country. 

But first, something that immediately comes to mind is this idea of a makeover show, like, TLC’s “What Not to Wear,” or the Discovery Channel’s “Ambush Makeover.” We all love a good transformation, right? What viewers of these makeover shows have, is the privilege of seeing a drastic transformation, as appearances go from “blah” to beautiful, when an unsuspecting person is plucked from off the street, and confronted with a surprise makeover. Men and women alike come in with mullets and mom-jeans, or quirky get-ups that make heads turn in weird amazement.

As viewers, we relish in observing this unique opportunity to create a look and a persona that is fresh and new, and much more flattering. Yet, often times the person being faced with such an exciting opportunity is fearful, sometimes terrified to let go of the familiar. They cling to their outdated and tacky styles, because let’s face it, humans are creatures of habit, and those folks with mullets and mom-jeans, they are comfortable, and sometimes, that is all they’ve ever known.  

Some of these folks even give tearful explanations as to why they cling to the styles they do. For them, it is just so hard to let go, even to let go of styles that do not flatter them the slightest.  Sometimes, the ambush itself makes them feel defensive and embarrassed.

I hope you’re following, dear residents of Whitesboro, because, well … it’s time for a makeover — your makeover.

We’re clearly not talking mom-jeans or mullets, here, but your outdated and inappropriate town seal, which is not only unbecoming of a progressive and humanitarian America, but according to a growing body of academic studies, portrayals such as this cause psychological harm to Native American youth. And many of us can agree, the look really doesn’t flatter your figure.

To be clear, as an educator of the social sciences and history, I do acknowledge the possible validity of not only the historical accounts that this image does in fact highlight a friendly wrestling match that may have occurred, but also, I do acknowledge the cultural practice among the Oneida who did traditionally engage in friendly wrestling matches. I get it. There is a historical context.  But that’s beside the point. There is also a history of slavery in America, but glorifying that on a town seal would never be deemed appropriate, no matter how historically accurate. 

Yet all context aside, and without a thorough explanation, that seal, well, it looks racist. At first glance, this is what Whitesboro, New York, looks like: a white supremacist town. For one, your name is, Whitesboro, after all. And secondly, a white man is subduing an Indian, the original occupant of this land that was ultimately, near annihilated. 

I know, I know. White is the last name of founder. But the combination of all of the different elements on the seal, together, evoke a soup of emotions among outsiders looking in, conjuring up discomfort, defensiveness, and even pain. Images matter, and your image is harmful.

Considering that Native Americans went from being 100-percent of the population pre-contact, to roughly 1-percent of the U.S. population today, your historical seal of a white man subduing an Indian highlights the reality of indigenous genocide, while twisting the knife of domination and colonization into the fresh wounds of the indigenous population still living today. 

And friendly historical context or not, it definitely did not end up friendly.  Make no mistake about it. According to, in 2013 Whitesboro was made up of 94.3-percent white residents, with only five Native American residents out of 3,700. So not only does your seal evoke uncomfortable emotions without context, but it glosses over reality- indigenous people suffered genocide, and this genocide was no accident. 

We get it — your ancestors, white settlers, subjugated us, killed us, subdued us with conniving wit, and legalized land theft with the Doctrine of Discovery.  White Americans dominate American systems and American institutions today.  Native Americans, on the other hand, we suffer from poverty, deep psychological wounds, declining mental health, broken family structures, addictions, and youth suicide. 

You did win the theoretical and metaphorical wrestling match for our lands, and our fate, was genocide.  Please stop glorifying it with your image.  Unintentional or not, this is the sort of emotion your seal evokes.  Seeing this portrayal, it feels as though we are being kicked while we are still down, in pain, and suffering. All contexts aside, images matter. 

And while there was in fact a short time of friendliness among some settlers and Indians, egalitarian tribal societies facilitated this friendliness because of the fact that those societies were grounded in empathy, holding strong values of helping their neighbor, and extending a hand to the less fortunate.  Just as the Oneida extended their hand to you in empathy, now is your opportunity to extend that same empathy back to the indigenous people today, and listen to the voice of Native Americans who request that your seal be changed, indefinitely. 

Nearly 10,000 signatures have been collected on a petition asking that Whitesboro retire the village seal, many of those signatures being from Native American people.  We are a small voice, and try as we may to be heard, the ultimate change will come when the majority finds within themselves the humility and empathy to recognize the need for action, even if it makes you, the majority as white Americans, uncomfortable.

It is on the shoulders of your community to take advantage of this momentous opportunity, Whitesboro. Our world is hungry for this sort of change, and all eyes are on you. Your opportunity for transformation is now. 


A friendly, but boldly honest, Indigenous Woman

Sarah Sunshine Manning

Sarah Sunshine Manning (Shoshone-Paiute, Chippewa-Cree) is a mother, educator, activist, and an advocate for youth. Follow her at @SarahSunshineM.

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WinterWindTeacher's picture
Submitted by WinterWindTeacher on
Here, Here! I second the lady's motion, take a landslide vote for some rearranging. May I please ask for some clarity from the oval room? If you should mention in your minced speech the pronoun 'terrorist' soon, could you indicate honestly what or when you propose to address the issue of 'terrorism' and your full committed effort and experts meeting and planning to release your decisive actions? Could you answer by what expectations you hope to begin leafing through the littered piles of complaints, of deaths, hangings, bombings and disappearances historically by the bed sheet wearers that are traditionally terrorizing this country and state and moving everywhere and starting up ever expanding hate branches of their religious terror KKK invasive disease. The greatest threat to life and danger of daily living has not sailed or flown anything that ever came so near to the murdering of innocent people in their bed found in the morning by this notorious fiend that is by all means anti - American fiend that I have witnessed destroying individuals and whole families. This terrorist group is the one that is deepest to my worries. These criminal monsters have all sorts of official status as an anti Christ religion which is a reference to the law of freedom from religion, but your administration and the previous have spent billions and stacked the people with generations of debt for the benefit of nothing safer still yet in their own communities but still at large one of the most hideous and odious terrorist gangs on the lands. Your F.B.I., C.I.A. or Pentagon and congress have been so busy for the last 40 or 50 years that this reality of nightmare murder still lurks on the land and the only hope for liberty is go get herself a registered hand gun? I have empathy for lady justice being buried undignified with the burden of tons of laws that exhausted the poor girls eyes to go blind, her knees to bow, her back bowed and her ankles swollen. I would say that was one woman who was overburdened and severely overworked into severe exhaustion. An honorable human being who just could not stand the heaps and reams thrown on her shoulders, while congress did not have time to read hardly a single bill they passed, but made time for overtime pay, a nice vacation, and an increase in salary and pension plan and an extra federal holiday with pay just passed through like a leer jet with no debate at all. The Bush administration should have stood inquiry for crimes against humanity in the highest degree. Perjury before the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly and before the people of the United States. There are violations of torture that have paved their way from that administration into this current one. There are extradition requests from Spain for C.I.A. agents who committed crimes against humanity and have been tried in absentia and found to be guilty yet your administration refuses to cooperate. There is fresh news still of torture being committed by boots on the ground. It infuriates me that with all the experts and salaries that are attached to so many zeros, commas and dashes the people are given - states secrets privileges and national security that my foot is sore from being run over repeatedly. You officials deserve sore thumbs as large as Pinocchio's nose for all the secrets and signing statements. Change sir, not spare change and rip off surprise what's congress got in store while the checks and balances to democracy civics class the Supreme's are in another historical snore, the same murderers of yesteryear are still stuffing the state with hate and fear. It is a tragic embarrassment that a criminal hit team, feared and dreaded for assassination delivery at your door within twenty four hours; it has not in the entire 50 something years of globe trotting and deal making or hand breaking corporate security found a single piece of intelligence. I am grateful intelligence knows to keep clear of them. Intelligence, truth and love are the obvious threats to state secrecy. I feel like an idiot too, I voted for you. I thought far out, a black guy - he's got to be hip and people are excited. Come on be the man, the one with guts, back bone and spine and change this ugliness of mean normal and be a real human being for the people instead of super money man counting bills on the hill like all the other fumble bums. I would like to fart in the face of any money bag Sloshington guy gal that ever open that overfed stuffed face by demeaning the people with one, one lousy word about welfare reform. It disgusts me to no end, your gang of million dollar minted elite finger the people, do any rotten evil cruel thing like make the people pay for a nuclear reactor and make the people pay for a nuclear disaster. If you were still living human being in there, you would have to excuse yourself and lie down sick, deadly to allow children to be shot dead, not coming home tonight. Who tosses the coin to be the surprise telephone caller, yes mam your child is dead? Makes a person want to scream and demand a real accountable adult who is not out playing Halloween. Not a single hearing from the Clinton administration either only terror of a sperm stain on young girl flirting with Hillary's not home day all over the world. Madeline Allbright stands before the press and confesses that starving thousands of Iraqi children to death was worth it? All the clicking was cameras and not a single pair of handcuffs and arrest her and sent to Geneva to stand trial for crimes against humanity? Not a single sound. I am human being and that is capital crime. No one is permitted to starve or inflict starvation ever on any child. It is one of the most hideous and offensive crimes ever committed. It is a reality of the beast, no human being can starve a child, no one. You can say God Bless America... because the Divine Father must trust something to send the blessed soul of Jesus to be born again in every baby pure soul his love guided here, the first sound and cry is the eternal truth - he sent this precious vulnerable life to say to you - I have come to save the world, I have come to save humanity, please return to me my children. Everyone hears the babies cries, no one can deny. The baby can not open its eyes but is not blind like you. The baby has no weapon, just those little tiny clenched hands and the beautiful truth, the Christ child pure born into this world over and over again. Stop this fiend feast for the beast, remember who you are. Please stop your madness, the Christ child is born into a mad and dangerous world, a bomb may fall on the hospital or a gunman kick the door and shoot everyone. You condemn the Christ child to be born onto a butchers block and sold by the pound to feed this hoary beast. The rivers run with corporate ruinous poison that was once pure as Jesus and refreshed the soul and fed people with its beautiful life abundant. Profits are up but who has not had cancer for their birthday surprise by age 5 or 6? Make way in the federal prison for the federation of deceit and corrupt vile fiends. I wish upon any star on this night or next to give myself the dream that your confederation of corporate money makers take your nuclear rockets and all the poisons, trash, bacterial fabricated diseases, cancers, tumors and atom smashers, killer laboratories, C.I.A. and friends and royal dictators, torture chambers, nuclear reactors, AIDS, death makers - please leave the earth immediately and find a comfortable death world for your kind and all affectionate hate groups and ammunition and laws by the ton. Take the holy sacred filthy money that splattered life and blood everywhere. Leave the earth, leave human being - go away and never come anywhere near this earth life love again. Take the hideous monster beast out of here. Human being earth can not suffer this lie or exist and endure this death. I wish to my stuttered stammered breath - please remove these fiends and all their filth, please all truth sacred holy and pure let not one beautiful soul Christ child be born onto the butchers block here, please spare that beautiful life from this fiends feeding frenzy. Please tell the doctors and nurses, the baby being born is not product for inspection F.D.A.? The baby is a miracle so could you please turn off those burning ugly florescent bulbs. You do not have to see anything medical certified, but you do need sensation. If you have no sense in your fingers or hands leave the room immediately. To clue you in brainy bunch, the baby absolutely can hear, sense and feel everything, that is until your inspection starts manhandling, measuring and all that assorting stuff for merchandising. Please touch the baby as little as possible 60,000 and above a year. Please do give the baby to Mom as quickly as possible, the babies sensory system is searching for her to connect with her heartbeat, her breathing, her temperature, her voice and her touch. The baby will be happy and well everything is swell when everything is together with Mom. Mom can tell, all Mothers can tell by sense and touch if baby is okay and can reassure the medical factor everything is swell. Mom and baby need a bed and room together. Please stop putting babies on display in plastic buckets of ugly florescent burning their eyes as shoppers gaze and wonder what price, how much for this one or that. The babies are miracles and should be close to Mother and no other touching. No other Mother in this world natural would allow anyone to come near and touch her baby until she is sure and ready. May Mothers of these miracles return to their natural instincts soon and protect their blessing from being mauled over and displayed. Mothers miracle is fine and connected best to hear her heart beat, it is the truest signal and tells the little traveler you are home. Babies are a reality to let you know they can not open their eyes yet but you are the one who is blind with your eyes wide open and your lost. You need to go look for your memory. Your memory is right where you left it, you need to keep it, it is personal and yours. When a crisis comes your memory is like a life jacket, it can help save your life. You were once this same innocent pure clean Christ child who was born into this world and you cried out the soul of Jesus and everyone heard you in the hallways, waiting rooms, upstairs and stairwells - I am born. I have come to save the world, I have come to save human being. No one hears an adult, it is all sound and static, but everyone hears the baby and we are all internally interpreting the baby's message. Blessed we are for each birth, a savior is born again to let us know we are loved and the Father would like us to come home to him again as child baby pure Jesus soul. Burn the money, inflict the love and truth, a wave and force, humanity contract, dilate and push this demon off the mother, save our mother - contract, dilate and breath and push every child and heave this fiend off our Mother. Save our Mother's life, please love her burn their vicious murder money, hold Mother help her push. Let her smile again, save her life. Free public education? Brothers, Sisters, Mothers, Dads? Volunteers? Government teaching lies? Is it not just as bad as religious education, the moral compass who dare not speak a word during a campaign of genocide? Is in not the same arrangement as before church state protecting money and lies? I am the naughty one. I am the one advocating for insurrection against the lies, daring human being to be the truth for Mother Earth, Brother, Sister, Holy Jesus who waits for us, The Divine Father who gave all this precious life, gifted it to everyone in love, not a single price on anyone, no slavery, no slaughter, free to live, love and be. We promised to love, look at the fiend playing a game with its foul companion hate. Dirty disease profit shaking bones is annihilation carving tool obscene. It can never be a truth for human being, its seduction a cage where they hide murdering life no one hears the perversion ripping at the flesh of Christ child, Officially, the United Nations may not tour and inspect the Federal Reserve Reservation Death camps and report the truth, rip off the covers and show the world this fiend eating feasting on child in its secret detention center hidden from soul eyes soar with pain, speak your voice like the day you were born. The Truth is their enemy, say it be it drive that fiend off of human being Sister Brother, we are love, Jesus is alive in us, guided us to be born and speak our little shivering wet self eyes closed and bullets flying every where, I am born, hear me. I, this little wet miracle with no weapon, have come to save the world, I have come to save human being. This wet wrinkle closed eyed miracle is the brave soldier in the army of truth, to love you, to save you from the fiend murdering this beautiful life. The trumpet clarion horn, the angel's voice and command - is the baby's cry - prepare and steady push the beast off the Earth, push.