Ossining will no longer have a Native American head as its village seal, but its replacement is still undecided.
After a year in the making, the change follows a debate on the village board between maintaining village tradition and rejecting a symbol deemed outdated and offensive to native tribes.
During their Wednesday meeting, administrators appeared to favor a version of a design that encompasses part of the village’s main street, the Hudson River, Hook Mountain, the double-arched bridge and an “O” for Ossining.
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A contract artist for the project, Brian Sheridan of Hothouse Design, will come back with variations of this design at an upcoming meeting before the change is complete.
The village council agreed last April that the Native American chief should be removed from office, and administrators have since launched a process to change him.
“I don’t want to downplay, because I’ve had many phone calls, the importance that history has for people,” Mayor Rika Levin said at an April 14 meeting. “The attachment that… people who live in this community have for the thing they believe to be theirs and to which they are deeply rooted.”
As administrator, Levin opposed a new seal – a double-arched bridge and tunnel design – in December 2020, which was proposed by former mayor Victoria Gearity, as she said the process was rushed and lacked community input. Levin and two other administrators filed the subject until 2021.
The call for a new seal comes at a time when entities across the country are grappling with retired Native American mascots and symbols. Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians dropped their former mascot, the Indians, at the end of the 2021 baseball season. The Washington Football Team dropped their former nickname, the Redskins, in 2020.
Ossining High School’s nickname for decades was Indians, but the school system changed it in the early 2000s after a contentious battle. The school’s nickname today is Pride.
Administrator Dana White said in April that a new seal would be a “fresh start”.
“Some might call it a woke culture, but I just call it respecting people and not ourselves,” she said.
Other potential village seal replacements included a few variations of the double-arched bridge, a falcon, and variations of the letter “O”. The new logo would be displayed on municipal buildings and vehicles, as well as stationery in the village.
Of the 533 people who took a 2021 survey, 60% chose the double-arch bridge for the new seal, 42% preferred downtown and 37% wanted the Hudson River, White said Wednesday. A majority of respondents were also in favor of removing the Native American head.
Administrator Robert Fritsche said he did not want the double-arched bridge to be part of the village symbol because it would be too closely associated with the town of Ossining.
“I think we should separate from that,” he said. “I don’t want to be like the city, we are the village.”
Administrator Omar Lopez, who voted in December 2020 to change the seal, said at the meeting that he thought the double-arched bridge was the most iconic part of the village, even though the city already had it. as a seal.
Lopez, in an interview ahead of the meeting, said deciding on a new logo shouldn’t have taken so long, he admitted the village had dealt with an array of more pressing priorities.
Lopez noted that a conversation in the village about the Native American seal began after the murder of George Floyd.
“Having people as mascots, especially when it comes to groups of people who don’t even constitute people currently living there, just didn’t feel right,” Lopez said, adding. “We are in a new stage in the history of our village and we should have a seal that reflects where we are and where we are going.”
This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Native Americans seal at Ossining, but replacement undecided