Murphy Said He Will Raise Issue
Today Before Rights Commission
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – After 118 years, Common Council member Luke Murphy, First Ward, is concerned about a marker in Neahwa Park referring to the “savagery” of the Iroquois pursued by the Clinton-Sullivan Expedition.
A neighbor of Murphy’s walking through Neahwa Park alerted the freshman council member to the plaque at the park’s River Street entrance, which says the 1779 expedition “destroyed the Indian savagery and opened the westward pathway of civilization.”
“It implies that the Haudenosaunee people were wiped out,” Murphy said. “And while the Sullivan expedition did kill many of them, they are still here. We even have the Iroquois Indian Museum in Schoharie County.”
And he said he was horrified by the use of “savagery.”
“It has some pretty overtly racist language,” said Murphy. “It perpetuates a lot of harmful stereotypes.”
The plaque was installed in 1912 by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The council member reached out to the DAR and representatives of the Iroquois people for guidance. “We owe it to ourselves to be accurate about history,” he said.
Mayor Gary Herzig said, to his knowledge, this is the first time anyone has brought the plaque’s language to City Hall’s attention.
In June, Cooperstown Trustee MacGuire Benton raised concerns about signs at Council Rock on Otsego Lake, which refers to the park as “meeting place of the Indians.”
At the time, Benton was concerned that the use of the word “Indian” on the 1930s-era signage was “racially insensitive,” but later Trustee Rich Sternberg withdrew the proposal after discovering many Native Americans don’t object to the term.
“What Luke is doing is shared with a good heart and intentions,” said Benton. “It’s a matter of reflecting history honestly and giving people the dignity they deserve.”
Murphy, a liaison to the city’s Commission on Community Relations and Human Rights, said he’ll bring it up at the Thursday, Oct. 22, meeting.
“I applaud Luke for the way he’s going about it,” Herzig said. “He wants to encourage a dialogue and hear perspectives, then take it to the Commission and then to Council.”
If the Commission votes to forward it to Common Council, it can vote to remove it, replace it or leave it as it is. “Because it is on City property, it falls under the purview of Common Council,” said the mayor.
But Murphy doesn’t just want to see it removed – he wants to see it replaced. “We’ve seen a lot of monuments come down, but I’d rather see new interpretation in its place.”