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Councilman Questions

Monument Referring

To Iroquois ‘Savagery’

Murphy Said He Will Raise Issue

Today Before Rights Commission

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Council member Luke Murphy, First Ward, is facting-finding on what to do about this marker, in front of Oneonta Neahwa Park, which refers to the “savagery” of the Iroquois people.

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.”



  1. Can’t you just leave thing alone. If history says this is what happened, this what happened then. If it offends you don’t look at! What is the problem.

  2. Stop destroying history because some people find it offensive. History captures the actions and attitudes of that time period. Instead of destroying history, perhaps use it as an example of where the nation once was and how things have changed. Use history as an opportunity to learn and educate, not destroy. Removing signs or statues because some people find them offensive is equally offensive to others who oppose attempts to rewrite and hide history.

  3. For heavens sake, they are not re writing history. This plaque was installed in 1912 about an expedition in 1779. They had just as much first hand knowledge of the events as we have today. They captured the action and attitude of the 1912 time period and we have the right to reflect in our 2020 time period if we believe their interpretation was incorrect. Do we really think Indians were “savage” or were they simply defending themselves against western invasion? Put up a plaque from the Iroquois narrative detailing how the western white savage nature destroyed their land and families and see how quickly these people change their tune on trying to “rewrite” history.

  4. You know what really is offensive? The word ‘Adirondack’. Originated as a derogatory term given to the Algonquin tribe by neighboring Mohawk, meaning “barkeaters, or tree eaters”. For the Algonquin with deep pride in their hunting and gathering abilities this term is as offensive to the Alqonquin people as the “N” word is to African Americans. A time for Change is way over due! Lets get this “Hate Speech” out of this Magnificent part of NYS.

  5. Oh enough!. Lets stop being so sensitive regarding a plaque that was donated over 100 years ago. Times were certainly different then. The plaque statement does not mean the Haudenosaunee people were eradicated. It means the war was won and the behavior ended. Lets try to spend our tax payers money in a more productive way. I agree with the above. Stop wasting energy, learn from history don’t erase it. I will be absolutely furious if one cent is spent on removal or replacement of the plaque and so should the residents of Oneonta. NOW..lets spend that money instead, on free transportation of our 6th ward children to the Wilber Park Pool- since the city filled our ward’s DONATED Neahwa Park pool in with DIRT. Oh wait how about that sprinkler park that was supposed to be in its place. So, again bigger issues to deal with and better ways to spend our tax payer’s money. Lets all get a grip.

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