Onondaga Nation Releases Statement on Columbus Statue in Downtown Syracuse
August 2020, a Syracuse Inter-Faith Commission invited the Onondaga Nation to be a part of the panel discussing the statue of Columbus in Columbus Circle in Syracuse, New York. The following is a statement prepared by the Onondaga Nation Council for the panel.
STATEMENT REGARDING COLUMBUS STATUE
The Onondaga Nation would first like to greet and thank the Inter-Faith Commission for your invitation to take part in the discussions concerning the monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus. We believe through diplomacy, discussion, and open minds; these discussions will lead to a positive solution for the future of Syracuse with inclusion for all people to live in peace as neighbors and brothers. It is our sincere hope that we can work as one to promote the best possible outcome. An outcome that will encourage peace, understanding, and the united brotherhood exemplifying the foundation of cooperation, peace, and equality for the generations yet to come.
The city of Syracuse is a beautiful place rich with history and sits upon a land that is considered to be the birthplace of the Great Law of Peace. The Great Law of Peace is a democratic system which united five distinct separate nations forming the Haudenosaunee confederacy, to which the Onondaga belongs. Syracuse resides on hallowed ground considered to be the main fire or capital of the Haudenosaunee confederacy. The Onondaga Nation carries a great responsibility in the continued existence of our sovereign government. Our traditional teachings are morally dignified and highly principled in peace and democracy and our way of life means being ever thankful for the many gifts of our mother earth. We are people culturally mandated to respectfully live as caretakers of Mother Earth and as equals to all beings within the natural realm.
We fully understand the wishes of the Italian American community to honor their heritage, but it is burdensome for the people of Onondaga to see Christopher Columbus memorialized with a statue. Within our lands and hearts, finding equality and peace is difficult knowing the hardships our ancestors endured as a consequence of his campaign. Our own monuments, beautiful lakes, streams, rivers, and the earth itself, has suffered greatly as a direct result principle of the Doctrine of Discovery to which Columbus used to claim the lands in the name of the Spanish crown.
The power of the pen favors the writers of history. In truth, what was “discovered” on this continent we know as Turtle Island were well established independent nations of indigenous peoples. People living within their respected ways of life in accordance with their individual cultures. As indigenous people, we are taught of the exploits of Columbus while our own history was being unheard, misunderstood, and often erased.
At this crucial time in our joint history with the need for unity and compassion at hand, we ask ourselves is honoring the heritage of the Columbus righteous and just? Should we continue to ignore all the different peoples who suffered enumerable atrocities? We think not. We know we are not responsible for the transgressions of our ancestors, but it is never the wrong time to do the right thing. The Onondaga Nation does not wish anyone’s culture or heritage to be affronted in the manner ours have suffered; but to find a way to allow the space currently occupied by the Columbus statue to be reinvented and reenergized into a symbol of unity for all.
Over the years, we have shared some of our teachings with the outside world in effort to help all people of Mother Earth understand our responsibility to live in peace for the wellbeing of all life. As climate change heads us into an uncertain future for our Mother Earth, our teachings tell us that a great change is inevitable. But by working together for common peace, life may be prolonged.
We again would like to thank you very much for creating this committee as a platform and an avenue for those unheard voices to be brought forward. With great respect, equality, and peace, we ask that we may bring our minds together as one to find a solution in which all the peoples who call Syracuse home may find a way to continue to honor each other’s heritage and cultures. With hope for generations yet to come, we offer these thoughts in peace.
Tadodaho, Chief Sidney Hill, Onondaga Nation Council
Blake Garland-Tirado of Syracuse, NY started a petition to have the Columbus statue removed. The petition is “Remove Racist Monument in Syracuse” on Change.org and has garnered over 18,500 signatures.