Niskayuna working group to look at redesign of town seal

A car bearing Niskayuna's town seal.

A car bearing Niskayuna's town seal.

NISKAYUNA The Niskayuna town historian and a town resident are looking to establish a working group to redesign the town seal following the discovery of inaccurate representations of indigenous people. 

Town Historian Denis Brennan and 23-year Niskayuna resident Marie Bosman will present a resolution to the town to vote on in May to establish a working group that would look at creating a new town seal that better represents the past, present and future, Bosman said. 

The current town seal was created in 1976, Brennan said. 

The idea to discontinue use of the current seal and redesign a new one came about after Brennan discovered the seal incorrectly displayed a Native American person with five teepees in the background on the upper right side of the seal. 

“First, in 1809 there were six, not five, nations in the Iroquois Confederation,” Brennan said in a proposal during the Economic Development, Historic Preservation and Environmental Conservation Committee meeting at the beginning of the month. “Second and certainly more significantly, as elementary students in Niskayuna’s schools are taught, the Iroquois lived in longhouses.”

The town was established in 1809. When the Dutch first arrived in the area it was already inhabited by the Mohawk (Iroquois) and Mohican (Algonquin). 

The seal also has a Shaker farmer on it although Shakers were not prominent in the area

“Nineteenth-century maps of Niskayuna identify several farms as ‘Shaker,’ but those are farmlands owned by the Shaker Society and leased to non-Shaker farmers,” Brennan said in his proposal. 

Brennan said Thursday he doesn’t believe the intent behind the 1976 seal was malicious, but it should be corrected. In the meantime, he said, the town should discontinue use of the seal, such as not ordering anything else with the seal on it. 

Bosman, a Pineridge Court resident whose children both graduated from Niskayuna High School, became interested in the process about a year ago as she wanted to learn more about the town’s history. She said in speaking with people who are part of the Mohawk tribe, they didn’t find the seal racist, but that when these mistakes are found the community should fix them.

“As we realize these mistakes, let’s move forward and do better. As we learn more, let’s do better,” she said Friday. 

Bosman said it’s not just about changing the seal but about bringing more awareness of the town’s history.

She and Brennan both said they’d like to gather community input into what the next town seal might look like and how it can represent the values and ideas of the community. 

Supervisor Jaime Puccioni said she finds their efforts to “understand and correct historical errors compelling.”

“I look forward to reviewing the results of their work with my fellow Town Board members,” she said. 

Part of the working group’s tasks will also include a cost analysis of replacing the seal on items around town, including town vehicles.

Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @SB_DailyGazette. 

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