Remove Columbus: Respect the wishes of the Onondaga Nation (Your Letters)

To the Editor:

We enjoyed and appreciated reading Mayor Ben Walsh’s letter, “Honor Italian American heritage now and always” ( Sept. 16, 2021). So it was curious to then read the inflammatory response letter submitted thereafter by Nick Pirro and four others representing a group opposed to removing the Christopher Columbus statue in downtown Syracuse (”Columbus statue supporters to Mayor Walsh: Stop pandering to Italian Americans,” Sept. 18, 2021).

It appears Walsh has deeply insulted Pirro and his comrades by moving forward with the plan to remove the statue and seeing to the area being transformed into Heritage Park (inclusive of our culturally diverse area) with the center of the circle remaining a permanent tribute to local Italian Americans. As an Italian American myself with a long family history in our area, I am finding it difficult to understand why the Columbus statue is being publicized by some as so deeply representative of the Italian culture here as to consider it untouchable and necessitating the sarcasm and vitriol in Pirro’s letter.

In August 2020, the Onondaga Nation (Da•ne’tho’, Tadodaho, Chief Sidney Hill, Onondaga Nation Council) released a statement, “We fully understand the wishes of the Italian American community to honor their heritage, but it is burdensome for the people of the 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 piece is beautifully written, both poignant and sensitive to the feelings of others. It further notes, “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.”

While Pirro indicates that “the Onondaga Nation gave the farewell at the dedication event [in 1934] and made the sculptor of the Columbus statue an honorary chieftain,” it certainly appears that the Onondaga Nation does not presently support the statue and what it represents, and this Syracuse native and proud Italian can respect that and looks forward to witnessing the proposed transformation of the space.

Elizabeth Sinclair Cady,, 9/30/2021

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