Onondaga Nation seeks to have its say in court to move location of Columbus monument in Syracuse

The protracted legal battle over the future of the Christopher Columbus monument in Syracuse is likely to continue well into 2023. A motion by the Onondaga Nation to be included in the case was heard by a panel of appellate judges on Tuesday. It is the second time the Onondaga Nation has asked for their voice to be heard. The native community says it was silenced when Onondaga County Superior Court Judge Gerald Neri issued a restraining order in March 2022. Neri ruled in favor of the Columbus Monument Corporation, which supports the statue. That decision also went against the City of Syracuse and the Mayor’s Columbus Circle Action Committee. But Onondaga Nation attorney Joe Heath says the outcome wasn’t fair, so he filed another motion to be heard by a higher court.

“…To add another voice to this discussion, specifically one of whose land this monument is on.”

Heath says the nation’s filing is an attempt to speak out in good faith as a “friend of the court” and already expects opposition from Columbus Monument Corporation. He says historical books over the last 25 years have provided a much clearer picture of who Columbus was and how he mistreated the indigenous and Caribbean peoples.

“The conditions they endured as a result of Columbus and his voyages, and the beginning of the African slave trade and the overall, almost ethnic, cleansing of the natives. So it just won’t be that centrally located. It could be in a museum or in another park.”

The legal filing argues that the memorial’s location in downtown Syracuse AND being recognized as a land of the nation is troubling on several levels. The filing to the court stated: “The interest of the Onondaga Nation in this matter is to speak for its citizens, but also to speak for these four free standing Indian heads, for the Indians in the frescoes and for the millions of indigenous victims.” of European colonization.”

“The nation also has the right to be heard on this very public matter, especially one that sits in its homeland and which is so offensive to the people of the Onondaga Nation and to all Indigenous Peoples. And that’s what we argue, just a right to be heard. And that will be contradicted when we see the papers from the other side.”

Heath said the motion could have a hearing in early January unless an extension is granted, delaying the process. Otherwise, a panel of Rochester Court of Appeals judges could decide in the near future whether or not the Onondaga Nation can make its contribution to the matter.

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