Artwork celebrates region’s history

Unveiling of impressive sculpture honors past, signals future of city’s downtown arts district

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“What’s most important is that we are still willing to embrace our history and celebrate it.”
 
Those were among the remarks made by Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo Tuesday morning as she and other representatives of the city, County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and other state and local representatives unveiled the new bronze monument honoring De-o-Wain-Sta, or the Great Carrying Place, located in the 300 block of West Dominick Street.
 
Measuring 7-feet by 27-feet, the impressive art piece commemorates the story and significance of the Oneida Carrying Place, a vital mode of transportation, trade and commerce that connected Wood Creek to the Mohawk River before and during the Revolutionary War. The path became a critical strategic area during the American Revolution when the Oneidas helped defend nearby Fort Stanwix from British siege in August 1777.
 
The new bronze sculpture and display is part of a collective effort to lead the revitalization of the city’s downtown area that stretches from Madison Street to James Street by Fort Stanwix.
 
Izzo thanked the Oneidas for their partnership with Rome in making the first installment of the Complete Streets project a reality, with more statues and artwork to come. Plans are to create an arts district that will run down West Dominick Street downtown to Fort Stanwix National Monument.
 
When first discussing the arts district and while standing in the very spot of where the Oneida monument is now located, “We didn’t realize we were in front of the very spot of the Great Carry, and so we reached out to the Oneidas to see if they would like to create a memorial, and we couldn’t be more excited about what was created here,” said Izzo. “This has been an outstanding project.”
 
Also attending the ceremonial unveiling of the monument was Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome; Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-119, Marcy; Rome Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director William K. Guglielmo, Common Council members and city officials, as well as representatives of state agencies and organizations that provided funding for the project, including the Department of State, state Environmental Facilities Corporation, National Grid and the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, Inc.
 
Oneida Nation member Sheri Beglen, Wolf Clan, offered Thanksgiving and welcoming remarks in her native Oneida, which were then translated. Beglen explained how the land where everyone gathered was so “vitally important to the Oneida people and their way of life,” and that the Oneidas were happy to “gather as a group today” in partnership.
 
Picente shared that he’s always been fond of the history of Oneida County and its “far reaching” impact on the building of our nation.
 
“Many people don’t know what happened here” in the Great Carrying Place, “and how it was a great changing point of the American Revolutionary War,” Picente said, adding that if the Oneidas hadn’t been allies with the Patriots, how different the world would be today.
 
Picente went on to say that building and maintaining a relationship with its allies over the last decade has been something Oneida County can pride itself on. As the nation as a whole faces troubled times, “let’s show that here in Rome and Oneida County, we come together as one people today,” he said emphasizing the “One” in Oneida County.
 
Oneida Nation Representative Halbritter offered greetings of peace to the crowd and said how the bronze monument, which also pays tribute to the “Copper City,” is representative of the on-going commitment of the community in recognizing the historic contributions of the Oneida ancestors, and serves as a reminder for future generations so no one forgets the significant historic events that occurred here — from the siege of 1777 to the Battle of Oriskany which was the bloodiest battle and great turning point of the Revolution just a few miles away.
 
He went on to explain how one panel of the monument includes a bear, wolf and turtle, which represent the Oneida clans. At front of the monument stands an Oneida ancestor carrying a beaded wampum belt, whose beads would have been cut from the purple and white parts of clam shells. The shell is thought of as a living record of the Haudenosaunee, an alliance among the six Native American nations who are more commonly known as the Iroquois Confederacy.
 
Another panel of the monument shows the Great Carrying Place, as Native Americans unload goods from boats for trade, which depicts a friendship and peaceful alliance with the newcomers of their land. It became such an important place, that the Europeans would build forts around to protect it, Halbritter said. It would then become a great military complex during the Revolution.
 
“We all hold and take pride in the role this region took part in creating our country,” said Halbritter. “We hope people can begin to come and see the monument, and learn more about the role this place had in the founding of our nation.”
 
He said the monument will serve as a symbol of how the communities came “together” to honor the area’s history and those “who came before us.”
 
Mayor Izzo closed the ceremony by pointing out that the new Oneida monument is part of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Plan, which is “coming to fruition and becoming real.”

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