Stories from the Circle

A Monument in Extended Reality

Web VR
Illustration Credit:
Victoria Ransom

About the Project

Stories from the Circle features varied perspectives on the controversial Columbus statue in downtown Syracuse, New York. The project aims to promote dialogue about how we choose to remember the history of Columbus in relation to the histories and stories of Indigenous peoples, Italian Americans, and other communities in and around Syracuse.

The statue has been a site of controversy for decades. In October 2020, after mass protests in the city, Mayor Ben Walsh announced plans to remove the monument and create a Heritage Park on its site. In response, the Columbus Monument Corporation launched a lawsuit to prevent the statue’s removal.

The legal battle is ongoing. This project is useful whatever the future holds, inasmuch as it records a time that was, when the fate of the statue was in doubt and when people were reflecting on its place in their lives.

Our team strove to include the views of people with a wide range of perspectives and cultural backgrounds, reaching out to people who both supported and opposed removal. Many people declined our invitation to participate. We respect their choice not to participate, while we believe that their voices would have enriched the project. The stories incorporated into the project are from the participants who agreed to have their perspectives included in the app. There are many more perspectives and stories about the statue that are not included here.

Visitors to the site can access the project using the “Stories from the Circle” app on any smartphone or tablet. As you walk around the site, you will hear perspectives from Syracuse residents activated via geolocation.

Clicking the play button will provide a web-based version of the experience. You can navigate around the circle using the arrow keys and listen to the comments in any order.

Stories from the Circle

The following people shared their stories about the circle in interviews that took place in 2020–21. Click on a person to read their story. Transcripts below contain what each interviewee agreed to share publicly.

Resources for the Circle

These resources contain more information about organizations, concepts, and ideas mentioned in the stories. These links lead to external sites.

Onondaga Historical Association

An educational organization for Onondaga County.

Skä·noñh - Great Law of Peace Center

A Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Heritage Center.

Doctrine of Discovery

The founding doctrine of colonialism.

Syracuse Peace Council

An antiwar/social justice organization founded in 1936.

Immigration and Relocation History

Information about Italian American experiences.

Onondaga Nation

Official website of the Onondaga Nation.

Museum of the American Indian

A component of the Smithsonian Institute.

Ellis Island Foundation

Museum dedicated to immigration history.

Columbus Circle in Syracuse, NY

Wikipedia's entry about the monument locale.

Pedagogy and Lesson Plans

Resources for teachers and organizers. Download resource files to aid in the development of instructional modules.

Download Materials Here

We have developed lesson plans, guidance for conducting productive dialogue events, and other pedagogical materials for grades 9-12 that are suitable for a variety of instructional contexts and educational units.

View Lesson Plan
a photo of person with a planner
Find lesson plans for grades 9-12, guidance for fostering productive dialogues, and more.

Credits and Acknowledgements

As faculty living and working on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, we wish to thank all the generations of people who have taken care of this land before us. We acknowledge especially the Akwesasne Mohawk and Onondaga Nations, on whose lands Clarkson University and Syracuse, respectively, now sit. These lands and waterways connect to the vast areas of the Haudenosaunee, Algonquin, Huron-Wendat, and Abenaki Peoples. We recognize and deeply appreciate their connection to traditional territories, which were never wholly surrendered and were only claimed by competing French and British Crowns, and later New York State.

As we move towards healing past injustices, we acknowledge the wrongs that have been done, while we work towards a unified path of co-existence and prosperity. We also recognize the contributions that the Onondaga, the Akwesasne Mohawk, and other Indigenous peoples have made, both in shaping and strengthening these communities in particular, and other territories within the country as a whole.

This project was funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in part by Clarkson University. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or of Clarkson University.

We also gratefully acknowledge the indispensable work of Interfaith Works, the Onondaga Historical Association, the Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON), and the Skä•noñh: Great Law of Peace Center, as well as all the participants and interviewees whose contributions make this project possible.

Special thanks, in memoriam, to Mohawk artist John Fadden, whose Great Tree of Peace artwork is featured in the Stories for the Circle app.

The “Stories from the Circle” team is: Alex M. Lee, Lisa Propst, Phillip White-Cree, Rebecca Pelky, Jennifer Ball, and Eric York.

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Be Part of the Discussion

We're looking for individuals who would like to participate in an in-person dialogue about this project. If you are interested, please get in touch!