NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: City Council should rethink Wayne Day

The resolution creating a General “Mad” Anthony Wayne Day is a divisive and unnecessary act that detracts from the very real and pressing issues Fort Wayne City Council faces. The council should, as the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma recently requested, rethink its decision and rescind the resolution.

In February, the council voted 6-3 to declare July 16 as Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne Day. Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, sponsored the resolution. The July 16 date commemorates the Battle of Stony Point, a Revolutionary War battle in which troops under Wayne’s leadership seized an important British outpost on the Hudson River north of New York City. The 1779 battle provided a critical morale boost to the Continental Army, and secured an important river crossing.

“We can thank Anthony Wayne for the fact that we have the United States of America,” Arp said, suggesting that the Battle of Stony Point saved George Washington from capture.

But beyond that bit of hyperbole, the resolution plays fast and loose with other historical facts. In its opposition, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma noted two historical inaccuracies in the resolution: that the Native American forces were lead by British officers at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, and that the Battle of Fallen Timbers lead to the establishment of Fort Recovery, when Fort Recovery had been completed prior to the battle.

The Fort Wayne Historical Society has said it was not consulted in the drafting of the resolution.

“Lots of cities have founders’ days, and that’s understood,” Julie Olds, the Miami tribe’s cultural resources officer, told the council. “What was unnecessary was the attempt at history that was made, the errors that were presented, and that the presentation was not required to be fact-checked, from what we could tell.”

In a letter to the council, Chief Douglas Lankford said the resolution ignores the harm that came to the Miami Tribe, whose families were displaced from the area directly as a result of the “U.S. invasion under Wayne’s leadership.” Lankford also took offense at the suggestion by Arp and Councilman Paul Ensley, R-1st, that Wayne and his troops were more merciful than Native American forces.

“This decade-long conflict was often both deadly and personal, and to claim that Wayne was not a participant in this brutality is a disservice to historical fact,” Lankford wrote.

When asked about negative reaction to his resolution after the council approved it, Arp suggested the opponents are unpatriotic. “There’s lots of people that don’t care for America or American history,” Arp said. “There are people who aren’t patriotic and that’s their right, obviously.”

Arp misses the point. Wayne played a significant role in Fort Wayne history, but so too did the Myaamia, Shawnee, Delaware and other Native American tribes who settled the area and suffered at the hands of troops under Wayne’s command.

It’s hard to argue Wayne hasn’t been sufficiently honored for his role in the city’s history. After all, the town bears his name and celebrates him with a statue in Freimann Square. Adding a day in his honor, especially with a resolution that is historically inaccurate and dismissive of the legitimate concerns of others like the Miami Tribe, seems unnecessary. The council can, and should, fix this by rescinding the resolution.

COMMENTS