KEVIN LEININGER: There’s still time to do ‘Anthony Wayne Day’ right — if people are willing to talk

Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne's statue in Freimann Square will be rededicated in his honor July 16. (News-Sentinel.com file photo by Kevin Leininger)
Mike Loomis
Kevin Leininger

Here we are in the middle of Memorial Day weekend, just a month and a half from Fort Wayne’s first “Anthony Wayne Day,” and commemoration of the city’s namesake still evokes that famous 1967 movie line from Cool Hand Luke:

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate”

As I wrote in April, history belongs not to the victors or the vanquished but to everyone. So it was good to see attorney Mike Loomis, who first suggested City Council honor Wayne nearly two years ago, invite the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma — which represents the descendants of the area’s original inhabitants — to participate in the festivities being planned for July 16.

In a May 6 letter to tribe Cultural Resources Officer Julie Olds, Loomis wrote that “While you and I may disagree about the idea of bestowing upon Gen. Wayne any modern-day honor or recognition, I do think that we are in agreement about one important factor: I think we both agree that area education about local history is inadequate. To that end, I would like to personally extend, again, our invitation to you that the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma consider participating in one or more of our events, and help us to tell your Tribe’s history.”

Loomis knows the letter was received because it was sent by certified mail. Unfortunately, no reply has been received in return.

As Loomis implied, it would be natural for tribal leaders to distance themselves from anything that might seem to honor a man who helped drive them from the area that is now Fort Wayne. In fact, his letter indicates that in an April 1 telephone conversation with Olds she had said she would be “consulting (her) ‘team’ about the ‘Fort Wayne problem’ “.

But problems can also present opportunities, and such is the case here.

Loomis invited the tribe to participate in the Wayne group’s presence in the Three Rivers Festival Parade on July 13. He also told Olds his group is planning several other events, including the rededication of a Wayne’s statue in Freimann Square, an appearance by two living historians, in character and in costume, portraying Wayne and his wife, Mary Penrose; and a lecture from Alan D. Gaff, author of “Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne’s Legion in the Old Northwest”. Presumably tribe participation in those and other events also would be welcome.

But the tribe’s lack of response to Loomis indicates its leadership would prefer to keep their distance. Olds indicated as much to me several weeks ago, saying they prefer to leave the matter in the capable hands of the History Center.

The History Center has developed a rapport with the tribe over the years and in a statement said it “adheres to a rigorous code of professional standards and ethics that requires historical interpretations to reflect thorough research, sound scholarship, temporal context and cultural inclusiveness. (We were) not consulted in the creation of the “Mad Anthony Wayne Day” resolution (passed by City Council in February); however, if Council wishes to address the concerns regarding the accuracy of the history included in (its resolution), the organization would eagerly consider such a request.”

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened either. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing Wayne, but any observance lacking participation by the Miamis or the county’s leading history organization will be less than it could and should be. There’s still time to turn this communications problem into an opportunity for knowledge and understanding, but that time is running out fast — especially if the people who should be talking to each other, and the public, don’t.

Campaign update:

I recently wrote about how the county Election Board was considering fines for various candidates who missed the recent deadline for filing campaign finance reports. The board followed through on most of its proposed fines, with these exceptions:

Republican City Councilman Michael Barranda was not fined based on his testimony about when he actually received the contributions in question. Democratic mayoral candidate Tom Cook was not fined based on testimony regarding a medical hardship; and Jonathon Yoder, GOP candidate for the Leo-Cedarville Town Council, who was not fined based on testimony regarding when his report was filed.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.