Native American Heritage Recognition Proposed

Nov 19, 2019

A statue of Miami Chief Little Turtle sits near the river at Headwaters Park.
Credit Rebecca Green / Northeast Indiana Public Radio/WBOI

 Fort Wayne City Council will discuss a resolution celebrating National Native American Heritage Month in the city during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Fifth District councilman Geoff Paddock hinted a few weeks ago that he would propose the resolution to “provide a historical perspective on past events.” In it, he says the city should honor and acknowledge the Miami, Potawatomi, Shawnee, Delaware and other tribal nations, of which Fort Wayne occupies the ancestral and traditional territory.

The resolution is a direct response to Anthony Wayne Day, which was celebrated as part of the annual Three Rivers Festival on July 16. It was proposed by 4th District councilman Jason Arp in February; he wanted to honor Wayne’s “bravery” and “mercy” as described in a 2004 book "Bayonets in the Wilderness" by Fort Wayne-born author and historian Alan D. Gaff.

But many took exception to the version of history presented by Gaff and Arp. 

Chief Douglas Lankford of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma expressed “disappointment and disbelief” and noted the “socially contemptible and historically inaccurate presentation given in the presence of community citizens,” noting a group of Boy Scouts present at the meeting.

The Tribe’s cultural resources office also provided a three-page historical review of the presentation, saying it “furthers misunderstanding of critical events central to the history of the city of Fort Wayne.”

The celebration went on, with actors portraying Wayne and a panel discussion featuring Gaff. The day itself went off without a hitch, but several weeks later the phrase “No pride in Native genocide” was spray-painted onto the Old Fort.

Paddock -- who did vote to approve Anthony Wayne Day in February -- highlighted the the “informed” historical review and a meeting with members of the Miami Tribe in May as the compelling factors for his proposal.

The overarching goal, he says, “is to present a fair and accurate accounting of all perspectives, to then be able to move forward as a collaborative community, where all histories and beliefs can be expressed and heard.”

November is National Native American Heritage Month. Paddock’s proposal will be discussed during Council’s next meeting at Citizens Square tonight at 5:30.