Fort Wayne has a new holiday to mark on its calendar this July in honor of its namesake and founder: Gen. Anthony Wayne.
A general during the Revolutionary War, stories were told of Wayne’s unorthodox leadership style that led to a victory that helped the United States gain independence from Great Britain. For local members of the native Miami tribe, though, Wayne, who gained the nickname Mad Anthony, represents less of a hero and more of a tyrant.
“The resolution and discussion portray an inaccurately negative picture of us as Miami people,” Diane Hunter, tribal historic preservation officer for the Miami, said during the public comment section of the March 26 council meeting. “Gen. Wayne led an invading army into … the land of the Miami; the implication that Wayne was merciful as he killed our people in order to take our land … is a skewed and offensive perspective.”
Despite Wayne’s less-than-stellar relationship with the Miami, the Fort Wayne City Council voted 6-3 in favor of the holiday.
One of the benefits of selecting July 16 that Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, touted during committee discussions was the fact that the holiday would fall during the city’s annual Three Rivers Festival. This was news to Jack Hammer, the festival’s executive director, who told Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly that he learned about this new holiday in a newspaper like many others.
“They didn’t tell us they were going to do it,” Hammer said. “Which is normal. There are plenty of days they put in that we bring into the festival.”
This year’s festival is July 12-20.
Hammer made it clear that the festival does not have a stance either way on the holiday, but that after the holiday was approved by council, Hammer and the festival were included in the preparation talks. He also emphasized that efforts had been made by the planning committee to also include members of the Miami tribe and encourage them to be a part of it.
“What we saw from (the committee) was not hate, not arrogance,” Hammer said. “One of the first things we said and that (the committee) brought up to us is how they were going to do the best they can to contact the Miami to be part of this and offer them a chance to teach their history.”
Multiple attempts to contact Hunter and/or any other local representatives of the Miami tribe to verify this by Business Weekly were unsuccessful.
A hot-button topic like this, amid debates of changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the necessity of statues depicting Confederate military leaders, can prove to be a polarizing one. But Hammer has faith in the people of Fort Wayne.
“I would just hope that people would come together and discuss this and learn and grow from this rather than use this thing that’s happened a long time ago to separate us now,” Hammer said. “We have always welcomed the Miami in our parade from the very start. It wasn’t our intention to create something that creates division. We want to bring people together, and we want to continue to do that.”