Gen. Anthony Wayne’s statue is staying in place in Freimann Square. This is good news indeed for the Courthouse Green, which should remain – as designed – a way to showcase the beauty of the architectural treasure that is the County Courthouse.
But keeping Anthony Wayne’s statue in Freimann Square, trimming some trees and adjusting the lighting are only the beginning of the changes that should be made. To more adequately tell the historical story of this city and region, Gen. Wayne’s statue should be accompanied by at least one other sculpture.
We have a statue honoring Gen. Anthony Wayne because, to many, he is a legendary hero.
Like George Washington, he was well educated (though he didn’t go to college), a crafty military strategist, extremely loyal to and respected by his troops.
During the Revolutionary War he became one of Washington’s most trusted generals. He spent the infamous winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge and was also with Washington at Yorktown for the decisive battle of the American Revolution.
But, like Washington, Wayne owned slaves and believed that the indigenous Indian population had no rights to the land they occupied. After the British surrender, Wayne went to Georgia and attacked the Creek and Cherokee, who during the war had allied with the British in hopes of retaining their homelands against the encroaching colonists.
Georgia rewarded Wayne with a large rice plantation, where he settled after the war and was a member of the state convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution (which, of course, counted blacks as three-fifths of a person and recognized no rights for Indians).
The Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War forced the British to cede the Northwest Territory to the United States – but no one asked the Indians, who had been living there for generations. Passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 saw American settlers coming into the Ohio Valley area at the rate of 10,000 a year.
The Indians fought to keep, at a minimum, the territory north of the Ohio River. For a number of years they were relatively successful.
Miami war chief Michikinikwa (known in English as Little Turtle) led a confederation of Native American tribes in defeating federal army forces in 1790 and 1791.
In 1792, President Washington convinced Wayne to return to military service to subdue the Indians. Wayne instituted basic training for his troops (a first for the regular army) and built a series of forts. The Indians attacked one of them, Fort Recovery, and were unsuccessful despite greatly outnumbering the American troops.
After this, Michikinikwa, seeing the handwriting on the wall, gave up his military leadership and advocated for a negotiated settlement. His allies fought on and lost to Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers near Maumee, Ohio in 1794. Wayne ordered his men to burn all the Indian villages and crops in the area.
One could argue, certainly, that Wayne’s bravery, leadership, and devotion to his troops and country make him a man to be admired. But there are clearly other sides to his story and to that of the Northwest Territory, Indiana and Fort Wayne. In a democratic society these stories need to be told too.
Imagine the critical thinking, reflection and opportunities for dialogue created when people encounter differing interpretations of history in a public square. Yes, the city is named after Anthony Wayne, but the Miami name for the area, Kekionga, also appears on our official seal.
So go ahead and enhance Wayne’s statue in Freimann Square, but add to it a statue of Michikinikwa and a plaque telling the story from the point of view of the Miami and other native peoples. Then we will really be doing a service to past, current and future residents and visitors to Fort Wayne.