The Fort Wayne City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution to honor Native American heritage and correct the historical record included in an earlier resolution honoring the city's namesake.
The resolution sponsored by Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, was an answer to backlash that resulted from a resolution declaring July 16 “General 'Mad' Anthony Wayne Day.” With Tuesday's 6-0 vote, Fort Wayne will also recognize November as National Native American Heritage Month.
Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, sponsored the Anthony Wayne Day resolution, which was approved in a 6-3 vote Feb. 26, over the objections of Councilmen John Crawford, R-at large, Glynn Hines, D-6th, and Russ Jehl, R-2nd. Passage of that resolution sparked criticism from members of the Miami Tribe, other area residents and some historians.
Arp was absent Tuesday. Tom Didier, R-3rd, and Jehl were also absent.
“I thought it was important that we look at the other founders of our community, folks that preceded Anthony Wayne, folks that are sometimes forgotten as we look at the history of our city,” said Paddock, who had voted in favor of Arp's resolution.
Paddock said his goal was to respond to the “hurt feelings that we saw” when the Anthony Wayne Day resolution was approved.
Paddock's resolution – which was reviewed by 69 experts from various universities, historical organizations and Native American tribal nations – refutes the contention that Native American fighters at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in August 1794 were commanded by British officers. That was included in Arp's February resolution.
The resolution also recognizes that there are more than 1,000 people who identify as Native American living in Fort Wayne, including more than 200 members of the Miami Tribe, and acknowledges that Arp's resolution “did not provide a complete telling of certain historical aspects of the establishment of Fort Wayne.”
Arp's resolution relied heavily on the work of Alan Gaff, author of “Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne's Legion in the Old Northwest” to form its factual basis.
Gaff's portrayal of Anthony Wayne was criticized by the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and some other historians as inaccurate.
In April, Gaff, described the concerns raised over Arp's resolution as “hysteria.”
But on Tuesday, Melissa Rinehart, a Native American history consultant for the Fort Wayne History Center, challenged Gaff's expertise. She holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Michigan State University.
Rinehart called him “an untrained historian lacking the ability to frame history contextually and from multiple vantage points.”
“History matters, and we have the moral obligation to relay accurate and multi-dimensional perspectives when it comes to understanding the past,” Rinehart said. “Simply put, the study of history is important because it allows us to understand and make sense of the world we live in today.”
Diane Hunter, historic preservation officer of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, said the Miami Tribe is pleased that the resolution corrects the historical inaccuracies presented in the earlier Anthony Wayne Day resolution. Hunter added that the tribe “never wanted to stop Fort Wayne from recognizing its namesake.”
Paddock's resolution is also a “more balanced approach” than Arp's, she said.
“It recognizes that we Miami people were, have been, still are living here in Fort Wayne and in the surrounding area,” Hunter said.