Wayne Day organizers have events lined up

April 11, 2019

The group in charge of planning Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne Day announced events Wednesday for the first celebration, despite criticisms raised by Native American tribes. 

City Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, was joined by members of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne Organization Inc., the nonprofit entity created to promote the local holiday. Those present Wednesday included Michael Skeens, senior district executive of the Boy Scouts of America, Barbara Harris of the Daughters of the American Revolution and others. 

The organization also works to enhance education about local history at private, parochial and home-schooling levels, said Michael Loomis, a local attorney involved in the planning. The goal, he said, is to work with schools to develop curriculum about local history. 

The group has met three times since March 9, Loomis said.

Events being planned include an entry in the July 13 Three Rivers Festival parade that would consist of a float and a horse-mounted patrol. In addition to the parade, the group will dedicate the Anthony Wayne statue in Freimann Square on July 16 and give a presentation at the Old Fort about Wayne. 

The Downtown Fort Wayne Optimists Club will also hold an essay contest featuring kids’ writings about Wayne. The contest is for ages 8 to 10 and will include prizes of 200 and $100 for the top essays.

Children attending private, parochial and home schools are eligible. 

Arp said he has been working with the 122nd Fighter Wing, which will take part in event planning, to include a tribute for military service. The unit, Arp said, is nicknamed the Blacksnakes, a reference to one of Wayne’s nicknames. 

“We’re looking at this more of an education for our future children, future youth so they can understand the background of Fort Wayne and how we’ve come about,” Skeens said. 

The group is also looking for reenactors to portray Wayne and his wife, Mary Penrose.

Notably absent from Wednesday’s news conference were members of the area’s Native American tribes, including the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, which has called for the Fort Wayne City Council to rescind the resolution declaring July 16 as Anthony Wayne Day.

Loomis said he has reached out to Chief Douglas Lankford and other members of the tribe about participating in the day’s events but has not heard back. 

“As a group, our committee had voted to reach out to both the Miami and the Shawnee and see what we could do about bringing them in and be part of the activities on that day,” Arp said. “That was planned well before they reached out to us.”

Loomis said he spoke to Julie Olds, the cultural adviser for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. 

“I indicated to her that on behalf of our entire organization, I offered her our apology for any inconvenience or ill-feelings that were created by the creation of the resolution,” Loomis said.

“And that we want the Miami Tribe and other tribes that are part of our local history to play a part not only in planning these activities honoring Gen. Wayne, but also recognizing their role in history.” 

Loomis said the Miami Nation is invited to participate in the event’s planning process. 

“As I told Julie, ‘We want you to participate, we encourage and support your decision if you decide to do so,’” Loomis said. ”‘We want you to tell your part of the story, warts and all.’”

A message left for Olds seeking comment Wednesday was not immediately returned.

Tribal leaders have called the history included in the Anthony Wayne Day resolution “socially contemptible and historically inaccurate” and sent a letter to City Council members asking that the resolution be rescinded. The Fort Wayne History Center has also said it was not consulted when the resolution was being drafted. 

Arp sponsored the resolution.

However, in a statement, the author of the main text that was used to craft the resolution defended his accounting of Wayne’s history from critics. 

“Fort Wayne needs a lesson in history not hysteria,” said Alan Gaff, author of “Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne’s Legion in the Old Northwest.”

In his statement, Gaff disputes claims that Native American tribes commanded their own fighters at the Battle of Fallen Timbers near what is now Toledo. He also disputes the claim that Wayne and his troops were cruel to indigenous families living in the area.

“After his victory over the combined British and Indian forces at Fallen Timbers, Wayne halted his troops within gunshot of Fort Miamis,” Gaff said. “Even though vulnerable Indian towns were visible in the distance, Wayne deliberately chose to confront the fort’s British commander rather than sending his troops after defenseless men, women and children.” 

Gaff also said Wayne “should not be held accountable” for actions that took place after his death in 1796, “such as white settlers’ failure to respect the native land guaranteed by the treaty (of Greenville).” 

“Gen. Anthony Wayne admired the military abilities of his opponents, just as they respected his,” Gaff said. “There is no evidence for the negative portrayals by those who do not know or understand history.”