Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News.
Plans are afoot to erect a monument to Anthony Wayne on the original site of Fort Defiance adjacent to the Defiance Public Library or on a donated lot across the street. It seems that almost everyone is in agreement that this monument should be erected — a 6-foot testimony to the greatness of Mad Anthony. Defiance mayor Mike McCann assured locals that his team, along with people associated with the Andrew L. Tuttle Museum, will ensure that the plaque on the monument is historically correct, right down to its punctuation. Of course, the text of the plaque has not been made public.
I wonder if the plaque will mention that Wayne was a slave owner; that he used a scorched earth policy to starve local indigenous people; that he burned their villages; that he was known for, to quote the Philadelphia Aurora, “the uncommon slaughter of Native Americans.” Wayne took by force land that belonged to indigenous people. He did so through violence, cruelty, and horrific bloodshed. Further, at the Treaty of Greenville, Wayne promised indigenous locals that the land of “Indiana” and lands to the west of Ohio would be theirs forever. He lied. Will any of these historical facts be on the plaque?
Further, if people want to erect a monument to commemorate eighteenth-century Defiance history, why not erect a monument memorializing the great indigenous people groups that once walked the shores of the Maumee (Hotaawathiipi), Auglaize (Kathinakithiipi), Tiffin, and St. Joseph (Kociihsasiipi) rivers — something more significant than a memorial about a big apple tree or the name of a park. This project has been talked about on and off in recent years, but seems to be on hold.
Our local history is steeped in the blood of indigenous people. Wayne, under the authority of the U.S. government, was a usurper; a man who believed in manifest destiny. In his mind, indigenous people stood in the way of White Americans achieving their God-given destiny. If they would not willingly give up their houses and lands, he would use violence to take them. Is Anthony Wayne really the kind of man we want to memorialize in 2023?
I hope Mayor McCann and city leaders will refocus their attention on building a monument that memorializes the lives of Native Americans who once lived here, and not a man known for ethnic cleansing and the destruction of indigenous people.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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