What’s in a name? For members of the American Indian Tribes, the answer is “everything,” and the indigenous community in Ohio agrees. This is why they want the U.S. Forest Service to adopt a new name for Wayne National Forest, located in southeast Ohio.
They claim that the name is offensive to them as it comes from General Anthony Wayne, the same person who spearheaded a violent attack against their local community.
“The national forest is currently named after General Anthony Wayne, whose complicated legacy includes leading a violent campaign against the Indigenous peoples of Ohio that resulted in their removal from their homelands,” the forest service revealed in a news release.
General Anthony Wayne, nicknamed “Mad Anthony” due to his military exploits, impulsiveness, and tremendous temper, is one of the country’s founding fathers. He was also commander-in-chief of the US Armed Forces during President Washington’s tenure. Wayne is said to have led attacks against certain Native American tribes in the 18th century, which resulted in the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers and the 1795 Treaty of Greenville.
The Battle of Fallen Timbers was fought near in Maumee, near Toledo, Ohio, with Wayne’s forces fighting against Miami, Shawnee, Delaware, and other Native American tribes that were in support of the Northwestern Confederacy. Although the Indians had British allies, Wayne’s troops won the battle, which ended the Northwest Indian War and guaranteed the nascent US government’s control over the Native American tribes.
By signing the Treaty of Greenville, the Indians had to cede large portions of their lands (present-day Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois) in exchange for money and a promise that they would be treated fairly. This agreement marked a significant turning point in USA’s bid to expand westward.
Unfortunately, reports show that America didn’t always hold up on their end of the agreement in the years that followed. American settlers kept encroaching upon Indian American lands, and the Native American tribes weren’t protected against violence as promised.
These memories are ever fresh in the minds of Native American tribes, and they would prefer not to be reminded of the ill-treatment meted out to them by having the Ohio National Forest named after their attacker.
According to a Miami Tribe of Oklahoma representative, Logan York, even though Wayne remains a revolutionary hero to many, “he is also the main villain in our story of resistance, trying to keep our homes and maintain our lives.” “For a National Forest to bear the name of Anthony Wayne is a harmful, and painful reminder and devalues us as Native peoples of Ohio,” he added.
However, some people have opposed this move, and chief among them is Sen. J.D. Vance, a member of the Republic Party representing Ohio. In a letter he wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, he stated that changing the forest’s name “denigrates Ohio history and represents a lack of fidelity to our nation’s founding generation.”
Despite the clash, however, it seems more likely that the name would be changed to Buckeye National Forest. “Our intention is to listen to Tribal Nations and community members, and take the actions needed to better serve them. The new name embraces the forest’s identity as Ohio’s only national forest and the welcoming, inclusive nature of the people of Ohio,” says Forest Supervisor Lee Stewart.
The authorities are also considering Koteewa National Forest and Ohio National Forest as alternative new names for the forest.