Indigenous Peoples Day: Rally to remove tribute to Creek Indian War of 1836
By David Pendered
In Decatur Sunday, over 100 people of all ages observed Indigenous Peoples Day at a rally calling for the removal of a monument from the Decatur Square – a cannon used in the U.S. war to remove the Creek Nation from Georgia.
Indigenous Peoples Day is a counterpoint to Columbus Day. It replaces recognition of the Italian explorer with recognition of those who resided in the New World before Columbus arrived.
The group that gathered Sunday had wanted the cannon removed when DeKalb County complied with a court order to remove a Confederate monument from the square. That happened on June 18 – in an unheralded procedure just before midnight.
Like the Confederate monument, the cannon was placed near the historic DeKalb County Courthouse at the turn of the 20th century by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Unlike the Confederate monument, the cannon was not ordered removed from the courthouse grounds by DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger. Seeliger’s ruling addressed only the Confederate memorial, which city officials contended had become a threat to public safety amid the demonstrations related to the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
The cannon memorializes expulsion of indigenous peoples following the Creek Indian War of 1836. According to a report by the National Park Service, the war was a consequence of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which was staunchly supported by President Andrew Jackson. One passage of the report observes:
- “White settlers invaded Indian farmsteads, beating, murdering, raping, and driving the natives off their allocated land. Still other Indians lost their land to trickery. Speculators, many of them headquartered in Columbus, hatched various schemes to induce Indians to abandon their allotments.”
The Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights has been at the forefront of the effort to remove the cannon. Beacon Hill was established from a group convened by Elizabeth Wilson, then Decatur’s mayor and the first Black elected to the position. Wilson is listed as an “elder representative” to Beacon Hill on the organization’s website.
Beacon Hill sponsored a rally June 17 to, “demand removal of monuments to hate” at an event named, “Take it Down: No More Monuments to White Supremacy.”
The organization is sponsoring a petition on change.org a petition titled, “Removal of Genocidal Cannon in Decatur Square.” The petition has gathered 329 signatures of a goal of 500. The petition states, in full:
- “We, the undersigned, request that the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners pass a resolution to remove the cannon on the City of Decatur Square placed there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) in 1906.
- “The cannon commemorates the 1836 ‘Indian War’ that was part of the white supremacist, genocidal removal of the Creeks from the state of Georgia. In the same way our community won a people’s victory in June 2020 with the removal of the other monument to white supremacy sponsored by the UDC, we see the removal of this cannon as another important step towards raising awareness, restorative justice, and the racial equity we seek to create in our diverse community.”
One signature on the petition, posted Sunday and attributed to a woman in Decatur, commented, in full:
- “We need stop whitewashing our history and come to terms with the hateful, violent roots of white supremacy that continue plague our progress towards equality and justice. We need to listen to and amplify the voices that a white supremacist society relentlessly tries to silence. Symbols rooted in hate do not belong in any public space. Replace the cannon with a symbol that honors the lives of indigenous people that will make them feel welcome back in their home land.”
Another signature on Sunday, attributed to a woman in New Haven, Ct., commented, in full:
- “We shouldn’t celebrate genocide. And this cannon retraumatizes Creek and other Indigenous people in our community. Let’s replace it with thoughtful memorials and art that can educate, heal, and inspire better relations.”