The Buried History of Fort Wayne and Culture War

Over the course of about 15 months in 2019-20, I developed a special side project: a deep look at a political and culture-war fight that broke out in my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, last year, over creating a new honor for the town’s namesake, who conquered the Native American tribes in the Midwest and opened it up for white settlement. Digging into this would take me to Oklahoma to visit the tribal nation that once lived where Fort Wayne now stands, and lead me to excavate some important but not always pretty truths about the area’s history that we were never taught in school growing up. The complexities and perspectives raised by this fight in many ways anticipated the broader national moment touched off by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The project was published by POLITICO Magazine as “When The Culture Wars Hit Fort Wayne.”

In the course of researching the history of the region, I also learned that there is a major Native American burial ground under the city’s Spy Run area, just north of downtown. It was casually desecrated when the area was developed as a residential neighborhood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And other than a fragment of open space that was restored 60 years ago and misleadingly named the Little Turtle Memorial, it has since been forgotten — almost literally covered up. I had room for only a few sentences about it in the main POLITICO Magazine article, but used that research to write a stand-alone piece about the cemetery for The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, which published it as “Buried Concerns.”

Here is a curated set of source documents about the Miami tribe cemetery beneath Spy Run.