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DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approves removal of “Indian War” cannon from Decatur Square

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DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approves removal of “Indian War” cannon from Decatur Square

Siblings Ben and Adam Berardi hold signs in front of the ‘Indian War’ cannon during a rally held by Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Oct. 11, calling on DeKalb County Commissioners to remove the cannon from the Decatur Square. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, at its Oct. 12 meeting, unanimously approved a resolution to remove the controversial “Indian War” cannon from the Decatur Square. The cannon will be moved to an appropriate storage facility within 90 days.

The resolution was introduced by Commissioner Ted Terry on Sept. 28 and was backed by Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson.

“It’s clear that this relic cannon is a wayward orphaned cannon that has no clear ownership,” Terry said. “It’s in the public right of way, so the effort of this resolution is to remove it within 90 days and hopefully the rightful owners will come forward. I appreciate all of the residents, constituents, and the city of Decatur for prompting us to take action on this.”

The cannon was placed in Decatur in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and memorializes the removal of Indigenous peoples following the Creek Indian War of 1836. The war was a consequence of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which President Andrew Jackson strongly supported, according to a report from the National Park Service. In 1821, Georgia forced the sale of half of the remaining Creek land, including the land that is now the city of Decatur, which was taken by white settlers in a land lottery.

The UDC also installed a confederate monument that was removed in 2020. The Decatur City Commission in December adopted a resolution in support of the cannon’s removal.

The cannon is not publicly owned and is not a monument as defined by state law. It is unclear who currently owns the cannon. There is also no documentation that establishes that the relic cannon was dedicated to or accepted by DeKalb County, according to the resolution.

Members of the community have continued to encourage the commissioners to remove the cannon. At previous meetings, some residents suggested replacing the cannon with a memorial or artwork that commemorates Indigenous people and also educates the public.

Dozens gathered in Decatur on Monday, Oct. 11, which is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, to demand DeKalb County remove the cannon immediately.

Members of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights and the community marched from the cannon to the DeKalb County offices on Commerce Drive chanting “too many people died, no more symbols of genocide,” and “Indigenous and Africans on this land, symbols of hate cannot stand.”

“There was a time when the guns were against us,” John Winterhawk, an elder member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, told Decaturish. “We were shooting arrows at people who were shooting bullets and cannons. It didn’t take much to blow us away. It didn’t take much to put us on the Trail of Tears.”

During the protest, Winterhawk said that more Indigenous people don’t live in the area because the cannon sitting in downtown Decatur disturbs the peace.

“But we’re not disturbing your peace, we’re disturbing our own peace. We’d rather it be a welcome sign rather than a cannon that would take our heads off,” Winterhawk said.

The cannon doesn’t belong on the Square, he added.

“We’re tired of cannons being poked at us all the time,” Winterhawk told Decaturish. “There’s no reason for that cannon to be there. Even if one simple, little child said, ‘take this cannon away,’ these commissioners should listen to that and do that.”

Activists said the cannon’s placement was meant to send a message.

“They wanted to have some symbol that would show white supremacists that they were welcome in Decatur,” said Sara Patenaude, member of the Coalition for Diverse Decatur and DeKalb. “Until we remove all of the symbols, all of the practices, all of the systems of white supremacy, we are not a welcoming community. We are not a diverse community.”

It starts with the county commissioners deciding to remove the cannon today and having it removed tonight, Patenaude added.

She and others advocated for the immediate removal of the cannon and were concerned about the resolution providing a timeframe of 90 days for the cannon to be removed.

“I want to see a crane out there. I want to get a truck out there [Tuesday] night,” Patenaude said. “One hundred and fifteen years is too long. We are done. We want it down now.”

Writer Alex Brown contributed to this story. 

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