(PHOTOS) “Indian War” cannon removed from Decatur SquareWorkers remove the “Indian War” cannon from the Decatur Square on Tuesday, Oct. 19. Photo by Dean Hesse.
This story has been updated.
DECATUR, GA — At 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 19, community members gathered and cheered as the cannon commemorating the 1836 “Indian War” was removed from Decatur Square.
The removal was commemorated with a sage ceremony from Muscogee Nation elder John Winterhawk and a libation ceremony from Mama Nobantu, an African elder. Many community members in attendance were organizers and allies with Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, as well as members of Decolonize Decatur, who seek to uplift the intersection and solidarity of Indigenous and African people in DeKalb, and work to remove symbols of oppression.
To begin the ceremony, Beacon Hill organizers asked the crowd to form a circle around the “shallow piece of earth” where the cannon once stood. Kids were playing in the rut like it was a sandpit.
Elder John Winterhawk used sage and a hawk’s wing to smudge the area, and sprinkled ceremonial tobacco on the ground.
“My people grew here, had children here, planted corn here, vegetables of all kinds. We had homes here, and we did not want to leave here,” said Winterhawk. He noted that the cannon’s removal had been supported by the chief of the Southeastern Mvskoke Nation in Alabama.
Mama Nobantu, said that the pouring of libations was to “bring into existence the venerable Indigenous and African spirits” of the ancestors.
Organizers have been protesting for the removal of the cannon since the removal of the “Lost Cause” confederate monument on June 18, 2020. Most recently, there was a rally for the removal of the cannon on Indigenous People’s Day (October 11), and local musical artists Indigo Girls expressed support for the cannon’s removal at the Amplify Decatur festival on October 5.
The removal comes after a vote on Oct. 12 by the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners to relocate the cannon.
Commissioner Ted Terry on Sept. 28 introduced the resolution to remove the cannon, and it 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 at the Oct. 12 meeting. “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 supported and signed. 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.
“Our hearts are full, a lot of work went into this, and [we learned] a lot of lessons about how we can fight and win,” Beacon Hill member Paul McLennan said. “There was a lot of community education.”
He emphasized the impressive feat of “two symbols of hate [being] removed in less than two years.”
Commissioner Johnson, DeKalb County Commissioner for District 5, said, “There’s nothing but joy in my heart tonight.”
She described herself as a public servant rather than a politician, and noted that she grew up in a “freed slave community” in Providence, Tenn.
“We do know where hate stands, it must be removed,” said Johnson.
Beacon Hill Co-chair Fonta High said, “We know we still have to work against the white supremacist structures that allowed this cannon to stand since 1906.”
She also read a poem, “City of Fire,” by Muscogee Nation member Joy Harjo.
Plans for what will replace the cannon have not yet been decided, but Paul McLennan said they are considering commissioning art from Muscogee Nation artists.
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