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Maryland Historical Trust removes sign at Fort Garrison after complaint about the term 'hostile Indians'

A historical marker at Fort Garrison in Baltimore County. The sign has since been removed over its use of the words "hostile Indians."
A historical marker at Fort Garrison in Baltimore County. The sign has since been removed over its use of the words "hostile Indians." (Courtesy photo)

A historical marker at Fort Garrison in Stevenson has been removed after officials received a complaint regarding its use of the term “hostile Indians.”

A spokesman for the Maryland Historical Trust, a state agency dedicated to preserving and interpreting the legacy of Maryland’s past, wrote in an email that the marker in Baltimore County had been removed after receiving a complaint about a line that read that the fort served “as a protection against hostile Indians.”

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“The language on this particular marker dates back to 1934, when the original sign was erected a short distance away,” wrote David Buck, a Historical Trust spokesman, in an email.

“It was reproduced and moved to its current site in 1968,” he continued. “As a result of the inquiry, the marker was removed while the wording and building history are under review.”

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He added that the Historical Trust took over the Roadside Historical Marker program in 1985, well after the sign’s creation.

Built in 1695, Fort Garrison was a stronghold against Native American attacks during the French and Indian War, which lasted from 1754 to 1763.

Bishop Aubrey Harley of Healthy Choice Ministries raised the issue with Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s office and others after seeing the marker and the word “hostile” a few months ago.

“As I begin to read this sign, I say ‘Hostile? That’s a little backwards,’” Harley said.

It is indicative of weighted language and bias that some Americans have toward Native American history, Harley said, and not representative of the fact that the original colonists forcibly displaced the native population, mostly through violence and force.

The statue of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney was removed from the grounds of the Maryland State House in Annapolis.

“Subjugating the people and making them look like they’re not human is not justified at all,” he said.

The questions about the marker are somewhat representative of the growing conversation happening nationwide as to what historical events and figures should be memorialized, as well as how they should be.

In Virginia, a judge recently ruled that confederate statues in Charlottesville — the town where white supremacist protests over the removal of the statues turned deadly in 2017 — are war monuments and protected under state law. The ruling means the city likely doesn’t have the legal authority to take them down.

As for Harley, the bishop brushed aside the idea of preserving the marker’s historical significance, even in the sense that it represents a period of time in which these sentiments were more widely accepted.

In response, he quoted a West African proverb that says, “The lion’s story will never be known as long as the hunter is the one to tell it.”

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