Signs of the times: Plaques acknowledge Gainesville’s troubling past

by Joe Courter

Gainesville is the only city in Florida to drop Columbus Day in favor of honoring Indigenous Peoples Day. A plaque was installed in the city hall square with the following words:

We remember them with compassion
Naebahiono manta nahiabotanicano

Gainesville is part of the traditional homelands of the Potano people, a Timucua-speaking society. The Timucua people lived here since time immemorial. 

Indigenous peoples from other nations long inhabited the area around what is now called Gainesville, and made innumerable contributions to the region. 

By the end of the 18th century, most of the Timucua people were obliterated by disease, violence and warfare. May this marker remind us to perpetually seek ways of mirroring the regenerative lifeways of the original Indigenous stewards of this land.

Also in downtown Gainesville at S. Main Street and University Avenue, just 100 feet from the slab where the Confederate statue used to stand, is a two-sided plaque put up on October 25 in conjunction with the Equal Justice Initiative and the Alachua County Community Remembrance Project. One side is devoted to Reconstruction-era lynching in Gainesville and the other side to lynching in America. 

It is good to see these permanent memorials erected to acknowledge the previously downplayed or ignored parts of the area’s and country’s history.

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