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Native Americas

Tribal Leaders: Head Chief Tamanend the Affable of the Lenape

Edited by Mick Baker from original source material, 20 May 2016

Chief Tamanend 'the affable', was known by the colonists more commonly as Tammany. Apart from this inaccurate form of the name of this noted ancient Delaware chief, it was also written as Tamanee, Tamanen, Tamanend, Tamany, Tamened, Taming, and Teinane.

In the form of Tamanen his name appears as one of the signatories of a deed to William Penn in 1683, for lands not far north of Philadelphia, within the modern Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

The American missionary, John Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder (1743 -1823), for the Moravian Church, wrote in 1817, describing him as the greatest and best chief known to Delaware tribal tradition:

"The name of Tamanend is held in the highest veneration among the Indians of all the chiefs and great men which the Lenape nation ever had, he stands foremost on the list. But although many fabulous stories are circulated about him among the whites, but little of his real history is known.

"All we know, therefore, of Tamanend is that he was an ancient Delaware chief, who never had his equal. He was in the highest degree endowed with wisdom, virtue, prudence, charity, affability, meekness, hospitality, in short with every good and noble qualification which a human being may possess. He was supposed to have had an intercourse with the great and good Spirit, for he was a stranger to everything which was bad.

"The fame of this great man extended even among the whites, who fabricated numerous legends respecting him, which I never heard, however, from the mouth of an Indian, and therefore believe to be fabulous. In the Revolutionary war his enthusiastic admirers dubbed him a saint, and he was established under the name of St Tammany, the Patron Saint of America. His name was inserted in some calendars, and his festival celebrated on the first day of May in every year."

Heckewelder goes on to describe the annual 1 May celebration, which was conducted along native American lines. It included the smoking of the calumet and Indian dances in the open air, and Heckewelder says that similar 'Tammany societies' were later organised in other cities.

A Colonel George Morgan of Princeton, New Jersey, was sent by Congress around the year 1776 on a special mission to the western tribes. Heckewelder states that the Delaware conferred upon him the name of Tamanend in remembrance of the ancient chief and as the greatest mark of respect which they could pay to Morgan.

Haines, however, in his chapter on the Order of Red Men (American Indians, p658, 1888, quotes a contemporary document from which it appears that the Philadelphia society, which was probably the first to bear the name, and which is claimed as the original of the 'Red Men' secret order, was organised on 1 May 1772, under the title of 'Sons of King Tammany', with a strongly Loyalist tendency (towards the British monarchy). It is probable that the 'Saint Tammany' society was a later organisation of Revolutionary sympathisers who were opposed to such kingly ideals. Saint Tammany parish, Louisiana, preserves the memory.

William Penn and the Indians
William Penn's treaty of 1683 with the Indians was recreated in oils in 1771-1772 by Benjamin West, entitled 'The Treaty of Penn with the Indians'



Main Sources

Haines, Elijah Middlebrook - American Indians, Chicago, 1888

Weslager, C A - The Delaware Indians - A History, Rutgers University Press (Reprint Edition (1 January 1990)

Online Sources


First Nations: Issues of Consequence

Legends of America



Text copyright © Mick Baker. An original feature for the History Files.