Monday, February 11, 2013

Native American Chief Bolstered American Democratic Spirit

Part 13 of the series Are Native Americans Relevant?

Across North American, Native Americans organized in great variety of lodges and small, locally based organizations that were independent of kinship ties.  During the American Revolution colonists created groups that imitated them.  One was the Tammany Society named after the Lenni Lenape chief Tamanend.  Early in May a celebration was held. They began serious demonstrations for independence and participants began calling themselves Americas.  
 The Sons of Liberty adopted Tamanend as their patron saint and changed their name of Society of King Tammany by 1772.  It spread throughout the colonies.  All societies followed an Iroquoian model of organization.  They formed 13 tribes for the colonies and each had a totem. 
After the American Revolution the society became the first veterans’ organization.  It changed its name to the Constitutional Sons of St. Tammany and continued to identify with Natives.  Members came from the working and middle classes.  The War of 1812, with the majority of Native Americans on the British side, ended the glorification of Native Americans.  The time also coincided with westward migration and opening of the plains.  Ties with the Natives were cut because the Americans wanted their land.  In addition, there was no longer need for revolutionary ardor and the deism espoused was no longer popular.  The New York Tammany Society continued as a political organization.

 Other Sons of Liberty created the Improved Order of Red Men.  It was more radical and had a more strongly American ideology.  The theory was that Europeans had learned democracy from Native Americanss and could improve it by further emulating them.  They prayed to the Great Spirit.  They were anticapitalist and teatotallers.  The members became more concerned with ritual and less with ideals, settling down as a social and fraternal organization.
 The Native Americans inspired Ernest Thompson Seton to form the Woodland Indian Society in 1902. Although it was not successful, the society inspired Lord Robert Stephenson Baden-Powell to create the Boy Scouts, removing most of the American characteristics and making it paramilitary.  The Girl Guides in Great Britain and the Girl Scouts in the United States were subsequently created.

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