Monday, November 5, 2007

The Life of St. Tammany

Speaking of saints... the state of Louisiana is divided into parishes rather than counties, and several parishes are named after saints. There's St. Bernard parish (we're all familiar with the breed of big, rescue dog bearing his name if not with the actual saint) and St. Charles parish (I had to write a report on him for catechism class; he was a 15th century, Italian cardinal), but what about St. Tammany parish -- located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, and encompassing such cities as Mandeville, Covington, Abita Springs, and that town that starts with an "Sl" -- who is that named after? It turns out that "Saint Tammany" was not so much a saint as an Indian chief.

Tamanend (aka Tammany, 1628?-1698?) was a clan leader in the Lenni Lenape nation (whom the Europeans dubbed the Delaware Indians since the tribe lived near the river they named after the explorer De La Warr). The Lenni Lenape belonged to the greater Algonquin people -- tribes who spoke similar languages and who loosely identified with one another. Among the Algonquin, the Lenni Lenape were known as the grandfathers as they were traditionally regarded as the progenitors of all Algonquin tribes.

The Lenni Lenape organized themselves into matrilineal clans (i.e. membership was inherited from one's mother), and young men typically married outside of their clan. This meant that a child's father would be a member of another clan and that her closest male ancestor in the clan would be a maternal uncle or the maternal grandfather.

Tamanend's people lived in eastern Pennsylvania when William Penn (1644-1718) first settled the colony. As a prominent member of the Society of Friends (i.e. the Quakers), which promoted pacifism and egalitarianism, Penn felt it was important to deal fairly with the indigenous people. Thus, Penn purportedly paid 1,200 pounds for the land on which his first settlement was founded. This is universally regarded as a fair price. Among the Lenape he was given the nickname Minquon which means "quill," suggesting the pen with which treaties were signed.

Tamanend was one of the indigenous leaders present when, in 1682, Penn signed a treaty of eternal friendship under a great elm tree in the Lenape village of Shakamaxon. Tradition states that on this occasion Tamanend declared that the peace between the Quaker settlers and the Lenape people would endure as long as the streams and rivers flowed and as long as the stars burned in the sky. It is also said that Tamanend was present at a council in Philadelphia in 1694 when the Iroquois people wanted to attack the settlers. Tamanend insisted that despite the occasional obstacle standing in the way of their friendship his people should remain true to their word and keep the peace with the Christians.

Unfortunately, Penn returned to England in 1701, and his heirs and successors proved less interested in maintaining fair intercourse with the Native Americans. Moreover, more aggressive, warlike white men migrated into the region and pushed for westward expansion. One egregious incident was the so-called Walking Purchase which took place in 1737. Penn's successors produced a document of dubious authenticity which purported to be a deed, signed between the Lenape's ancestors and Penn, in which they sold him as much land as a man could walk in one-and-a-half days. The Lenape leaders agreed to honor the contract and let the colonists walk off the area conveyed. For this purpose, the colonists hired the three fastest sprinters they could find. Only one of the runners managed to finish the strenuous sprint: he travelled around 70 miles and thus gave the Penns' possession of around 1,200 square miles (roughly equivalent to the State of Rhode Island). Chief Lappawinsoe of the Lennai Lenape thought this was pretty weak, but he had little choice but to surrender the land.

The Americans westward expansion forced the Lenape to relocate time and time again. The Lenape nation's population in 1600 is estimated at around 20,000. In 1845, their numbers had dwindled to less than 2,000. But today there are almost 16,000 Lenape; although some still reside in Pennsylvania, most now live in Oklahoma.

Among the Lenape, Tamanend is remembered for his nobility of spirit, his wisdom and his kindness. There is also an interesting story surrounding Tamanend's death. When Tamanend was quite elderly, there was a conference at Philadelphia. He was too decrepit to walk so several of his younger clansmen had to carry him there. Soon the young men grew tired of lugging around old Tamanend, so when he fell asleep they built a tent and dropped him off there, leaving him in the care of an Indian girl. When Tamanend awoke, he was so frustrated and depressed at being left behind that he decided to take his own life. First, he attempted to slit his wrists but, when his hands proved to feeble to hold the knife, he instead set his bed of straw on fire and threw himself on the flames.

Tamanend's legacy would live on among Americans as well. At the time of the Revolutionary War, many colonists adopted the Indian as a symbol of the American identity to distinguish themselves from the Europeans. A particularly fervent cult arose around the peace-loving figure of Tamanend who was called "King Tammany" or "Saint Tammany" and who was dubbed "The Patron Saint of America." St. Tammany day was celebrated on May 1st or May 12th, and people would celebrate by dressing up like Indians and playing Indian games. In addition to St. Tammany Parish, Tammany Hall in New York, the Democratic Party's political machine which became synonymous with corruption, was also named after Tamanend.

A little more about the history of St. Tammany Parish... St. Tammany was part of the region known as West Florida. West Florida lay along the Gulf Coast, and it stretched from the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain in the West to the Apalachicola River and the 31st parallel in the East. The French were the first European settlers in the western part of the region while the Spanish established an outpost at Pensacola. Then, at the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763, the British gained control of West Florida as well as the Spanish colony of East Florida.

West Florida would change hands once again in 1783. After the British defeat in the Revolutionary War, Britain ceded the Floridas to Spain. At this time, many British loyalists migrated to West Florida from the thirteen colonies. They were joined by other American settlers who moved west in search of new land.

After the United States purchased the Louisiana territory from Napoleon in 1803, the US and Spain quarrelled over who owned West Florida. The US argued that at least the western portion of the area was rightly considered part of Louisiana, given that it was first settled by the French, and that it was thus included in the package deal. This was still going on when, in 1810, the Anglophone West Floridians rebelled against the Spanish. They established an independent Republic, but later that year President Monroe issued a declaration stating that West Florida was part of the Louisiana territory. Thus, William C. C. Claiborne (1775-1817), the first US governor of Louisiana (and an Anglophone Virginian, incidentally), annexed West Florida as per the President's orders and St. Tammany Parish became part of Louisiana.

St. Tammany Parish Map from 1895 Rand McNally US Almanac, scan (c) CFC productions, found on Photo of Tamanend statue by Raymond Sandoval in Philadelphia taken by Joey Blue and found on chalfont, PA gov site. Image of Willian Penn signing treaty is from a frieze in the US Capitol and is in the public domain. 1767 map of West Florida taken from Perry-Casta├▒eda Library Map Collection and found on which claims its in the public domain.


Josie said...

that was really interesting. thanks for doing all that 'search :)

nola32 said...

a few things:
a) interesting, yes. but did i really need to know that much about that wasteland of a parish?
b) when are you going to do all the research into what dumbass named the city of 'West Wego'?!?! now that's important stuff.
c) slidell bitches!!!! hahahhahaahahahahahhahhahahah
got ya.

Meeg said...

Hey, hey! Its the good people of St.T.P. (as I've decided to call it) who supply the world with Abita beer.
Mmmm, Abita... pecan harvest... fleur-de-lis restoration... christmas ale... >drools<

nola32 said...

christmas ale...which is already out!! that's right. that means some mofos i know need to get down to nola to get some!

Meeg said...

Plus, remember how I wanted that show "Northshore" to be like the OC about the fabulous lives of the rich and yatty who live in big mansions in Covington?

nola32 said...

would the opening to that show be a long and painful 30 minute drive in a slick ass car on a sunny day? that could just be the whole show. 'this is how long it takes to get from the cookie-cutter hell that is covington to a real city'. that's my concept for every single bloody episode. although i totally would watch 'Uptown Bitches'. that show would be spectacular. and they'd all go to cc's and shop at canal place. i love it!
and they would never
have gumbo parties.

Meeg said...

Well you've always been an uptown girl...

I think the intro should definitely feature a car driving across the causeway.

nola32 said...

seriously though. it's the most painful drive ever. 15 mins in i'm thinking that somehow i've actually died and stumbled onto the road to hell. it lasts for all of eternity and just keeps going... either that or you end up in fing covington for eternity (which, frankly, would be worse than driving).

Meeg said...

I remember when I drove to Covington for a job interview, and they were like "do you live on the northshore?"
"Oh, are you thinking about moving to the northshore?"
"God no."

Martin Radespiel said...

Das sind die Wahren Eigent├╝mer der Landes New York City !
They are the true owners of the country, New York City!