Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sweet 1st Day of May

The Rev. Mr. Heckewelder, who is probably the best authority we have upon the Indians of this section of the country, states that Tamanend's memory was held in the highest esteem by his own people, but that he never heard them say much concerning him, as it was not their custom to talk of their dead except in a very general way, and that no white man that had any regard for their feelings ever broached the subject of their dead to them. The various traditions, both verbal and written, concerning Tamanend emanated from the whites and not from the Indians. We see that between the first record that we have of him in 1683 and the last in 1697 he must have impressed himself strongly upon not only the community but also upon the officials of the provincial government, for in the last account he is described in the deed, which of course was writ ten by the English, as the Great Sachem Tamaniens, and no other Indian is so described; so to have acquired the right to such a title he must have had at least a large part of the attributes ascribed to him. In further corroboration of the way in which his memory was held, we cite the old cannon presented by the Colony on Schuylkill to the Association Battery about 1747, on which appear the words "Kawania che Keekeru" (This is my right, I will defend it). By many writers this motto is ascribed to Tamanend, and justly so, we think, rather than to the Delaware Nation alone, for we would expect just such a sentiment to be chosen by a man endowed with such lofty ideas as these words express. (This was the motto of the Saint Tammany Society. See Independent, May 3, 1783.) Further, the records of this Society show that their principal day—May 1, or opening day—has been always spoken of by them as Tammany's day. Their tradition is that Tamanend himself made a treaty with the fathers of this Society giving them the right to fish in the waters of the Schuylkill and hunt game upon its banks.

We also find this motto at the top of the title-page of a pamphlet which is in verse: "Kawanio Che Keeteru, a true relation of a bloody battle fought between George and Lewis in the year 1755. Printed in the year MDCCLVI." Turning over the page, we find "The words I have chosen at the head of my Title Page I am told by a gentleman skilled in the Indian languages is very expressive of a Hero relying on God to bless his endeavors in protecting what he has put under his care." "To form some idea of its signification," he says, "you may imagine a man with his wife and children about him and with an air of resolution calling out to his enemy, All these God has given me and I will defend them." (In Hist. Soc. of Penna. Said to have been written by Nicholas Scull.)

This translation remained unchallenged until 1888, when Dr. Brinton, Professor of American Archæology and Linguistics in the University of Pennsylvania, pronounced the words Iroquois and not Delaware, and at his suggestion they were submitted to Mr. Horatio Hale, who translates them thus: "I am master wherever I am," and in a very able article gives his reasons for their being in this language rather than in the Delaware tongue. (American Antiquarian, January, 1886.)

As to the last resting-place of Tamanend, this is a subject upon which a great deal has been written. The tradition that he is buried by a spring in New Britain Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about three and one-half miles north of Doylestown, near the banks of the Neshaminy, on the farm owned by Enos Detwiler, is generally believed. We would add, in further confirmation of the tradition, that Tamanend ended his life by setting fire to his wigwam. (Magazine of American History, Vol. XXIX. p. 255; also Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, by Sherman Day; Davis's History of Bucks County; Watson's Annals MSS., p. 498.)

In the following lines, which appear in a song published in the Pennsylvania Evening Post, April 30, 1776, reference is made to his end and also to his great age:

"As old ago came on, he grew blind, deaf and dumb,
Tho' his sport ‘twere hard to keep from it,
Quite tired of life, bid adieu to his wife,
And blaz'd like the tail of a comit, my brave boys."

The fact that an old Indian was buried at the place named in 1740 is not contradicted by any of the historians; the only question being as to whether it was Tamanend or some other Indian. The chief argument used by those who thought it was some other than our saint was that he must have been a very old man, and that they should have expected some mention of him by his contemporaries between 1697 and 1740.

We do not think that the absence of mention makes this point good, for any one familiar with the newspapers and few local writings of the period well know that items concerning events or persons of their locality are very few and far between.

The tradition of the "State in Schuylkill," referred to, is another corroborating the fact that he lived long; for if he gave the right to fish to them when they started their Society, he must have been alive in 1782, which is the date of their birth as an organization.

The high esteem in which the subject of our theme was held is best shown by the transactions of the Society named in his honor.


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