William Penn and Lenape Chief Tammany

Indian Profile Rock, Mt. Tammany, 1650 Ft., Delaware Water Gap, Pa.
Profile in rock purported to be the head of Tammany, chief of the Lenni Lenape

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

The Lenni Lenape were the first inhabitants of the Pocono Mountains area. Long before European settlers called Monroe County home, these Native Americans occupied the land. Indeed, the name Lenni Lenape translates into “the original peoples,” and the term Pocono in the native Lenape tongue means “a river between two mountains.” Because the Lenape did not have a written language, their history was passed from generation to generation by story tellers. The ancestors of the Lenape, the true “original peoples,” were said to have come from the great sea in the west thousands of years before Christopher Columbus.

There were three clans of the Lenni Lenape nation: Wolf, Turtle, and Turkey. Many times, the Lenape were referred to as Delaware because they lived along the Delaware River. The Wolf Clan (also known as Munsee or Minsi) occupied land in what is now Monroe County. Their area stretched northward along the Delaware River from the point where the Lehigh River meets the Delaware in what is now Easton. The Turtle Clan occupied land south of the Lehigh-Delaware confluence, reaching into Philadelphia, and the Turkey Clan lived further south, occupying current-day Wilmington, Delaware. The three clans were all sects of the Algonquin tribe and generally lived peacefully with each other.

Each Lenape village was independent of the others and followed its own rules. A trusted spokesman, or sachem, was “in charge” of each village; however, Lenape villages were democratic, and every member had a voice in important decision making. The role of the sachem was important for the village, though, in both times of peace and war. Eventually, Europeans began colonizing the Delaware River valley, and as relations between Native Americans and European settlers soured, these sachems assumed a larger role in village leadership, becoming recognized as chiefs. One of the noted Lenape chiefs was Tammany, a signer on a land deed between the Native Americans and William Penn.

In 1682, William Penn arrived in his new colony, Pennsylvania. As a Quaker, Penn believed in equality, respect, and honor towards everything and everyone. Even though Penn was granted his land holdings in the New World by King Charles II of England, Penn also arranged to purchase the lands from the Lenape. This attitude of respect elevated William Penn’s standing among the Lenape, especially with Tammany.

Tammany was born in 1628 in what would soon become Pennsylvania; his name means “easy to talk to.” He and William Penn visited each other’s homes, shared in feasts and traded goods. Tammany presented Penn with a wampum belt which survives today at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

In 1683, Tammany was present to serve as one of the signers of the deed as Penn purchased the land from the Lenape. For his part, Penn traded guns, clothing, pipes and tobacco, tools, glasses, needles, blankets, and bells for the four parcels of land that would become Pennsylvania. Tammany made his mark on the deed in the form of a coiled snake. It is believed that Tammany died in 1698; after this date, his name no longer appeared in letters or deeds, and he did not attend council meetings. Unfortunately, William Penn’s sons did not continue in their father’s beliefs in honesty and respect, and the relationship between the Lenape and the European settlers deteriorated.

Tammany was a great Lenape leader and worked diligently to provide for his people through his relationship with William Penn. His image has been immortalized in many places, including a natural rock formation in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. From Route 611, south of the village of Delaware Water Gap, one can look across the Delaware River and see the rock profile of Tammany, chief of the Lenni Lenape.

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