Well, that piqued my interest. Could this be an actual meeting of Native American Tribes calling themselves Red Men? I thought not, particularly when I noticed the photos of two of the attendees not in native regalia, but in formal wear.
The article began, “Boise is now in the hands of Red Men. The braves have come from every direction, pouring into the city until it was no use to longer resist them. But unlike the red men of old, they came announced and Boise gracefully surrenders to them.”
The piece went on to call out “tribes” whose names I had never heard associated with Idaho, Incohonnee, How-Lish-Whampa, and Tillicum. The Great Chief of Records was expected to attend.
Okay, I had to find out more about what was clearly a fraternal organization with some—no, many, elements that are cringe-worthy to ears more attuned to what would likely offend Native Americans today. Witness: Local units are called Tribes, local meeting sites are Wigwams, the state level of the organization is called the Reservation, presided over by a board of Chiefs. Their youth auxiliary for males is the Degree of Hiawatha, and the female auxiliary is the Degree of Pocahontas.
Note that I used present tense in the above paragraph. That’s because the Improved Order of Red Men still exists. Today there are about 15,000 members nationwide. When the 1906 article about their convention in Boise came out, it was noted that 435,000 “braves” were expected at the national convention of the group.
They have a history, of course, and you know some of it. The group’s roots go back to the Boston Tea Party. Remember that? Men unhappy with taxes dressed up as Indians to toss tea into the harbor. There were name changes and consolidations over the years, but that was the beginning of the group. And, you’ve probably heard of something else in history that you had no idea (at least I had no idea) that a fraternal organization was responsible for. This group organized the famous, and ultimately infamous, political machine known as Tammany Hall in New York City.
The Wikipedia entry on the Red Men includes a picture of Red Men’s Hall in Jacksonville, Oregon, established in 1884.
The image accompanying this post is from the aforementioned Statesman article from 1906. As a side note, I was researching Idaho’s reaction to the San Francisco earthquake of that year for a couple of future posts when I came across what to me was an interesting oddity. So, my distraction is now your distraction. You’re welcome.