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Tankeroosan Tribe of the Improved Order Of Red Men

I-84 at Exit 66
The Rockville Leader, 1918

Item found in the December 6, 1918 issue of The Rockville Leader:

"Grand Chiefs To Visit Local Lodge. Tankeroosan Tribe, No. 51, I. O. R. M., will entertain the grand chiefs at their meeting on Tuesday evening in the Foresters' hall in the Rockville National Bank building. After the meeting there will be refreshments and smokes. The elective chiefs of the tribe, wish a good attendance of the members to welcome the grand chiefs."

At the time Rockville had many fraternal, social and religious organizations as discussed in S. Ardis Abbott's "Building the Loom City - Rockville, Connecticut, 1821-1908". But this seems to be the only one to refer to the Tankerhoosen River and is certainly a lesser known group. The Rockville organization's activities were frequently mentioned. Why they chose the Tankeroosen rather than the Hockanum River for a name is unknown as both were Indian names.

What is the Improved Order Of Red Men?

Legally, The Improved Order of Red Men (IORM) is a patriotic fraternity chartered by Congress. It is a non-profit organization devoted to inspiring a greater love for the United States of America and the principles of American Liberty.

  • The IORM is a national fraternal organization that believes in:
    • Love of and respect for the American Flag.
    • Preserving our Nation by defending and upholding the principle of free Government.
    • America and the democratic way of life.
    • Preserving the traditions and history of this great Country.
    • Creating and inspiring a greater love for the United States of America.
    • Helping our fellow men through organized charitable programs.
    • Linking our members together in a common bond of Brotherhood and Friendship.
    • Perpetuating the beautiful legends and traditions of a once-vanishing race and the keeping alive some of the traditional customs, ceremonies, and philosophies.

History of the Red Men

I-84 at Exit 66
1889 Membership Certificate
(U.S. Library of Congress)

The Improved Order of Red Men traces its origin to certain secret patriotic societies founded before the American Revolution. They were established to promote Liberty and to defy the tyranny of the English Crown. Among the early groups were: The Sons of Liberty and later the Society of Red Men. On December 16, 1773 a group of men, all members of the Sons of Liberty, met in Boston to protest the tax on tea imposed by England. When their protest went unheeded, they disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians, proceeded to Boston harbor, and dumped overboard 342 chests of English tea.

During the Revolutionary War, members of secret societies quenched their council fires and took up muskets to join with the Continental Army. To the cause of Freedom and Liberty they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors. Following the American Revolution many of the various secret societies continued in existence as brotherhoods or fraternities.

For the next 35 years, however, each of the original groups went their own way under many different names. In 1813, at historic Fort Mifflin, near Philadelphia, several of these groups came together and formed one organization known as the Society of Red Men. The name was changed to the Improved Order of Red Men in 1834 and it became a working man's drinking group similar to the Odd Fellows fraternal organization.

In 1886 its membership requirements were defined in the same pseudo-Indian phrasing as the rest of the constitution: “Sec. 1. No person shall be entitled to adoption into the Order except a free white male of good moral character and standing, of the full age of twenty-one great suns, who believes in the existence of a Great Spirit, the Creator and Preserver of the Universe, and is possessed of some known reputable means of support." The Lodge consisted of Free white males only until the mid 1970's. Their rituals and regalia are modeled after those used by Native Americans. The organization claimed a membership of about half a million in 1935, but has declined to less than 38,000.

Among its notable members were three presidents - Theodore Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding and Franklin D. Roosevelt.


I-84 at Exit 66

The Order has a three tiered structure. Local units are called 'Tribes' and are presided over by a 'Sachem' and a board of directors. Local meeting sites are called 'Wigwams'. The state level is called the 'Reservation' and governed by a 'Great Sachem' and 'Great Council' or 'Board of Chiefs'. The national level is the 'Great Council of the United States'.

In 1952 the Order created the Degree of Hiawatha, as a youth auxiliary for males 8 and up. Most of the members of the Degree of Hiawatha were concentrated in New England. The Order female auxiliary is the Degree of Pocahontas and dates to 1880's and the Degree of Anona, a junior order of the Degree of Pocahontas, was formed in 1952.

With the formation of a national organization, the Improved Order of Red Men grew and by the mid-1920's there were tribes in 46 states and territories with a membership totaling over one-half million.

The Red Men Today

The organization continues today with six tribes in Connecticut, although none nearby. Tribes meet regularly to socialize with other members. They also fundraise and do some charity work, particularly for Alzheimer's research.

The Motto of the Red Men is: Freedom, Friendship, and Charity

Freedom — We endeavor to preserve and uphold the American Way of Life and its guarantee of Liberty. Freedom has been the hope and aim of the oppressed of every land. It is now the proud boast of every American. We dedicated our lives to its maintenance.
Friendship — Is the binding link and unswerving loyalty of one to another, which makes sweet and lasting the relationship that one member bears to another.
Charity — Is giving with an open hand and willing heart in time of need, assistance to the weak or unfortunate and measured not by wealth but by moral worth. Charity exemplifies the Brotherhood of Man.


Wikipedia entry on the Improved Order of Red Men.

Improved Order of Red Men national website. Includes current chapter listings across the United States and information on their museum and library in Waco, TX.

"Official History of the Improved Order of Red Men" By George W. Lindsay, Charles C. Conley, Charles H. Litchman, 1893. Written history from the beginning to the date published. The original New England tribe was in Hartford, but it was short lived and organization strength varied considerably through the date written.

"A Nation of Red Men" by Kathleen O’Connor. Detailed, well documented description of the order with information on ritual and ceremony.

Updated April 2016

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