“Improved order of Red Men of Massachusetts”
In all of our talk about relocating the Passaconaway statue from Edson Cemetery to Pawtucket Falls, we skipped over the issue of ownership. The plaque on the statue, shown above, says that it’s the property of the “Improved order of Red Men of Massachusetts“, a group that Eileen L points out is still in existence. In case you choose not to follow the preceding link, understand that the IORM (as they are known) are not Native Americans or related to Native Americans. Instead, it’s a fraternal organization that began in pre-Revolutionary times. They count as their accomplishments supplying the “Indians” who tossed tea into Boston Harbor in 1773. Here’s part of what the group’s website has to say:
The fraternity traces its origins back to 1765 and is descended from the Sons of Liberty. These patriots concealed their identities and worked “underground” to help establish freedom and liberty in the early Colonies. They patterned themselves after the great Iroquois Confederacy and its democratic governing body. Their system, with elected representatives to govern tribal councils, had been in existence for several centuries.
After the War of 1812 the name was changed to the Society of Red Men and in 1834 to the Improved Order of Red Men. They kept the customs and terminology of Native Americans as a basic part of the fraternity. Some of the words and terms may sound strange, but they soon become a familiar part of the language for every member. The Improved Order of Red Men (IORM) is similar in many ways to other major fraternal organizations in the United States.
4 Responses to “Improved order of Red Men of Massachusetts”
We would need permission of the overseers of Edson Cemetery and the owners of the monument–unless the monument was donated to the City or Cemetery. Maybe Steve Stowell of the Lowell Historic Board can help us with the background and find out who has the authority to decide on a possible relocation.
I was surprised to see that this organization still exists. They may do great work for all I know, but though I don’t consider myself as someone who is overly politically correct, if a non-Irish group put up a statue of Brian Boru with a plaque citing “The Improved Order of Irishmen,” I don’t think I’d like it. Aside from the issue of why the hell do they need to be improved, is the problem with this paternalistic and possibly insulting term “Red Men.”
None of this is noticed in the cemetery, but while moving the statue would bring more eyes on this beautiful piece of art, I’d be surprised if the name of the organization didn’t present a problem at some point.
It’s time to consult local leaders among Native Americans in the community. The Greater Lowell Indian Cultural Association is at http://www.glica.net
I’ll contact the leadership.
Please don’t. This is something that is a landmark in a part of the city that is widely overlooked.