Historical Markers
Moses Tunda Tatamy Historical Marker
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Moses Tunda Tatamy

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
8th & Main Streets, Tatamy

Dedication Date:
May 14, 1992

Behind the Marker

"Fraud... great fraud!" he lamented. No brotherhood. No harmony. No peace, love and understanding. People he admired and trusted had betrayed him. This angered and upset him for two decades. And it changed him. Once a strict teetotaler, he sought solace in liquor and when drunk flew into angry rants and rages. It was a sad end to a capable and intelligent man.
Oil on canvas of one native painted black with red spots on his head and face and one painted with the symbols that express life.
Life and Death, by Robert Griffing, 1997.

Moses Tunda Tatamy was born in the mid 1690s in New Jersey. By 1733 he was living in Pennsylvania in a region called the Forks of the Delaware. There he lived like the white newcomers, spoke English well and owned a farm of three hundred acres. Unfortunately for Tatamy and his Lenape neighbors, their land was in the territory taken by Penn's sons in 1737 in a fraudulent land deal known as the markerWalking Purchase. When the purchase was complete, the Pennsylvania authorities forced the Lenape to leave. Aided by prominent settlers William Allen and Jeremiah Langhorne, Tatamy was permitted to keep his farm.

In 1744, Tatamy was in New Jersey helping fellow Lenape settle their own land claims. There he met and worked as an interpreter for Presbyterian minister markerDavid Brainerd. The two men traveled extensively in Pennsylvania to bring the Christian gospel to Lenape living beyond the edge of white settlement. Tatamy encouraged other native people to embrace the new faith and live like their white neighbors. In 1745 he had his own conversion experience and was baptized by Brainerd.
Ink and wash on paper of the town of Bethlehem, Pa.
Bethlehem Looking South from the Single Brethren's House, by Nicolaus Garrison,...

Recognizing his abilities as a go-between, Pennsylvania officials hired Tatamy to carry messages to the native people in their province and other colonies. In this capacity he worked with Irish fur trader George Croghan, German immigrant markerConrad Weiser and Oneida sachem markerShikellamy to help the people of two different worlds make sense of each other. Well-regarded for his honesty, Tatamy translated at treaty signings, explained the Indian ceremonies and customs that took place at these events to the white representatives and explained white ways to Indian peoples.

By the 1750s, many of the Lenape and Shawnee in western Pennsylvania were becoming increasingly uninterested in messages of friendship from the government in Philadelphia. The Lenape, in particular, had grown more angry and hostile since Pennsylvania authorities had driven them out of their homeland after the infamous Walking Purchase. In order to keep the peace and salvage a portion of his people's homeland, Tatamy spent years trying to convince the Pennsylvanians and the Iroquois to provide a permanent home for the Lenape along the Susquehanna. Although the Pennsylvania Assembly endorsed the concept in principle, they never acted on it.

By the time the French and Indian War broke out in 1754, Tatamy had become convinced that the whites meant to take all the Indians' land. Disillusioned by the duplicity of the Europeans, Tatamy found comfort in liquor and often drank to excess. During the French and Indian War, Lenape attacks on settlements in Pennsylvania brought Tatamy more frustration and sadness.

In July 1757, his anger and depression were compounded with grief when a settler shot and killed one of his sons simply because he looked suspicious. In late 1760, Moses Tunda Tatamy died. Nine years after his death, Pennsylvania granted his son, Nicholas, a small parcel of land in recognition of his father's services to the province. Today, the borough of Tatamy, located in Northampton County, bears his name.

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