A Brief History of the Improved Order of Red Men

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.        

As members of the Sons of Liberty splintered off after the Revolution, other groups were formed, such as the Sons of King (Saint) Tammany (Tamanend). After the War of 1812 the name in our lineage was changed to the Society of Red Men and in 1834 to the Improved Order of Red Men.

The Great Council of Indiana of the Improved Order of Red Men was chartered in 1869.

The Great Council of the United States (GCUS) of the Improved Order of Red Men was officially chartered by the 59th Congress of the United States on April 17, 1906.

Even today, the Improved Order of Red Men has kept the customs and terminology of Native Americans as a basic part of the fraternity.

Some of the words and terms may sound strange at first, but they soon become a familiar part of the language for every member.      

Although The Improved Order of Red Men (IORM) is similar in many ways to other major fraternal organizations in the United States, the Improved Order of Red Men is the oldest, truly American fraternity.

And our motto bespeaks our purpose still today: Freedom, Friendship, and Charity


Why "Red Men"?

The early patriots who founded the Sons of Liberty in colonial times never knew real American liberty before the Revolutionary War.

The first visions of true freedom were caught from the wild savages (colloquial expression), who selected their own Sachems and forms of religious worship; and who made their own laws.

White men were continually hampered by unreasonable laws and regulations, imposed by a distant king.

They began to chafe under their thralldom, which resulted in uprisings, eventually evolving into such acts as the Boston Tea party, Declaration of Independence and, finally, the war of the American Revolution.

The children of the forest furnished the first inspiration of true liberty; thus, it was natural that the name of the old Sons of Liberty should be changed, thereby, giving honor to whom honor was due, hence -- the Improved Order of Red Men.