Camp Salmen Nature Park is part of St. Tammany Parish’s newly formed Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and all three of these elements are in plentiful supply here. There are also historic links to these same ideas in the name “St. Tammany” and in the history of the native people of the Parish.
In the early days of the French in Louisiana, long before New Orleans was established, the small garrison under Bienville was able to make it through their first few winters in the Louisiana wilderness with the help of the Colapissa Indian tribe in their village on Bayou Castine in present day Mandeville. Reason and peace prevailed between the Europeans and the natives. They all had to contend with the forces of nature and each brought their own technology, knowledge and culture into this struggle.
The ship’s carpenter Andre Penicaut relates the kindness offered to the foreign guests — lodging in the Chief’s house, feasts of game brought by the hunters, fresh wild strawberries brought by the village maidens, and wild tribal dancing and merriment accompanied by the French fiddle. To these weary visitors this hospitality under the beautiful moss-draped oaks on the Pontchartrain shore must have seemed like time well spent in a restful wilderness paradise.
Almost a century later, during the formation of the United States, there was a fondness in the thirteen colonies for the memory of Delaware Chief Tamanend the Affable. He and his tribe had been similarly helpful to the English in their early days in America, and during these friendly encounters they exchanged philosophical ideas on liberty, friendship, equality and the brotherhood of man. By the time of the American Revolution, the ideals of Tamanend, or “St. Tammany” as he became known, had achieved nearly cult status and St. Tammany Societies sprang up among the patriots. Some of these men migrated to Louisiana after the war, and when they established this parish they invoked the name of the wise Delaware chief that they revered and also perhaps evoked the memory of the generous local natives.
We are blessed with the legacy of the Native Americans, their spirit and the many names they gave to the bayous, rivers and places of the Parish — even its name.