History Files


Native Americas

Tribal Leaders: Shingas of the Delaware Turkey Clan

edited by Mick Baker from original source material, 20 May 2016

Shingas was a member of the Delaware Turkey clan (or phratry), and a nephew of Sasoonan, the Lenape head chieftain of the Unami. Shingas himself flourished between about 1740 and 1764.

Along with his brothers, Tamaqua (also known as 'King Beaver') and Pisquetomen, Shingas became a prominent leader during the French-Indian War. Having been pushed more and more to the west, away from their traditional eastern homeland, the Lenape (Delaware) established villages in Ohio.

Some remained in western parts of Pennsylvania. Famous amongst these surviving Lenape in their traditional lands was Teedyuskung - Honest John, not a true chief at all, but he was known to the European settlers as the 'King of the Delaware'.

In Ohio, Delaware people shared the country with the Shawnee, Wyandotte, Mingo, and others. Although they were originally allies of the British settlers, Chief Shingas and his followers soon became disenchanted with British intentions when General Braddock made it clear to the natives that they would have no land rights after victory over the French. This was despite the fact that the natives themselves would fight for the British cause.

Disappointed, Shingas and other leaders instead allied themselves with the French, and tried in this way to fight for their rights, lands, families, and way of life. During this time, Shingas was given the name 'Shingas the Terrible', because he fought so bitterly, but this nickname belied the other side of his nature. His enemies forgot to tell the other truth about him.

Several sources tell about kindness to prisoners, with him treating them well. He was also in favour of peace after all the fighting.

With regard to his name, this translates as 'swamp person'. This is according to the late Nora Thompson Dean (1907-1984), a fluent speaker of Southern Unami Lenape and a highly respected Delaware Elder, and also others, such as C A Weslager.

After the French-Indian War and Pontiac's War, Shingas disappeared from history - around 1764 - and it seems that no one recorded what happened to him.

'King Beaver' and other leaders rose to prominence in his place, but Pisquetomen, the chosen successor to the recently-deceased Sassoonan (in 1747) was intelligent, strong-willed, and spoke English, and was not easily manipulated.

Pennsylvanian officials refuse to recognise him as 'king' and, as a result, he and his brother Tamaqua ('King Beaver'), abandoned Pennsylvania, leading their people over the Allegheny Mountains and settling at Kittanning on the Allegheny River. It is claimed that Shingas went with them.

Schuylkill River
Head Chief Sassoonan's early home was along the Schuylkill River, and given the fact that Shingas was one of his main supporters and followers, this was probably his early home too



Main Sources

Weslager, C A - The Delaware Indians - A History, Rutgers University Press (Reprint Edition (1 January 1990)

Online Sources

First Nations: Issues of Consequence

Legends of America



Text copyright Mick Baker. An original feature for the History Files.