Shingas (fl. 1740-1763), was a leader of the Delaware (Lenape) people in the Ohio Country and a noted American Indian warrior on the western frontier during the French and Indian War. Dubbed "Shingas the Terrible" by Anglo-Americans during the war, Shingas led devastating raids against white settlements; the colonial governments of both Pennsylvania and Virginia responded by offering rewards to anyone who would kill him.
Shingas, a member of the Delaware Turkey clan (or phratry), was a nephew of Sasoonan (also known as Allumapees), a leader who was regarded by Pennsylvania authorities as the Delaware "king." This title had no traditional meaning for the Delawares, who lived in autonomous villages. However, since British colonial governments preferred to deal with a single leader rather than numerous village elders, Sasoonan emerged as the Delaware "king." Pennsylvania officials found Sasoonan useful because he could be induced (with the help of abundantly free liquor) to sign away Indian lands.2
Sasoonan died in 1747, and Shingas's brother Pisquetomen was designated as Sasoonan's successor. However, Pisquetomen, who was intelligent, strong-willed, and spoke English, was not easily manipulated, and so Pennsylvania officials refused to recognize him as "king." As a result, Pisquetomen and his brothers Shingas and Tamaqua abandoned Pennsylvania, leading their people over the Allegheny Mountains and settling at Kittanning on the Allegheny River.3
French and Indian War
Even on the other side of the mountains, the western Delawares were still caught between three powerful empires: the British colonies, New France, and the Six Nations of the Iroquois. The Iroquois at this time claimed sovereignty over the Delawares, a dubious claim that British officials recognized in order to strengthen ties with the Iroquois — usually at the expense of the Delawares. In an attempt to assert control over the western Delawares, the Iroquois leader Tanaghrisson (the "Half-King"), dubbed Shingas the "king" of the Delawares in an important treaty conference at Logstown in May of 1752. British officials approved this "coronation," but would come to regret it, as Shingas proved just as difficult to control as his brother.
The great struggle between Great Britain and France for control of the interior of the North American continent (the "French and Indian War") began near Shingas's village close to the forks of the Ohio River. Like most Delawares, Shingas and his villagers stayed neutral in the early stages of the conflict, declining to assist George Washington at Fort Necessity in 1754 and the Braddock Expedition in 1755. The Delawares had no desire to be French subjects either, but when France asserted dominance in the region after Braddock's defeat, the Delawares reluctantly aligned themselves with the French.
Shingas took part in the brutal backcountry war with the British colonies, leading raids deep into the Pennsylvania and Virginia settlements. The colonies were unable to mount an effective resistance to the hit-and-run tactics of the Indians, though the destruction of Shingas's base of operations in the Kittanning Expedition in 1756 surprised the Delawares and compelled them to move further west, settling in what is present-day Ohio. A peace faction led by Shingas's brother Tamaqua soon gained ascendancy. Though the brothers apparently always worked in harmony, Tamaqua, known to the whites as "the Beaver" or "King Beaver," would eventually eclipse his brothers in fame and influence.
In 1758, Pisquetomen was dispatched to the east to help negotiate the Treaty of Easton, which effectively ended the war for the Delawares, and enabled British General John Forbes to capture Fort Duquesne without interference from local Indians. Fearing retribution because of his actions in the war, Shingas kept a low profile.
The British built Fort Pitt on the ruins of Fort Duquesne, to the consternation of the local Delawares, contributing to the outbreak of Pontiac's Rebellion in 1763. Fort Pitt was besieged by the Delawares; Shingas may have participated in the fighting at this time. He and Tamaqua unsuccessfully tried to convince the British at Fort Pitt to withdraw, but the fort was relieved by an expedition led by Henry Bouquet. Shingas and Tamaqua, who advised accommodation with the British, began to lose influence to more militant Delaware leaders. Shingas disappears from the historical record around 1764; some have speculated that he may have contracted smallpox from blankets distributed to the Delawares from Fort Pitt during the war, but there is no clear evidence that he (or anyone else for that matter) died as a result of the incident.
Weslager (185), McConnell and White (259) write that Shingas was a nephew of Sasoonan; Lambert and Franks say they were brothers.
Note 2: McConnell, p. 12.
Note 3: Weslager, p. 208.
- Franks, Kenny A. "Tamaqua" in American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 1999.
- Lambert, Paul F. "Shingas" in American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 1999.
- McConnell, Michael N. A Country Between: The Upper Ohio Valley and Its Peoples, 1724-1774. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.
- Weslager, C. A. The Delaware Indians. New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1972.
- White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. New York, 1991.