The Shingas

  By Hope, 2006; Revised
  Category: North America

In the middle of the 1600s, the Iroquois tribe grew rich on fur trade. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Indians had only taken what they needed, but now beavers and other animals were hunted in large quanta. For the fur, they received blankets, muskets, various tools and glass beads. Both Indians and white trappers hunted for fur and, by 1650, there were hardly any animals left in the Iroqouis homeland. To meet the needs of the Europeans, they turned west into Ohio and drove out the Indians who lived there. They were already weak from diseases brought by the white settlers. This period of systematic killing by the Iroquois League of Five Nations from 1650 to 1700 were called the Beaver Wars. One of the tribes fighting the League of Five Nations, living in modern Ohio, was the Lenapes, later called Delawares.

In 1752, Shingas became chief of the Lenape tribe. He refused to submit to Iroquois rule, stood against minor French attacks and denied the Brits to settle on their land west of the Allegheny. He wanted to remain neutral in this cauldron of politics and war. Though Shingas wanted to stay out of European politics and religion, he wanted Moravian missionaries to teach the Lenapes new skills they needed. Shingas probably spoke very well English, at least his elder brother, Pisquetomen, did, as he was an interpreter for the British authority.  Unfortunately, much of the old Lenape homeland was lost in the Beaver Wars (1650 – 1700) and his major desire was to obtain peace for his tribe. In the end, he and some other chiefs marched to Fort Cumberland to meet with General Edward Braddock. Shingas said he was willing to make an alliance with the British so that they could join in a fight against the French. The chief asked if the Lenapes could keep their land if they joined Braddock, but the arrogant general answered that he would let immigrants settle. Angrily, Shingas left Fort Cumberland and, later, allied himself with the French.

British settlers colonized neighborhood of the Lenape, which they had been given by the Iroquois. Shingas tried his best to maintain peace, and, though the Lenape tribe suffered greatly, he did not go to war. However, when settlers entered their hunting grounds, raids were put forth to remind them of Lenape neutral politics. However, the settlers reacted totally different.  On April 14 1756, the Europeans declared war on Shingas and his tribe, ignoring the protests from the Quakers, who also wanted to maintain peace.

Since war was declared, neutrality was no longer an option for Shingas. He started a campaign against British settlement, and it soon developed into a large affair. Contemporary sources describes him as ruthless and brutal – a redskin savage. Shingas was courageous all right, but he was very kind to his prisoners. As a peace loving man forced into combat, he was gentle when he could, but also hard if he had to.

In 1758, the British made a treaty called the Treaty of Easton, promising to leave all lands west of Allegheny. Having lost most of his hope, Shingas could only accept the treaty. In the beginning, the British seemed to keep their promise, but, in the 1760s, the situation changed. The Lenapes, frustrated and angry, wanted to expel the British as it turned out the British were untrustworthy. Shingas, himself, died in 1763, the reason is unknown.