Oneida Chieftain Shikellamy

Oneida Chief Shikellamy

With To-re-wa-wa-kon ‘Paul Wallace’ as a guide, the Mohawks headed over a road, that once was an Indian trail, toward the north. Their route was over a beautiful country of hills and valleys. With their friend they soon reached the beautiful Susquehanna River Valley. At Sunbury, Pa. they visited the site of the cabin of old Chief Shikellamy. It was here that the great Oneida chief, the overseer of Vice-Gerent of the Delaware and other refugee Indians of the region lived. This was where his village, Shamokin, was located and where be spent most of his time from 1728 to 1748. Here is where the great chief died and was buried. Near here the Mohawks saw two monuments erected to this great Indian. The inscription on one of the monuments was as follows: “Erected as a memorial to Shikellamy, also Swataney, “Our Enlightener”, the representative of the Six Nations, in this province. First sent to Shamokin ‘Sunbury’ in 1728. Appointed Vice-Gerent in 1745, died Dec. 6, 1748. He was buried near this spot. This diplomat and statesman was a firm friend of the Province of Pennsylvania – erected by Augusta Chapter D. A. R. in cooperation with Pennsylvania Historical Commission, June 1915.” The other monument bore the following inscription : “SHIKELLAMY-Oneida Chief and overseer or Vice-Gerent of the Six Nations, asserting Iroquois dominion over conquered Delaware and other tribes. He lived at Shamokin Indian Town, Sunbury, from about 1728 until his death, 1748-said to be buried near here.”

Shikellamy’s real name was Ongwaterohiathe. ‘It has caused the sky to be bright for us’. This famous Oneida chief has also been called Swataney. When a tribe was conquered by the Six Nations, a deputy or vice -gerent was sent by the Iroquois or Six Nation Council to watch over the tribe. Shikellamy was such a deputy sent by the Great Federal Council of the Six Nations ‘Onondaga’ in 1728 to watch over Deleware, Shawnee and other tribes in the Valley of the Susquehanna River in what is now the State of Pennsylvania. This chief was highly respected, by not only the Six Nations, but by the white colonial folks as well. He was always the friend of the white man and upon many occasions treated white settlers with great kindness. He never drank the white man’s firewater because, as he once said, “I never wish to be a fool.” He tried to prevent the sale of this cursed drink to those Indians under his trust. One of his first acts as Vice-Gerent was to send word to the colonial officials that unless they stopped peddling rum among his people, friendly relations between the Six Nations and the Colony of Pennsylvania would cease. This ultimatum to the Pennsylvania Government was delivered in 1731. Because of the harm that liquor peddlers were causing among their people, many Indians were moving west to the Ohio Valley where the French were trying to alienate them from English interests. The English had reason to fear friendly relations between the Six Nations and the French.

Shikellamy was asked by the English to go to Onondaga and invite the Six Nation Chiefs to go to Philadelphia, the object, to secure the friendship and alliance of the Six Nations in case of a war with France and also to try to get the Ohio Indians to return to the Susquehanna country to act as a bulwark against the enemy. Though they mistrusted the English, three of the Six Nations sent delegates to the council ‘1732’. At Philadelphia the English were very concerned and uneasy as to whether the Six Nations were their friends or whether they would favor the French. They were put at ease by one of the speakers of the Confederacy who, informed them that the Governor of Canada had met them in council, as they suspected, and had told them that he intended to war upon the English colonies and wished the Six Nations to remain neutral! The answer of the Iroquois speaker to the French Governor as regards the request was as follows: “Onondiio (name for French Governor) , you are very proud! You are not wise to make war with Corlear (English Governor of New York), and to propose neutrality to us. Corlear is our brother. He came to us when he was little and a child. We suckled him at our breasts. We have nursed him and taken care of him until he is grown-up to be a man, He is our brother and of the same blood. He and we have but one ear to hear with, one eye to see with and one-mouth to speak with. We will not forsake him nor see any man make war upon him without assisting. We shall join him and, it we fight with you, we may have our father, Onondiio, to bury in the ground. We would not have you force us to do this but be wise and live in peace.” ‘Pa. Col. Records, Vol. 3., It does not make the author proud to know, that at this moment, officials of the state that bears the name of Corlear are backing a bill, now before Congress, S-192; that will, if passed, take away the few rights and promises left to the Six Nations, the Confederacy that nursed their fathers until they had grown to be men. ‘Write to Chief Clinton Richard, Pres. I. D. L. A., Sanborn, N. Y. for information.’

Appletons' Swatane
Appletons’ Swatane

In the execution of his office Shikellamy conducted many important embassies between the Six Nations and the Government of Pennsylvania. It was through this chief that the Treaty of 1736 was called at which delegates from all of the Six Nations were present at the Council Hall in Philadelphia. Over a hundred Iroquois attended this council. At this council the Iroquois deeded to the State of Pennsylvania all of their Susquehanna lands. When most of the delegates had returned home, and several weeks later, another deed was drawn up by the whites and those Indians who had remained ‘most of them drunk’ signed away lands owned by the Delaware Indians. Became of this act, the Delawares and other Indians sought the alliance of the French and from 1755 to 1764 Pennsylvania was drenched in blood of an Indian war. Old William Penn, a sincere and honest man, never stooped to crooked dealings with the Indian people. His sons, however were not of the same make as their father, but were more interested in personal profit and trickery. The results of this shameful act was one of the bloodiest wars in colonial history.

Because of the help of Shikellamy in cementing a friendship between the Six Nations and the Colony of Pennsylvania, a future nation, the United States, was made possible. If the Six Nations and the French had formed an alliance, there can be no doubt that the result would have been the destruction of all the English colonies on the coast. Shikellamy was the mediator between the Colony of Pennsylvania and the Six Nations. He was the key to the friendship of the Iroquois.

Old Shikellamy became ill with fever and passed away Dec. 6, 1748. Said the Moravian missionary, Zinzindorf, of Shikellamy, “He was truly an excellent and good man, possessed of many noble qualities of mind, that would do honor to many white men. laying claims to refinement and intelligence. He possessed of great dignity, sobriety and prudence, and was particularly noted for his extreme kindness to the inhabitants with whom he came in contact.” AMERICA OWES MUCH TO THIS GREAT IROQUOIS!



Chiefs, History, Oneida,


3 thoughts on “Oneida Chief Shikellamy”

  1. I recently learned that He is My 8th Great Grandfather on My Mother’s paternal Heritage. I feel proud and very honored to be Blessed with an Ancestor with such Strength of character & principles. Definitely a high point of My Family Lineage Research.

  2. Is there any living decendants of Cheif Shikellamy? I am a 7× great grandson of Conrad Weiser who was close friends with him.

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