1820 painting by an anonymous artist
|Died||December 6, 1748
Shikellamy (died December 6, 1748), also known as Swatana, was an Oneida chief and overseer for the Iroquois confederacy. In his position as chief and overseer, Shikellamy served as a supervisor for the Six Nations, overseeing the Shawnee and Lenape tribes in central Pennsylvania along the Susquehanna River and protecting the southern border of the Iroquois Confederacy. While his birth date is not known, his first recorded historical appearance was in Philadelphia in 1728. In 1728 he was living in a Shawnee village in Pennsylvania near modern Milton, and moved in 1742 to the village of Shamokin, modern day Sunbury, at the confluence of the West and North Branches of the Susquehanna. Shikellamy was an important figure in the early history of the Province of Pennsylvania and served as a go-between for the colonial government in Philadelphia and the Iroquois chiefs in Onondaga. He welcomed Conrad Weiser to Shamokin and served as Weiser's guide on his journeys into the frontier of Pennsylvania and New York.
Although it is not known when or where Shikellamy was born, his first appearance in the historical record is his 1728 visit to Philadelphia, the provincial capital of Pennsylvania. The Quaker leadership in Philadelphia soon realized that Shikellamy was an important Indian leader and he was invited back to the capital in 1729. He was described as "Shekallamy,...a trusty good Man & great Lover of the English." Shikellamy was sent by the government of Pennsylvania to invite the leaders of the Iroquois Confederacy to a council in 1732. The initial meeting was a success and both sides agreed to meet once again in the future. These meetings were arranged by Conrad Weiser and Shikellamy.
During a later meeting, Shikellamy, Weiser and the Pennsylvanians negotiated a 1736 treaty in Philadelphia, including a deed whereby the Iroquois sold the land drained by the Delaware River and south of the Blue Mountain. Since the Iroquois had never until then laid claim to this land, this purchase represented a significant swing in Pennsylvanian policy toward the Native Americans. William Penn had never taken sides in disputes between tribes, but by this purchase, the Pennsylvanians were favoring the Iroquois over the Lenape. Along with the Walking Purchase of 1737, also arranged with the assistance of Shikellamy and Conrad Weiser, this treaty exacerbated Pennsylvania-Lenape relations. The results of this policy shift would help induce the Lenapes to side with the French during the French and Indian Wars, which would result in many colonial deaths. It did, however, help induce the Iroquois to continue to side with the British over the French.
Shikellamy had originally lived in a Shawnee village in the vicinity of modern Milton, along the West Branch Susquehanna River. The Shawnee moved to the west by 1742, and in that year Shikellamy moved to Shamokin village, which was an important Lenape town and home of Sasoonan (also known as Allumapees), a leader who was regarded by Pennsylvania authorities as the Delaware (Lenape) "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 gifts and abundantly free liquor) to sign away Indian lands.
Shikellamy was rewarded for his efforts in the Walking Purchase and other treaties by the colonial government of Pennsylvania. In 1744 Conrad Weiser supervised the construction of a house for Shikellamy at Shamokin. The house was 49.5 feet (15.1 m) long, 17.5 feet (5.3 m) wide, and was covered with a shingle roof.
Shikellamy's position and status at Shamokin made him an important person in the eyes of the Moravian missionaries who sought to spread the gospel to the Indians of Pennsylvania. Count Zinzendorf, a bishop of Moravian Church and native of Germany, visited with him in 1742. The Count believed that Shikellamy, who had converted to Christianity, could serve as a vital agent of change in converting all Indians to the Christian faith. Shikellamy permitted the Moravians to maintain an outpost at Shamokin and served as an emissary between the Moravians and Madame Montour's village of Otstuagy at the mouth of Loyalsock Creek and French Margaret's village at the mouth of Lycoming Creek. Shikellamy permitted the Moravians to stay at Shamokin because he believed that they had the Indians' best interest at heart. He knew that, unlike other white men, the Moravians had no interest in the Indians' furs and did not want to take their land. The missionaries also did not give Shikellamy's people any alcohol, which played a major role in the devastation of the Native Americans all over North America. Shikellamy so admired the Moravians that he permitted them to stay in his home, lent them horses for work, and helped them build their homes. Shikellamy formally converted to Christianity in November 1748 at the Moravian city of Bethlehem. On his return journey Shikellamy became ill. Despite the efforts of his Moravian friends at Shamokin, the Indian leader succumbed to the illness on December 6, 1748.
Shikellamy converted to Christianity and attempted to live in peace with the encroaching European colonists. He believed that the Indians should not become like the white man. It was his belief that his people needed to continue to live according to their own ways in order to be the masters of their destiny.
After his death, Shikellamy was succeeded by his son John Shikellamy, also known as John Logan and Tachnachdoarus (spreading oak). Another one of Shikellamy's sons, James Logan, was named for James Logan, the Quaker Provincial Secretary of Pennsylvania and de facto Superintendent of Indian Affairs. One of these two sons — historians have disagreed which one — later became well known in American history as "Chief Logan," who played a pivotal role in Dunmore's War in 1774 and issued an oft-quoted speech known as "Logan's Lament." A third son was named John Petty, after a trader. Two of his sons were killed in battle.
Shikellamy is a prominent name in Northumberland County today. Shikellamy State Park, Shikellamy High School, and Chief Shikellamy Elementary School carry on his name. In fact, the Shikellamy School District, which owns and operates both of the aforementioned schools, was named after him when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commissioned it in 1958. In Berks County, there was a local Boy Scout camp named after Shikellamy (Shikellamy Scout Reservation) that closed in 1978. Above the camp, there is an rock outlook that is named after Shikellamy (Shikellamy Outlook) along the Appalachian Trail.