Chief Big Thunder and his daughter Princess Bright Lightning; Are they a Myth?

Big Chief Thunder and his daughter Princess Bright Lightning inhabit the internet, were they people real? I have to admit the pair have a disneyesque quality to their names which makes me suspect they are more myth than reality. Many people claim descent through them through a marriage with a Swedish man by the name of Hendrick Anderson Coleman  who they say married Bright Lightning. Here is what I found on the internet on this pair.

1. A screenshot of a profile on geni:

On this profile we have an Indian name; Wakadjaxedga, he both a Shawnee and a Lenni-Lenape (Delaware) Chief, name of his wife; Three Wikusauwin, and three children. Wa Ku Su To Me Coleman is Bright Lightning. Oddly enough his wife died on 16 Feb 1640 in Minnesota, the very year of Bright Lightnings birth, hum. The profile picture is a portrait of a very Indian looking man. This tree is unsourced.
In this second tree, the chief has acquired more names; Big John Mouth Big Thunder, but no Indian name. Humm. Same wife, but no details on her. Anna Coleman is the same as Bright Lightning. He has a son with the exact same name. Hum. This tree is unsourced.

3. Wikitree profile

I have adopted this wikitree profile and will edit it, but as you can see, it contains the same unsourced information.


4. Shawnee Heritage Books

As always, the Shawnee Heritage books are unsourced. These books are nothing but an internet scraping cobbled together and sold to unfortunate people. Do not use these books as a source.

What a mess this is. I'm not going to copy anything from here but there are numerous trees with various photos incorrectly attributed to Big Thunder. So let's look at some of these photos.

<<<This is a postcard photo of Frank Loring aka Big Thunder 1827-1906. He was a member of the Penobscot Tribe in Maineand worked as an actor in a Wild West show. He clearly has nothing to do with Delaware Indians, Bright Lightning or anything to do with her ancestry.

This >>>>>>is the portrait of Tiscohan painted in 1735 by Gustavus Hesselinus.You can see his name on the painting. He was born long after the supposed Chief Big Thunder and his daughter and has nothing to do with their ancestry.


<<<<<This is a burial marker for "Big Thunder" a Pottawatomie Indian. The stone is in Big Thunder Park in Belvedere, Illinois. Big Thunder is said to have been a man living in what was soon to become Boone County, Illinois He died around 1800 and was buried on a bit of high ground which became to location of the County Court house. This man had nothing to do with Big Chief Thunder, he was not a Delaware and lived long after Bright Lightning was dead. [1]

So as you can see, what 'sources' I've found are not really sources at all. I can find not a single document which would confirm a Delaware Chief with a daughter named Bright Lightning. A search of the name 'Wakadjaxedga' brings up only unsourced trees. When run through the Lenape Talking Dictionary it has no meaning and does not resemble in any way the word for thunder. The same can be said for Bright Lightning, does not translate into the Lenape language. The name Big John Mouth Thunder appears to be a mishmash of stuff which has no meaning. The name of Big Thunder's wife is a Sioux name. A woman by that name, Wikusauwin was the wife of Sioux Chief Little Crow who was alive and well in the 1830s. [1a]

I am not the first researcher to look for proof for this pair and like all those others, I have failed. There is nothing. But, could it be that this story of Big Thunder and Bright Lightning, and I believe it it a story, has its roots in real people? Let me tell you about a father a daughter that lived in the 1700s.

George Washington mentions briefly in his 1754 journal the name White Thunder. As a young officer he was tasked by the Governor of Virginia to deliver a letter to the French commander of forts built in Northwestern Pennsylvania at the headwaters of the Ohio River. Accompanying Washington was a Native American named Tanacharison or 'Half King.' [2] White Thunder, also known as Belt of Wampum, was an Iroquois chief, he is also described as a Mingo Seneca. [3]

In his bio of General George Washington, Washington Irving described the Native Americans who circulated around General Braddock's camp in the days and weeks leading up to his disastrous defeat in 1755. On the 10th of May, Irving Washington writes, that General Braddock met with some of the Chief's who promised to aid him. One of these chief, he said was White Thunder. He also adds that some of the Natives had brought their families along with them. White Thunder had with him a daughter of great beauty, her name; Bright Lightning. The Native women, he writes are a big hit with the white officers and frequent the British camp, describing them as 'wild wood beauties.' This leads to discord and jealousy among the Native warriors who send the women away. [4] His source for this information is The Seamen's Journal.

What is the Seamen's Journal? The full title of this journal is called A Journal of the Proceedings of the Detachment of Seamen, the author, along with his unit were sent to accompany Major General Braddock. A fortunate case of diarrhea kept him from marching and most likely saved his life. Luckily we can read the journal today.[5]  He wrote that on the 10th of May they arrived at Will Creek and met up with 100 Native men, women and children. He  describes the dress, and appearance of the Natives; of the women he says, "they are not so tall as the men, but are well made and have many children." The author describes the meeting between Braddock and the Native chiefs which includes White Thunder also known as Belt of Wampum and he states that his daughter was present and her name was Bright Lightning. [6]

So  the source for the name Bright Lightning is the journal writer, but he does not say anything about her appearance or behavior. A year later, British born General Charles Lee entered into a non-binding union with an unnamed daughter of White Thunder while he lived in New York among the Mohawk in 1756. [7]

Disagree? Can you provide some proof? Feel free to comment.


[1] Big Thunder Park, Belvedere, Illinois

[1a] Gary Clayton Anderson, Little Crow: Spokesman for the Sioux, (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2008).

[2] Washington, George and Royster, Paul , editor, "The Journal of Major George Washington (1754)" (1754). Electronic Texts in American Studies. 33.

[3] Collin G. Calloway, The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation, (Oxford University Press: 2018).

[4] Washinton, George, "The Journal of Major George Washington."




  1. Anna Coleman Princess Bright lightning is my grandmother her daughter with Coleman was named Anna Coleman who married JohannesNils Frande or in America Friend their daughter Sarah Friend married my Grandpa Peter Bilderback.Anna Coleman Princess Bright Lightning was courted and married by my grandfather Hedrick known as Henry Coleman who was a highly educated man from Finland and an interpreter who spoke several languages he interpreted between the Swedes,Dutch,English and several Indian tribes. Anna was Ina refugee Deleware Colony when she met my Grandpa Henry.Yes her Mother had same name and her Father and brother this was standard in that era for both Indian and Europeans hmm still is in many bloodlines. My name is Heidi Bilderback I am indeed a descendent of Anna Coleman.

    1. Heidi bilderback I believe youre a relative of mine on gedmatch I recognize your name . I'd like to hear from u pls . cetanwakanmani is dakota for thunderhawk walking

    2. I believe we could be related i am related to the friend family the Colman lady married in to.

    3. I would love to source more information as it is all over the place. I am also a direct Friend Decendant from this exact line. I do have some family stories and a couple of notes joted by my great grandmother. I am also on Gedmatch

  2. The Chief John Mouth Big Thunder Rolling I'm looking for, was born in 1605, married to Anna Boyse, Leni Lenape Indian Maiden #3 of Delaware, born 1605, and they had a daughter..Anne Hannah Reynor Princess Bright Lightning, born 1632. All were born 400 yrs ago! It's VERY confusing! They are my 11th Great Grandpa and Grandma..supposedly.

    1. I am also descended from these people. It has been confusing sorting it out.

    2. ditto... I'VE had enough trouble sorting through family stuff that WAS NOT TALKED ABOUT by my father's grandmother who claimed to be Jewish to find that was not true. Richard M Culver 3Rd. great grandfather his wife Rachel Ann Green married in Louisville KY 1834 was the only paper record I could find. The record did not list who their parents were. Ancestry DNA however opened up a Pandorahs Box of data once eliminating the known cousins. The Green's and Culver's go back as far as the 1600s. Digging through 4th 5th 6th cousins ancestry these names popped up Colman ,Anderson, Friend and so on likely tied to Culver.the Green family were connected to Shawnee Cherokee, long story, in east Tennese ,North Carolina,central Kentucky. My real interest is in learning what brought my 3x grandparents together. She was borne in 1817 Kentucky he was born in1809 in Indiana,yes she was very young when they married.

    3. None of you people claiming ancestry have even attempted to offer any evidence they existed. If you have no evidence, you have no reason to state you are related to them. Period. That's the whole point of this blog post. There's no evidence. It's a fantasy potentially based on a couple real people.

    4. Absolutely can follow the line back to big chief thunder and Anna bright lightening on Family Search I and my son just did it again today 7/24/2022

  3. I too would be a relative of Bright Lightning if it is indeed true. I found this info on Find A Grave: HENDRICK ANDERSSON "HENRY" COLEMAN BORN 1640 IN SWEDEN MARRIED ANNA (WA KU SU TO ME)


    Married Anna (Wa ku su to me) Bright Lightning (1635-1703) of the Lenni-Lanape tribe. Her father was chief Big Thunder.
    [Note-As far as I understand, there has never been any absolute proof of Hendrick ever marrying an indian woman. It has been recorded that he did live among the Indians for several years, and was an interpreter between the indians and the colonists. The late Dr. Peter Stebbins Craig, a scholar on the subject of New Sweden in colonial America, says there is no proof of the marriage. More research is needed.]

    1671 Census of Delaware by Dr. Peter Stebbins Craig. Published by the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania. 1999. Monograph Series no. 4.
    (Page 24) Lars Andersson Coleman (#32) A Finn, died unmarried in Glouchester County in 1693 when his brother, Hendrick was named administrator of his estate. They probably were sons of Anders Hendricksson, who arrived in New Sweden as a freeman in 1654. (Note NJA 23: 102, His surname Kolman in Swedish means charcoal worker.)

    [Note-Anders Hendricksson Kolman is believed to be the father of Hendrick and Lars. He arrived in America aboard the ship Ornen (Eagle) in 1654.]

    1671 Census of Delaware (continued)
    The following is a paraphrase of Dr. Craig's writing.
    (Page 25) Hendrick Andersson Coleman (#39) is one of the principals accused in the Long Finn rebellion. He is fined 930 guilders for his part in the insurrection. The governor issues an order for his arrest, knowing that he is well versed in the indian language. Hendrick abandons all of his property and hides out with the Indians. After the death of his brother, he moves to Gloucester County to live on the farm he inherited. He dies about 1697, survived by his wife and daughter.

    1693 Census of the Swedes on the Delaware by Dr. Peter Stebbins Craig. Studies in Swedish American Genealogy 3. 1993.
    The following is a paraphrase of Dr. Craig's writing.
    (Page 76) Hendrick Andersson Kolman (#71) was born in Sweden, but was of Finnish ancestry. He was one of the principal accomplices of the "Long Finn" insurrection of 1669. The purpose was to get the Swedes and Finns to take up arms against the English. The attempt failed and Hendrick a.k.a. Henry the Finn, was arrested and fined 930 guilders. In 1671, he resided at Carkoen's Hook, Kingressing, but later moved to the northwest side of Mill (Darby) Creek, opposite Carkoen's Hook. He sold his property on 21 December 1696, and probably died soon after. In 1693, his wife, Anna, and daughter, Anna, were living with John Hendricksson. The widow, Anna, was still living in 1703.

    1. Interesting paraphrase of the Craig's books, but confusing. Hendrick Coleman's brother give him land in this will? what brother is that one? and the other one of John Henderickson? Who's that? Did Hendrick and his wife, Anna Coleman have another child besides Anna Coleman Friend?

    2. Sir, why not use references of the "17th Century" instead of those you did of the 18th century? I'm sure the name "Big Thunder" and Bright Lighning" has been use by tNative America over and over over the four or five hunderds years. I'm with you about the "unsourced" references. Why publish somethings that you are NOT going to refer it to where you got it? Oh! I'm sure they'll so so-and so had it and so on down the line. . This is so exhausting. I am a descandent of John and Anna (Coleman) Friend, whose father seems to be ever famous in his time.

  4. I have pictures of my father who looks like Chief Big Thunder. My body is in Finland.

    I have had Thunder over my trailer all last month. This morning when I realized who my dad is.

    Our people are in Canada. They are being censored 🤬 from the World. No clean water. Broken down homes. Addictions. Children being stolen. I was not raised there. I was raised by a white family.

    I have family in England. I currently live in Texas.

    We are being shielded from who we truly are. Email me

  5. I'm sorry but there's no validation to this claim. Any and all sources that is floating around on the Internet are stuff that really does not connect to a 18th century myth. Someone once pointed out, a lawyer and genealogist, I might say, said that any white man who married an Indian create an issue to his offsprings, his wife, the Indian, could not own land or hold any, and neither will any children that he sire from that woman. Please stop circulating these claims. They're just plain and simply myth, just like the English sear Captain Nicholas Friend. If you have real sources, you might as well put it out there for other s to validated it truth. Family sotries are just that stories.

    1. The Lutheran Church publish a list of its members that were still living in 1693. Hendrick Coleman was on that list. There was no church record of Hendrick being married. When he died in 1696, Anna, his widow and children were reported living with John Hendrickson. Is it possible Hendrick took an Indian wife while was living with them? That would be the logical reason for no record of the marriage. Who was Anna Coleman, if she was not a Native American?


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