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."



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