Pontiac

Pontiac

(c. 1720-1769)

The early life of Pontiac remains a mystery.It is believed that he was born near the Maumee River in Ohio. What is known is that he became a sachem (chief) of the Ottawa tribe around 1755, and made his first appearance in written history as the “Sachem of the Outawawas” reported by Major Robert Rogers in 1760. At this time Pontiac was an ally of the French in their war against the British.

As part of the terms of the treaty ending the French and Indian War, the British were to take possession of the French forts, trading posts, and settlements across Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. The Native Americans of this region had become accustomed to the French, and they did not like the more restrictive demands made on them by the British.

Sometime around 1762 or 1763, a Delaware Indian holy man named Neolin the Prophet, began to stir up the Indians against all white settlers. Pontiac adopted this message and he convinced many Native Americans that the British alone, and not the French, were the enemy.

Pontiac appeared at the British-held Fort Detroit with several hundred warriors in May, 1763. At first, he planned to lead a surprise attack on the fort, but canceled it at the last moment when it was clear that the Britishknew of the plan. Instead, Pontiac and his men then surrounded the fort and held it under siege for five months, until the end of October.

Pontiac then left, but other Native Americans continued the siege until August 1764.During the intervening months, native warriors attacked and captured a number of British forts from Detroit, along the Great Altogether these attacks cost the British forces and colonists several hundred lives.

When he abandoned the siege of Fort Detroit, Pontiac apparently tried to organize other Native Americans in the Mississippi Valley to attack the British. In any case, thewar ground to a halt after both Fort Detroit and Fort Pitt, at modern-day Pittsburgh, were relieved and resupplied by British forces.

In August 1765, Pontiac reappeared at Fort Detroit and smoked a peace pipe with George Croghan, the Indian agent. In July 1766, Pontiac met Sir William Johnson at Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York, and signed a treaty formally ending hostilities.

Pontiac lived quietly and peacefully for the next three years. Then in 1769, during a visit to Cahokia, Illinois, he was attacked and killed by a Peoria Indian. The reason for the attack is unknown.