Pontiac was an Odawa (Ottawa) Chief who organized a multi-tribe resistance, later known as Pontiac’s War, against the British in the Great Lakes area.
Pontiac was born in 1720 near the Maumee River in what is now Ohio. There is not a lot known about his early life but by 1755 he was the Odawa Chief. Pontiac had a commanding personality and a strategist’s mind. This also allowed him to be a leader of a Neshnabe alliance between the Odawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibwe. In 1760, Pontiac met Robert Rogers, a British Army Officer, on his way to occupy Michilimackinac, now St. Ignace, Michigan, and the other forts that were surrendered by the French during the French and Indian War. Pontiac let the British troops pass freely if they treated him with respect.
As the French and Indian War came to an end Pontiac along with other the tribes living in the former French territory did not find the British forces to be as peaceful as the French. In 1762, Pontiac sought the support from most of the tribes from Lake Superior to the lower Mississippi to form an alliance to defend their land from encroaching colonists. In May 1763 Pontiac planned for every tribe to attack the British fort nearest to them and then join together to attack colonial settlements.
Pontiac and his Odawa forces elected to capture Detroit, after his first assault failed reinforcements came from the Wyandot, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi. With this additional help they started a siege that lasted months. On July 31st, he won the Battle of Bloody run however the British received reinforcements and on October 30th, he retreated to the Maumee River. The main plan was successful, 8 out of the 12 forts attacked by the united tribes were captured, most of the garrisons, several relief expeditions, and settlements were wiped out.
End of Pontiac’s Alliance:
In the spring of 1764, a British army under the command of Colonel Bouquet was sent into Pennsylvania and Ohio and fought the Delaware and Shawnee until they signed a peace treaty, breaking Pontiac’s alliance. With no support from the French or Western tribes, Pontiac was forced to sign a treaty with the British in 1766. On April 20th, 1769, Pontiac was killed by a Peoria tribal member while visiting Illinois. His death led to a bitter inter-tribal war and the Peoria tribe was almost wiped out.
Editors, History.com, ed. “Ottawa Chief PONTIAC’S Rebellion against the British Begins.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, February 9, 2010. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/pontiacs-rebellion-begins.
Encyclopedia, Britannica, ed. “Pontiac.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 1998. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Pontiac-Ottawa-chief.