Native Village Youth and Education News
September 2009


Before there was a city, there was Chief Pontiac
By JERRY WOLFFE,0,6571061.story

Condensed and edited by Native Village

PONTIAC, Mich -  In 1769, the namesake of Pontiac, Michigan was killed along the banks of the Mississippi River in Illinois. He was only about 49 years old. 
His body is believed to be buried near today's Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis.

So ended the life of an Ottawa Chief who nearly changed the course of history.

Chief Pontiac was born in either NW Ohio or SE Michigan to an Ottawa father and a mother from the Potawatomi or Miami tribe. He grew up among the area's Ottawa, Ojibway and Potawatomi tribes who called themselves "The Three Fires" because of their close association.

As the British and French battled to control the area's land and fur trade, Indian villages and tribes were caught between the two. Pontiac grew to understand and resent the politics and lies behind the empty promises. He decided to side with the French because "the British were known as harsh and stingy," said historian Charlie Martinez.

The results? "Chief Pontiac nearly overthrew the British empire in North America," Martinez said.

Chief Pontiac was well-respected by the British, French, and other Native American tribes for his skill as a military strategist. He unified many tribes to fight against the British and won many battles in the east.   Besides attacking British posts in southeastern Michigan, Pontiac attacked major British forts in Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as other areas along the Great Lakes.  They swept down in coordinated attacks and seized no less than 10 forts in the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, Illinois territory and Pennsylvania. They laid siege to Forts Detroit, Pitt and Niagara; all in the same summer

At the time, the French were fighting the British in the French and Indian War (1754-1763).  "The fighting involved Pontiac, especially around Fort Detroit," Martinez said.

From May through October, 1763, Pontiac besieged Fort Detroit, which was occupied by the British. The only reason he didn't win is because the British were still receiving supplies shipped down the Detroit River which ran beside the fort. In the fall of 1763, a relief column of British troops and Rogers Rangers arrived, ending any chance that Pontiac would defeat the British.

The war with the French ended when a peace document was signed in Paris in February 1763 but "word didn't get back to America," so hostilities continued for a while, Martinez said.

By 1764 the French no longer supported the Indian efforts and actually sided with the British. The British re-took many of the areas. Pontiac agreed to a peace treaty in July 1766 at Fort de Chartres, Illinois. He was murdered by a Peoria Indian three years later. To avenge Pontiac's death, the Ottawa Indians killed many Peoria Indians.

Other Sources:

Native Village News September 2009Native Village Home Page

Background: Robert Kaufman Fabrics:

NATIVE VILLAGE website was created for youth, educators, families, and friends who wish to celebrate the rich, diverse cultures of The Americas' First Peoples. We offer readers two monthly publications: NATIVE VILLAGE Youth and Education News and NATIVE VILLAGE Opportunities and Websites.  Each issue shares today's happenings in Indian country.
Unless otherwise noted, articles are written in full by the credited author.
Native Village is responsible for format changes. Articles may also include additional photos, art, and graphics which enhance the visual appeal and and adds new dimensions to the articles. Each is free or credited by right-clicking the picture, a page posting, or appears with the original article.  Our hopes are to make the news as informative, educational, enjoyable as possible.
NATIVE VILLAGE also houses website libraries and learning circles  to enrich all lives on Turtle Island.
Please visit, and sign up for our update reminders. We are always glad to make new friends!