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Ottawa Chief Pontiac (1720 - 1769)
PONTIAC, chief of the Ottawas, born on Ottawa river about 1720; died in Cahokia, Ill., in 1769. He was the son of an Ojibway woman, and, as the Ottawas were in alliance with the Ojibways and Potawotamies, he became the principal chief of the three tribes.
In 1746, with his warriors, he defended the French at Detroit against an attack by some of the northern tribes, and in 1755 he is believed to have led the Ottawas at Braddock's defeat. After the surrender of Quebec, Major Robert Rogers, of New Hampshire, was sent to take possession of the western forts, under the treaty of Paris, but in November, 1760, while encamped at the place where the city of Cleveland now stands, he was visited by Pontiac, who objected to his further invasion of the territory. Finding, however, that the French had been driven from Canada, he acquiesced in the surrender of Detroit, and persuaded 400 Detroit Indians, who were lying in ambush, to relinquish their design of cutting off the English. While this action was doubtless in good faith, still he hated the English and soon began to plan their extermination.
In 1762 he sent messengers with a red stained tomahawk and a wampum war belt, who visited every tribe between the Ottawa and the lower Mississippi, all of whom joined in the conspiracy The end of May was determined upon as the time when each tribe was to dispose of the garrison of the nearest fort, and then all were to attack the settlements. A great council was held near Detroit on 27 April, 1763, when Pontiac delivered an oration, in which the wrongs and indignities that the Indians had suffered at the hands of the English were recounted, and their own extermination was prophesied. He also told them of a tradition, which he could hardly have invented, that a Delaware Indian had been admitted into the presence of the Great Spirit, who told him his race must return to the customs and weapons of their ancestors, throw away the implements they had acquired from the white man, abstain from whiskey, and take up the hatchet against the English, "these dogs dressed in red, who have come to rob you of your hunting grounds and drive away the game."
The taking of Detroit was to be his special task, and the 7th of May was appointed for the attack ; but the plot was disclosed to the commander of the post by an Indian girl, and in consequence Pontiac found the garrison prepared. Foiled in his original intention, on 12 May he surrounded Detroit with his Indians; but he was unable to keep a close siege, and the garrison received food from the Canadian settlers. The latter likewise supplied the Indians, in return for which they received promissory notes drawn on birch bark and signed with the figure of an otter, all of which it is said were subsequently redeemed. Supplies and reinforcements were sent to Detroit by way of Lake Erie, in schooners ; but these were captured by the Indians, who compelled the prisoners to row them to Detroit in hope of taking the garrison by stratagem, but the Indians, concealed in the bottom of the boat, were discovered before a landing could be effected. Subsequently another schooner, filled with supplies and ammunition, succeeded in reaching the fort, and this vessel the Indians repeatedly tried to destroy by means of fire rafts.
The English now believed themselves sufficiently strong to make an attack upon the Indian camp, and 250 men, on the night of 31 July, set out for that purpose; but Pontiac had been advised of this intention by the Canadians, and, waiting until the English had advanced sufficiently, opened fire on them from all sides. In this fight, which is known as that of Bloody Bridge, 59 of the English were killed or wounded. A desultory warfare continued until 12 Oct., when the siege was raised and Pontiac retired into the country that borders Maumee river, where he vainly endeavored to organize another movement. Although Pontiac failed in the most important action of the conspiracy, still Fort Sandusky, Fort St. Joseph, Fort Miami, Fort Ouatanon, Mackinaw, Presque Isle, Fort Le Bceuf, and Fort Venango were taken and their garrisons were massacred, while unsuccessful attacks were made elsewhere. The English soon sent troops against the Indians, and succeeded in pacifying most of the tribes, so that, during the summer of 1766, a meeting of Indian chiefs, including Pontiac, was held in Oswego, where a treaty was concluded with Sir William Johnson. Although Pontiac's conspiracy failed in its grand object, still it had resulted in the capture and destruction of eight out of the twelve fortified posts that were attacked, generally by the massacre of their garrisons, it had destroyed several costly English expeditions, and had carried terror and desolation into some of the most fertile valleys on the frontiers of civilization. In 1769 a Kaskaskia Indian, being bribed with a barrel of liquor and promise of additional reward, followed Pontiac into the forest and there murdered him.
See Francis Parkman's "History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac and the War of the North American Tribes against the English Colonies after the Conquest of Canada" (Boston, 1851), also Franklin B. Hough's "Diary of the Siege of Detroit in the War with Pontiac" (Albany, 1860). -- Edited Appleton's Cyclopedia American Biography
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"You Must Lift the Hatchet Against Them"
A Delaware Indian conceived an eager desire to learn wisdom from the Master of Life; but, being ignorant where to find him, he had recourse to fasting, dreaming, and magical incantations. By these means, it was revealed to him, that, by moving forward in a straight, undeviating course, he would reach the abode of the Great Spirit. He told his purpose to no one, and having provided the equipment's of a bunter-gun, powder horn, ammunition, and a kettle for preparing his food-he set out on his errand. For some time, he journeyed on in high hope and confidence. On the evening of the eighth day, he stopped by the side of a brook at the edge of a meadow, where he began to make ready his evening meal, when, looking up, he saw three large openings in the woods before him, and three well-beaten paths which entered them. He was much surprised; but his wonder increased, when, after it had grown dark, the three paths were more clearly visible than ever. Remembering the important object of his journey, he could neither rest nor sleep; and, leaving his fire, he crossed the meadow, and entered the largest of the three openings. He had advanced but a short distance into the forest, when a bright flame sprang out of the ground before him, and arrested his steps. In great amazement, he turned back, and entered the second path, where the same wonderful phenomenon again encountered him; and now, in terror and bewilderment, yet still resolved to persevere, he took the last of the three paths. On this he journeyed a whole day without interruption, when at length, emerging from the forest, he saw before him a vast mountain, of dazzling whiteness. So precipitous was the ascent that the Indian thought it hopeless to go farther, and looked around him in despair; at that moment, he saw, seated at some distance above, the figure of a beautiful woman arrayed in white, who arose as he looked upon her, and thus accosted him:
"How can you hope, encumbered as you are, to succeed in your design? Go down to the foot of the mountain, throw away your gun, your ammunition, your provisions, and your clothing; wash yourself in the stream which flows there, and you will then be prepared to stand before the Master of Life."
The Indian obeyed, and again began to ascend among the rocks, while the woman, seeing him still discouraged, laughed at his faintness of heart, and told him that, if he wished for success, he must climb by the aid of one hand and one foot only. After great toil and suffering, he at length found himself at the summit. The woman had disappeared, and he was left alone. A rich and beautiful plain lay before him, and at a little distance, he saw three great villages, far superior to the squalid wigwams of the Delaware's. As he approached the largest, and stood hesitating whether he should enter, a man gorgeously attired stepped forth, and, taking him by the hand, welcomed him to the celestial abode. He then conducted him into the presence of the Great Spirit, where the Indian stood confounded at the unspeakable splendor which surrounded him. The Great Spirit bade him be seated, and thus addressed him:
"I am the Maker of heaven and earth, the trees, lakes, rivers, and all things else. I am the Maker of mankind; and because I love you, you must do my will. The land on which you live I have made for you, and not for others. Why do you suffer the white men to dwell among you? My children, you have forgotten the customs and traditions of your forefathers. Why do you not clothe yourselves in skins, as they did, and use the bows and arrows, and the stone-pointed lances, which they used? You have bought guns, knives, kettles, and blankets, from the white men, until you can no longer do without them; and, what is worse, you have drunk the poison firewater, which turns you into fools. Fling all these things away; live as your wise forefathers lived before you. And as for these English-these dogs dressed in red, who have come to rob you of your hunting grounds, and drive away the game-you must lift the hatchet against them. Wipe them from the face of the earth, and then you will win my favor back again, and once more be happy and prosperous. The children of your great father, the King of France, are not like the English. Never forget that they are your brethren. They are very dear to me, for they love the red men, and understand the true mode of worshipping me."