Sitting Bull was dangerous, as recounted in yesterday’s story, but an Indian Chief who did far more real damage was Pontiac in 1768. Before his uprising was brought under control, more than 2,000 British, including women and children, had been killed.
Many Indians in what is now western Ontario did not like Britain’s taking Canada from France. When the red-coated soldiers occupied the French forts at Detroit and Michilimackinac, between Lakes Huron and Michigan, they were led to believe that the King of France would soon drive them out again.
Pontiac was chief of the Ottawas who lived near Detroit. At a secret meeting he vowed to drive the British “off the face of the earth.” Fortunately, Major Gladwyn, who was in charge of the fort at Detroit, was told of Pontiac’s boast.
Pontiac, professing undying friendship for the British, asked for a peace conference. He and 300 followers arrived at Detroit on May 7, 1763, and were received in the fort. Pontiac’s followers included a number of women who concealed weapons under their blankets.
The custom was that in a conference of this kind, the Indian chief would offer the white leader a belt of wampum. Pontiac had arranged that when he stood up to offer the belt, the Indians would grab their concealed weapons and begin the massacre.
However, Gladwyn was ready for the masquerade. He pretended to go along with the peace conference, but took obvious precautions to deal with any trouble that might occur. When Pontiac looked around he saw that an uprising would have had no chance to succeed. He gave no signal.
The conference proceeded as though it were genuine, and the Indians left with promises of goodwill and other friendly meetings in the future. Soon after they were out of the fort they surrounded it and kept it under siege for more than a year until British reinforcements arrived. This was only one of a number of manoeuvres organized by the wily Pontiac.
If you think Pontiac is interesting and want to learn more, I have a few sites to suggest. For instance, a good place to look would be Galafilm‘s Chiefs, Government of Michigan‘s Department of Natural Resources, American’s History.com, and I also suggest visiting Loon Lake Elementary School. You might also want to read American Indians will meet to honor Chief Pontiac (sfgate.com).