Pontiac was an Ottowa leader who gained prominence for his role in Pontiacís Rebellion against British military occupation of the Great Lakes. Little is known about his life before the French and Indian War, but he had already been made a chief of his tribe by 1747, when he allied with New France against a resistance movement by the Huron. Pontiac supported the French during the subsequent war, and he may have taken part in their victory over the Braddock expedition in 1755. British soldier Robert Rogers claimed to have met with the chief in 1760, and he later wrote a play entitled Ponteach: or the Savages of America that helped catapult Pontiac to lasting fame.

Following the conclusion of the war, the native allies of the French soon grew discontent with their treatment by the victorious British, who restricted their access to the gunpowder and ammunition needed for effective hunting. Pontiac, sharing in this dissatisfaction, sought to put up a resistance that would drive away the British and restore the old alliances that had been in place. In April 1763, he held a large council, asking those who attended to assist him in an attack on Fort Detroit, and shortly thereafter he travelled to the military base to determine its strength. The siege, which launched the war known as Pontiacís Rebellion, was ultimately unsuccessful, but it inspired a newfound self-assurance among the Native Americans in the area. Several more attacks against British forts soon followed, but the extent of Pontiacís influence in these raids is unknown. After failing to take Detroit, the chief withdrew to the Illinois Country; beyond a victory at the Battle of Bloody Run, he did not actively engage in the war, but he continued to encourage resistance to British occupation. At last, in 1766, the Ottowa leader met with the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs and put an end to the war.

Pontiac still faced difficulties even after the rebellion; his fame among the Europeans led him to lord over his people, abusing his position until he was forced from his village. He returned to the Illinois Country, where a year later he was murdered by a Peoria Indian. The cities of Pontiac, Michigan and Pontiac, Illinois were named in his honor.

Key events during the life of Pontiac:

Allied with New France against a Huron resistance.
French and Indian War.
Supposedly met with British soldier Robert Rogers.
Pontiac's Rebellion.
  Battle of Bloody Run.
Rogers wrote the play Ponteach: or the Savages of America.
Exiled from his Ottowa village.
Murdered by a Peoria Indian.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
The Great Conspiracy  in  Conquest of the Old Northwest  by  James Baldwin
Pontiac's War  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
Early Years of the English Dominion  in  Canada: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
Rebellion of Pontiac  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
Pontiac  in  Four American Indians  by  Frances M. Perry
Bloody Belt of Pontiac  in  Boy's Book of Indian Warriors  by  Edwin L. Sabin

Image Links

I stand in your path
 in Conquest of the Old Northwest

At one time he raised the belt of wampum
 in Conquest of the Old Northwest

Pontiac and the Siege of Detroit
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Pontiac and Gladwyn
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Pontiac's attack on the fort
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Pontiac foiled at Detroit
 in Canada: Peeps at History

Pontiac and Rogers
 in Four American Indians

Pontiac's Speech
 in Four American Indians

Pontiac's Eloquence
 in Four American Indians

Pontiac, the Red Napoleon
 in Boy's Book of Indian Warriors

Short Biography
Robert Rogers Leader of a band of mountain men who did great service for Britain during the French and Indian War.
General Montcalm Military leader of New France during the Seven Year War; died at Battle of Quebec.
Alexander Henry Jr. Canadian Fur Trader, nephew of Alexander Henry the Elder, who kept extensive journasl of his travels in the northwest.