Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Chief Pontiac

The Odawa (Ottawa) chief called Pontiac was known in his village as Obwandiyag. He was likely born about 1720 somewhere along the Detroit River. One of his parents was Odawa and he was raised in that tradition.

Descriptions of Pontiac as an adult are contradictory. Contemporaries described him as “remarkably well-looking,…of medium stature,” or “a tall man, not handsome.” He had several wives and at least one son.

By the age of 25 or 30, Pontiac was a powerful war chief, who allied his tribe with the French. Britain’s domination of the Great Lakes after 1760 caused Pontiac to instigate regional efforts to defeat them. The most famous was “Pontiac’s Rebellion,” native uprisings which occurred simultaneously at forts around the Great Lakes.

That unsuccessful rebellion represented one of the last concerted efforts to defend Native American supremacy in the North Country. After capitulating to the English, Pontiac was removed as chief. He was killed in 1769 at Cahokia, Illinois.

 


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Chief Pontiac exhibit photograph, 1963

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