On the morning of May 7, 1763, fifty Indian warriors approached Fort Detroit. Their leader, a charismatic Odawa chief named Pontiac, had requested a meeting with Major Henry Gladwin, the fort’s British commandant.
Pontiac carried a wampum belt that was green on one side and white on the other. His followers carried concealed tomahawks and knives. Once inside the fort, Pontiac planned to turn the belt over, giving the signal to attack the unsuspecting British Redcoats.
Much to Pontiac’s surprise, the British soldiers were armed and ready. Gladwin had learned of Pontiac’s plan. The Indians quietly left the fort, but returned the next day and asked to be let in. Gladwin refused. The Indians then laid siege to Fort Detroit. Pontiac’s Rebellion had begun.
This Indian uprising against British authority occurred shortly after the British won the French and Indian War.
During the war, the British gave the Indians gifts. When the war ended and the French were no longer a threat, the British stopped giving the Indians gunpowder, lead and liquor. They also created problems with the fur trade that angered the Indians.
In the spring of 1763, Native Americans attacked British forts all along the frontier. One of the more dramatic assaults came against the British garrison at Fort Michilimackinac at the Straits of Mackinac. By early summer, only the British posts at Detroit and Niagara had not been captured.
Pontiac’s siege fell apart in October 1763, as the Indians returned to their families to prepare for the upcoming winter. The Indians also learned that the French were not returning to the Great Lakes. The French even recommended that Pontiac make peace with the British.
Pontiac’s Rebellion, one of the greatest Indian uprisings in American history, ended quietly.
The year after the siege, Major Gladwin retired to England where he led the life of a country gentleman. Pontiac was not so lucky. In 1769 fellow Indians murdered the Odawa leader because he had become too pro-British.
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