[Note: This is a single part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that had important roles ( Huron, Assiniboine, etc.).
This history's content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism. At the end of this History you will find links to those Nations referred to in the History of the Ottawa.
Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end to be of standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments... Lee Sultzman.
Along with the Ojibwe and Potawatami, the Ottawa first arrived on the east side of Lake Huron sometime around 1400. While the Ojibwe and Potawatomi continued west towards Sault Ste. Marie, the Ottawa remained near the mouth of the French River and on the large Islands in Lake Huron. Over the years. the Ottawa lived in many places but always considered Manitoulin Island as their original homeland.
This island was on the route between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast, and the Ottawa used the birchbark canoes to travel great distances for trade. In 1615 their villages were concentrated on Manitoulin Island, but they began relocating to Mackinac (upper Michigan) during the 1630s. By 1649 they had left Manitoulin Island. Iroquois attacks forced them to move to Green Bay (Wisconsin) in 1651 and then to the south shore of Lake Superior in 1658. They remained there until they returned to Mackinac in 1670. As the French and their allies drove the Iroquois from the Great Lakes during the 1690s, some Ottawa returned to Manitoulin Island where they have remained ever since.
However, the majority stayed at Mackinac until 1701 when most left for Detroit and Saginaw Bay. They spread south into northern Ohio with one village located as far east as Venango in western Pennsylvania. The Ottawa at Mackinac stayed until the soil wore out in 1741, and they relocated to Grand Traverse Bay in lower Michigan, with some bands moving as far south on the east side of Lake Michigan at the Grand River. A few bands settled on the opposite side of the lake at Milwaukee and spread into northern Illinois. The Wisconsin and Illinois Ottawa were removed with the Potawatomi to southwest Iowa in 1834. By 1846 they had merged with the Potawatomi and moved with them to Kansas. The Ohio and Detroit bands of Ottawa were removed to Kansas 1831-34. Some chose allotment and citizenship in 1867 and remained in Kansas while the remainder moved to northeast Oklahoma. However, the vast majority of the Ottawa were not removed and still live in the northern part of lower Michigan or southern Ontario.
The Ottawa were never a large tribe, probably no more than about 8,000 in 1600 before contact. Although heavily exposed to Europeans through the fur trade, their population suffered far less the Huron from epidemic. This was probably due to the fact that the Ottawa did usually not live in large villages during the winter. The British in 1768 estimated them at about 5,000. Later estimates had difficulty separating Ottawa from Ojibwe. The Canadian census in 1910 gave 1,497 Ottawa-Ojibwe on Manitoulin and Cockburn Islands, half of which were Ottawa. The United States that year listed 197 Ottawa in Oklahoma, 2,750 Ottawa-Ojibwe in Michigan (two-thirds Ottawa), and 683 others - total 3,465. Canada currently has more than 4,000 Ottawa, mostly with the Ontario First Nations on Cockburn, Manitoulin, and Walpole Islands. There are another 10,000 Ottawa in the United States. Although the Ottawa have signed 24 treaties with the United States, most groups have not had federal recognition since the 1860s. Only two Ottawa groups presently have this status: Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma with 400 members; and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan. The 9,000 members of the Northern Michigan Ottawa Association are one of the largest groups of Native Americans in the United States without federal recognition.
Ottawa comes from the Algonquin word "Adawe" meaning "to trade" and originates from their role as traders even before contact. Variations are: Atawawa, Odawa, Outaouacs, Outaoua, Tawa, Tawaw, and Utawawea. The Ottawa became so important in the French fur trade, that before 1670, it was common practice in Quebec to call any Algonquin from the Great Lakes an Ottawa. In their own language, the Ottawa (like the Ojibwe) refer to themselves as Anishinabe (Neshnabek) meaning "people." Other names for the Ottawa were: Andatahourat or Ondatawnwat (Huron), Dewagunha (Mohawk), Udawak (Penobscot), Ukuayata (Huron), Waganhae or Waganis (Iroquois), Watawawininiwok (Ojibwe), and Wdowo (Abnaki).
Central Algonquin - identical to Ojibwe and almost the same as Potawatomi.
During the late 1600s, there were four to five Ottawa divisions: Keinouche (Pickerel), Kiskakon (Kishkakon) (Bear), Nassawaketon (Fork People, Nation of the Fork, Nassauaketon, Nassauakueton, Ottawa de la Fourche), Sable, and Sinago (Akonapi) (Gray Squirrel). These were subdivided into numerous local bands.
Villages and Bands 1615 to 1855
Aegakotcheising, Anamiewatigong, Apontigoumy, Cheboygan, Keweenaw, L'Arbre Croche, Machonee, Manistee, Menawzbetaunaung, Michilimackinac (Mackinac), Middle Village, Muskegan, Obidgewong, St. Ignace, Saint Simon, Waganakisi (Waganaski, Waganukizze), Wequetonsing.
Agushawas, Blanchard's Fork, Meshkemau, Ogontz, Oquanoxa, Roche de Boeuf, Tawa Town, Tondagonie (The Dog), Tushquegan (McCarty), Waugau, Wolf Rapids.
Cockburn Island, Ekaentoton, Manitowaning, Manitoulin Island, Sheguiandah, Sheshegwaning, Walpole Island (Bkwjwanong), West Bay, Wikwemikong.
Chequamegon, Milwaukee (Ojibwe, Ottawa), Mitchigami, Shabawywyagun.
Kajienatroene, Maskasinik, Nikikouek, Niscak, Otontagen, Ouacheskesouek, Outaouakamigouk, Sagnitaouigama, Talon, Thunder Bay.
Villages and Bands 1855
Ottawa of the Osage (Blanchard's Fork and Roche de Boeuf from Ohio).
Aegakotcheising, Cheboigan, Flat River, Fort Village, Grand Rapids, Grand River Valley, Griswold Colony, Maple River, L'Arbre Croche Ottawa, Middle Village, Old Wing Colony, Ottawa Colony, Thorn Apple River, Village of the Cross.
Current Ottawa Groups
Cockburn Island First Nation, Sheshegwaning First Nation, Walpole Island First Nation, West Bay First Nation, Wikwemikong First Nation.
Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Consolidated Bahwetig Ojibwe and Mackinac, Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, and Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma.
Some Americans do not think of the Ottawa as an important tribe. There were never very many of them, and their culture language was almost identical to the more-numerous Ojibwe and Potawatomi. Between 1615 and 1763, the Ottawa were one of the most important tribes in North America, but their homeland was remote to the British colonies on the Atlantic seaboard. When the Americans reached the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes, the Ottawa's time had passed, and their role in the history of the United States after 1775 was small. A trading tribe even before contact, the Ottawa were businessmen before they ever met a European, so they immediately recognized the opportunity presented by the fur trade and attached themselves to it and the French. They soon became indispensable. Paddling their birchbark canoes for great distances, the Ottawa became the "French connection" to other Algonquin in the Great Lakes and brought the furs they collected to the Huron villages where the French were. The Huron provided warehouse space and protection from the Iroquois, but the Ottawa were the sales force who went out and got the business. Recognizing this, the French built their trade around the Ottawa and Huron. The Iroquois destroyed the Huron in 1649, but the Ottawa and some of the Huron (now called Wyandot) fled west and continued business as usual.
When the French organized an alliance to fight the Iroquois in 1687, the Ottawa and Wyandot became the "eldest children of Onontio," the French governor of Canada, and when they spoke in the councils of the alliance councils, their words carried weight. By 1685 Ottawa middlemen were supplying two-thirds of the fur at Montreal. It was no accident the Iroquois tried to break the alliance in the 1690s by offering a separate peace to the Ottawa, or that the Ottawa and Wyandot were the first tribes the French invited to Detroit in 1701. Ottawa influence declined after the French defeat and British takeover of the Great Lakes in 1760. The Ottawa's "fall from grace" was probably the most important reason for the Pontiac Rebellion in 1763. Other tribes had tried to organize an uprising against the British, but no one responded. But when an Ottawa chief called for revolt, every tribe listened and most joined, because the Ottawa would be leading it. This, more than anything, says who and what the Ottawa once were.
The Ottawa's first meeting with the French was a brief encounter at the mouth of the French River in 1615 with Samuel de Champlain. At the time, Champlain was enroute to the Huron villages at the south end of Lake Huron and gave little attention to what he thought was just another group of Algonkin. His attitude quickly changed when he realized how much fur the Ottawa could provide. Although the Huron had beaver in their homeland, it was not enough to supply the French, but the Ottawa, through their trade with tribes to the north and west, had access to an enormous amount, and it was better fur since colder weather caused beaver to grow thicker coats. The Ottawa had fought with the Huron before the French arrived, but mutual self-interest ended their traditional hostility (probably the only time when the fur trade caused peace in the Great Lakes). The system of the Ottawa and Nipissing bringing fur to the Huron to trade to the French worked so well it was not necessary for the French to travel beyond the Huron villages. By the 1620s French trade goods were reaching the Ojibwe at Sault Ste. Marie and the Cree to the north on the rivers flowing into Hudson Bay.
Reaching west to find more fur, Ottawa and Huron traders encountered the Winnebago at Green Bay (Wisconsin). Angry about the steel weapons the Ojibwe were using to take hunting territory from them, the Winnebago refused to either trade or allow Ottawa to travel beyond their villages. The Ottawa tried negotiations, but the Winnebago killed and ate their ambassadors. Seeing the Ottawa and Huron preparations for war, the French sent Jean Nicollet to the Winnebago villages in 1634 to arrange a truce. When Nicollet arrived at Red Banks on the south shore of Green Bay, he was the first European the Winnebago had ever seen which probably saved him from the same fate as the Ottawa ambassadors. He got the Winnebago to agree to a peace with the Ottawa, and Huron which lasted for some time and opened Lake Michigan to the French fur trade. To take advantage of this, the Ottawa began leaving Manitoulin Island and moving west to Mackinac. Around 1640, the relocation brought war with the Assegun (Bone Indians), and the Ottawa and Ojibwe drove the Assegun across the Mackinac Strait to lower Michigan.
The Assegun did not accept their defeat and continued to raid the Ottawa villages around Mackinac, so the Ottawa drove them south along the east side of Lake Michigan to the Mascouten's original homeland in southwest Michigan. The Mascouten welcomed the Assegun and formed an alliance with them against the Ottawa. Meanwhile, the Huron were trading with the Neutrals's and Tionontati who lived to the south and west of them. For obvious reasons, the French at first were reluctant to sell firearms to Native Americans. However, in 1629 the British captured Quebec and held it for three years cutting the supply of French trade goods. Sensing the weakness of their enemies, the Iroquois attacked the Algonkin and Montagnais who, with French help, had driven them from the upper St. Lawrence River in 1610. This was the beginning of the Beaver Wars (1630-1700), 70 years of intertribal warfare for control of the fur trade. By the time Quebec was returned to the French in 1632, the Algonkin and Montagnais were retreating, and the Iroquois were close to cutting the trade route through the Ottawa Valley to the Great Lakes. To restore the balance of power, the French began providing firearms, but the Dutch countered with their own sales to the Iroquois creating an arms race between the rival tribes.
The French weapons soon found their way from the Huron to the Tionontati and Neutrals who were exhausting the beaver in their homelands and used these weapons to take hunting territory from the tribes in lower Michigan (Mascouten, Fox, Sauk, Potawatomi, and Kickapoo). With only traditional weapons, the Michigan tribes needed allies - explaining why the Mascouten had welcomed the Assegun when they were fleeing the Ottawa, but the Ottawa had no trouble finding their own allies. Because this warfare did not interfere with the fur trade, the French did nothing to prevent it. What little they knew about it was learned from the Huron. Unfortunately, the Huron did not distinguish between the Algonquin tribes in lower Michigan and, borrowing the Ottawa name for the Potawatomi, referred to all of them as the Assistaeronon, or Fire Nation. In 1641 the Huron told their Jesuit missionaries that 2,000 Ottawa and Neutrals warriors had recently destroyed an Assistaeronon fort in southwest Michigan killing all of its warriors and taking 800 women and children prisoners.
The Ottawa were living at Mackinac when the Iroquois overran the Huron in 1649. The Huron not killed or captured fled to the Neutrals and Tionontati, but within two years these tribes had met a similar fate. The Iroquois adopted what remained of their beaten Iroquian-speaking foes, but nearly 1,000 Tionontati and Huron eluded them and fled north to the Ottawa villages at Mackinac. Having absorbed thousands of former enemies, the Iroquois were in danger of a revolt as long as one group of them remained free, and in 1650 they pursued the Wyandot (Tionontati and Huron refugees) to Mackinac. The attempt at capture failed, but certain they would try again, the Wyandot and Ottawa left Mackinac in 1651 and moved to an island at the entrance of Green Bay. The Winnebago had almost been annihilated by wars with the Fox and Illinois and could not resist the relocation of refugee tribes to Wisconsin, but there was also nothing to stop the Iroquois, and their attack on the Wyandot and Ottawa in 1652 almost succeeded. The Ottawa and Wyandot formed an alliance with the Potawatomi and moved to their fortified village of Mitchigami. The Iroquois returned in 1653, but their assault could not take the fort. During the siege, the Iroquois ran out of food and were forced to retreat. Returning to New York, they were attacked by the Mississauga (Ojibwe) who killed almost half of them, but this was one of the few defeats the Iroquois suffered during this period. By 1656 they had defeated and absorbed the Erie and finished driving the remaining tribes from lower Michigan. The survivors joined the other refugees in Wisconsin adding to the misery and overcrowding. After another Iroquois attack in 1655, the Ottawa and Wyandot were ready to leave Green Bay. The Wyandot left in 1658 and moved inland to Lake Pepin on the Mississippi.
The Ottawa left the following year and moved to either Lac Courte Oreilles or the Ojibwe villages at Chequamegon and Keweenaw on the south shore of Lake Superior. Besides distancing them from the Iroquois, this provided better access to the Cree north of Superior. This was important, because through all of the turmoil, the Ottawa had never stopped their fur trade with the French. The Huron defeat had left the French fur trade in shambles and in danger of being overrun themselves. But the Iroquois wanted to control the French, not to destroy them, and to the success of their war against the Erie, the western Iroquois (Seneca, Cayuga, and Onondaga) offered peace to the French in 1653. The French quickly agreed and, to protect this peace, halted their travel to the Great Lakes. Despite this, the French tried to keep their fur trade going by inviting former allies to bring their furs to Montreal. With the Iroquois controlling the Ottawa River, this was very dangerous, but having acquired a taste for French trade goods, the Ottawa and Wyandot were willing to try. Enlisting the help of the Ojibwe, they formed large canoe fleets to fight their way past the Iroquois. The French peace with the Iroquois ended in 1658 after the murder of a Jesuit.
As war resumed along the St. Lawrence, two French fur traders tried to renew trade with the Great Lakes. Ignoring French law, Pierre Radisson and Médart Chouart des Groseilliers joined an Ottawa trading party on their return to the Great Lakes. They became the first Europeans to see Lake Superior when the Ottawa took them to Chequamegon (La Pointe). They spent the winter with them, but it was a terrible experience. The Ottawa found it difficult to grow corn at this location and, to keep from starving, were reduced to eating their mocassins. In the spring, Raddison and Groseilliers travelled overland to the Dakota (Eastern Sioux) villages to trade. When they got back to Quebec in 1660, they were arrested and had their furs confiscated for defying the travel ban, but their brief visit had made the Dakota aware of the value of their fur, and afterwards they would not tolerate the Wyandot on the Mississippi. After threats, the Wyandot left Lake Pepin in 1661 and joined the Ottawa at Chequamegon.
Although they managed to defeat a Wyandot convoy in 1659, the Iroquois could not stop the heavily-armed canoe flotillas coming down the Ottawa River and decided to go after their source. When they realized the Ottawa and Wyandot were both on the south side of Lake Superior, they saw a chance to destroy them with a single attack, but they first had to pass undetected through Ojibwe territory. They did not make it, and in 1662 the Ojibwe, Nipissing, and Ottawa surprised a careless Iroquois war party west of Sault Ste. Marie and annihilated them. The Iroquois never again attempted to attack the Ottawa and Wyandot while they lived on Lake Superior. Although often close to starvation, the Ottawa and Wyandot had finally found a refuge from which they could collect furs to trade to the French. By 1664 the French had tired of living in fear of the Iroquois and decided to change this. Canada came under royal control that year, and a regiment of soldiers was sent to Quebec. Within a year they were making attacks on the Iroquois homeland. There was no longer reason for the French not to travel to the Great Lakes, and in 1665 Nicolas Perot, Jesuit Claude-Jean Allouez, and 6 other Frenchmen, joined 400 Ottawa and Wyandot on their return. They reached Green Bay in September.
Father Allouez went to Chequamegon where he established the mission of La Pointe du St. Esprit for the Huron and Ottawa converts which the Jesuits had made before 1649. French attacks in New York forced the Iroquois to sign a peace in 1667 which included French allies and trading partners in the Great Lakes. French traders and missionaries afterwards could now reach the Great Lakes unmolested, and Allouez was joined at Chequamegon in 1669 by the Father Jacques Marquette. The entire region at this time was plagued by starvation, epidemic, and warfare. Unable to reach the Ottawa and Wyandot on Lake Superior, Iroquois war parties had roamed through Wisconsin before 1667 attacking any tribe supplying them with fur. Between Iroquois raids, competition for the resources around Green Bay had the refugee tribes fighting each other over hunting territory. The south shore of Lake Superior was little better. The Dakota at the west end of lake had fought with the Ojibwe for many years, and they were not happy when the Ottawa and Wyandot had moved to the area in 1661.
This uneasy peace might have continued if the peace with the Iroquois had created a rapid expansion of the French fur trade. To prevent intertribal warfare near Green Bay which hurt their trade, the French began mediating disputes. They succeeded, but in ending one war, the French inadvertently created another. As expected, the refugee tribes stopped fighting each other and started hunting for fur. The only trouble was that 20,000 refugees crowded into a small area had managed to kill and eat almost every living creature around Green Bay, and to feed themselves and find fur for the French, they were forced to hunt farther west on lands claimed by the Dakota. Within a short time, the Green Bay tribes (Fox, Sauk, Mascouten, Kickapoo, Miami, and Potawatomi) were fighting the Dakota in western Wisconsin. Without the advantage of the firearms and steel weapons the refugees had gotten from the French, the Dakota did very well. The French started calling them the Iroquois of the west.
The fighting between the Dakota and Green Bay tribes spread to the Ottawa and Wyandot at Chequamegon, and the Dakota, who already had enough enemies from Green Bay, asked the Ottawa for a meeting in 1669 to settle their differences. The Dakota came to the meeting bearing the calumet, a sacred pipe and a sign of peace which all tribes were expected to honor, but the Ottawa killed and ate them. For violating the calumet, the Dakota captured Sinago, the Ottawa chief responsible, and burned him alive. Father Marquette concluded that Chequamegon was no longer the best place for a mission, and in 1670 he convinced the Ottawa and Wyandot to leave Chequamegon and settle near his new mission at St. Ignace on the north side of the Mackinac Strait. The relocation proved a little premature when the Seneca attacked and burned St. Ignace and the nearby villages in 1671.
However, this was the Ottawa's last brush with the Iroquois for a some time. The mission was rebuilt, and having come full circle in their movements, the Wyandot and Ottawa stayed at Michilimackinac (Mackinac). Some groups of Ottawa moved past and reoccupied their old villages on Manitoulin Island. The French presence became permanent, and in a treaty signed at a Grand Council held at Sault Ste. Marie in 1671, Simon Daumont claimed the entire Great Lakes for France. French missionary efforts slowed after Louis XIV got into an argument with Rome in 1673. Father Marquette left that year to explore the Mississippi and then remained among the Illinois for two years. He became ill and died returning to Mackinac. He was buried along the east shore of Lake Michigan. As was their custom for one of their own, the Ottawa went to the site of his grave a few years later, disinterred his bones, and took them back to St. Ignace.
Disaster struck the Ottawa in 1670 when the British opened their first trading posts on Hudson Bay. Before this, the Cree had been the Ottawa's most important source of fur, and this ended when the Cree could trade directly without Ottawa middleman. But the Ottawa adjusted and got the Ojibwe to make up the difference. This required the Ojibwe to expand west along the north and south shores of Lake Superior to find new hunting territory. Since their loyalty was unquestionable, the French encouraged the movement of the Ojibwe to block British access from Hudson Bay to tribes in the Great Lakes. By 1685 the Ottawa and Ojibwa were supplying two-thirds of the fur reaching Montreal. The initial push west by the Ojibwe was along the north side of Superior which took territory from the Assiniboine. Although the Assiniboine spoke the same language and were closely related to the Dakota, they had been enemies before the fur trade. The fur trade aggravated this. Although engaged in a three-way struggle with the Green Bay tribes and Ojibwe in western Wisconsin, the main threat to the Dakota after 1670 was from their unfriendly Assiniboine relatives to the north who had allied with the Cree. This allowed Daniel DuLhut (Duluth) to arrange a peace in 1680 between the Saulteur Ojibwa and Dakota, but this did not include the Green Bay tribes or the Keweenaw Ojibwe who remained at war with the Dakota.
However, it allowed the French to begin trading with the Dakota. They were already a dangerous opponent without firearms, and the last thing the refugee tribes wanted was for the French to start arming their enemies. When they moved to Mackinac in 1670, the Sinago Ottawa had not forgotten the Dakota had killed their chief. To retaliate, they formed joint war parties with the Potawatomi, Fox, and Sauk. Although there was fighting in western Wisconsin, French traders were making regular visits to the Dakota and the situation became explosive. In 1682 the Ojibwe and Menominee warriors of chief Achiganaga murdered two French traders in upper Michigan. DeLhut attempted to bring the culprits to justice at a European-style trial, but the Ottawa and Saulteur Ojibwa let it be known there would be serious trouble if Achiganaga's punishment was too severe. In the end, DeLhut was only able to execute one Menominee (a small tribe) rather than offend important allies. In 1680 the Illinois had rekindled the Beaver Wars when they killed the Seneca chief Annanhaa during a meeting at Mackinac.
The murder had taken place in an Ottawa village, the Iroquois did not blame them and went after the Illinois. The trouble had started after Robert La Salle had built Fort Crèvecoeur on the Illinois River in 1680. To find more fur, the Illinois had extended their hunting into land (Ohio, Indiana, and lower Michigan) claimed by the Iroquois. A Seneca protest at Mackinac led to the murder, and in the fall, the Seneca attacked the Illinois villages. This forced Henri de Tonti and the other French at Fort Crèvecoeur to flee to Wisconsin, but they got little sympathy from the French at Green Bay and would have starved if the Potawatomi had not fed them. Competition between French fur traders was as treacherous as any intertribal rivalry, and the Green Bay traders in 1679 had tried to prevent La Salle from trading with the Illinois by encouraging the Miami and Mascouten (enemies of the Illinois) to settle at Chicago.
For this reason, Perrot and the other Wisconsin traders did not intervene while the Seneca tore the Illinois to pieces during the next few years, and did not really care much about the trouble La Salle and Tonti had gotten themselves into down in the Illinois country. In any case, the Green Bay traders were still trading with the Dakota and had enough trouble with the Wisconsin Algonquin. The Ottawa and others were angry with the French, fighting the French, and had interest in another war with the Iroquois. As a precaution, the Ottawa on Manitoulin Island returned to Mackinac, but the fighting spread, and the Ottawa could not remain neutral after the Seneca attacked Mackinac in 1683. To the south in the Illinois country, Tonti was struggling to keep the fur trade afloat in the midst of a major war. In 1682 he built Fort St. Louis (Utica, Illinois) on the upper Illinois River. When completed, he invited the Illinois and Miami to settle nearby to trade and help defend it.
The Iroquois noticed this concentration of their enemies and attacked Fort St. Louis in 1684. Their failure to take the fort is considered the turning point of the Beaver Wars. Elated by this victory, the French tried to form an alliance against the Iroquois, but its first offensive was so ineffectual, Joseph La Barre, the governor of Canada, panicked and signed a treaty with the Iroquois conceding most of Illinois country. He was replaced by Jacques-Renede Denonville, a man with more backbone, who ordered the rival French traders to cooperate with each other. Denonville strengthened old forts, built new ones, and armed the Algonquin. The alliance he created (Ottawa, Wyandot, Ojibwe, Illinois, Miami, Fox, Sauk, Kickapoo, and Mascouten) took the offensive in 1687, a date coinciding roughly with the start of the King William's War (1688-97) between Britain and France. The Ottawa were more than just a part of the Great Lakes alliance. Along with the Wyandot, they were its senior members, the "eldest children of Onontio," the French governor of Canada.
While the French attacked the Iroquois homeland in New York from Quebec, alliance warriors pushed the Iroquois across the Great Lakes. After huge battles fought between canoe fleets on Lakes St. Clair and Erie, the Iroquois were on the defensive by the 1690s and nearing defeat. Trying to break the unity of the alliance, they offered the Ottawa a separate peace and access to British traders. The offer was refused, but it must have been tempting. The Algonquin victories brought most of the eastern Great Lakes under the control of the French and their allies. This had once been excellent beaver country until it had been overhunted. But while the tribes had been fighting each other, no one had been hunting the beaver, and the area had recovered. Despite the fighting, the fur trade actually increased dramatically, and success created disaster ...too much beaver fur on the European market and a dramatic drop in its price.
As profits plunged, Louis XIV decided it finally was time to listen to the Jesuit complaints about the evil effects the fur trade was causing among Native Americans. On the verge of destroying the Iroquois, he issued a proclamation in 1696 suspending the fur trade in the Great Lakes. Since the fur trade was what held the alliance together, it was a catastrophe, and the French lost control of their allies, especially the Ottawa since they were the most dependent on trade. In Wisconsin, the Algonquin renewed their warfare with the Dakota, and a conspiracy formed among the tribes at Green Bay and Mackinac (the Ottawa were the main instigators) to expel the French if they would not stop their trade with the Dakota. French traders were robbed and murdered, and even the highly-respected Nicholas Perot was tied to a stake by the Mascouten who were ready to burn him alive. Saved by the Kickapoo, Perot left Wisconsin afterwards and never returned.
Britain and France ended their war in 1697, but fighting between the Iroquois and the Great Lakes Algonquin continued. Since the Treaty of Ryswick had placed the Iroquois League under British protection, the French were anxious to make peace to avoid another confrontation with the British, but the alliance had many scores to settle. Without trade, the French had no influence, and the Iroquois peace offer to the Ottawa aroused suspicion among their allies that the French would abandon them and make their own peace. Using every means at their disposal, it took the French until 1701 to convince their allies to agree to a peace. The ink was hardly dry before the Queen Anne's War (1701-13) began in Europe and spread to North America. Most of the fighting was in New England and Canadian maritimes, and except for the Mohawk, the Iroquois honored their promise to remain neutral.
Which was a blessing for the French, because their alliance with the Great Lakes Algonquin had come undone after the suspension of trade. The urgent pleas for relief from Quebec went unanswered until permission was finally given to open one new post. In June, 1701 Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the commandant at Mackinac, arrived at Detroit and built Fort Ponchartrain. Cadillac blamed the Jesuits for the suspension, so he took special delight in inviting the Ottawa and Wyandot at Mackinac to relocate to Detroit. Most of them accepted, while some Ottawa bands returned to Manitoulin Island. With their converts gone, the Jesuits were forced to close the St. Ignace mission. Saulteur Ojibwe also went south and established villages on Saginaw Bay. The Mississauga relocated east of Detroit in southern Ontario. The Mississauga on the north side of Lakes Erie and Ontario were especially annoying to the Iroquois, and despite the peace in 1701, the fighting between them had continued. The League appealed to the French to make the Mississauga stop, but they were busy with the war in the east with the British. The French would have done better to pay more attention, because the Iroquois solved the problem by offering to trade with the Mississauga, and the Mississauga moved closer to Niagara Falls, not to fight, but to trade. The Iroquois were neutral, but they sensed the French weakness and offered trade to their other allies. In so doing, they came closer to destroying the French with economic warfare than they had with military force.
British trade goods were less expensive and of higher quality, and the Ottawa and Ojibwe began taking their furs to New York. Cadillac saw what was happening, but all he could do was to invite more tribes to move to Detroit. The area quickly became crowded, and even the Ottawa, Wyandot, and Ojibwa - normally on the best of terms - began having occasional skirmishes over territory. The Sable Ottawa had remained at Mackinac and were fighting the Dakota. The French wanted to stop this, but the Ottawa ignored them. This apparently angered the Miami and Wyandot in the vicinity who had honored the French request. When they saw the Ottawa preparing a war party to send against the Dakota in 1706, they decided to attack the village when the warriors left. A Potawatomi warned the Ottawa, and they struck first. Five Miami chiefs were ambushed, after which the Ottawa attacked the Miami village driving its occupants into the French fort. Before it was over, 50 Miami, 30 Ottawa, a French priest, and two French soldiers were dead, and the war had spread to the Ottawa and Miami at Detroit.
Cadillac ordered La Pesant (French for Fat One) to come to Detroit and face trial. La Pesant complied but arrived in regal fashion with a large escort. The Miami wanted a harsh punishment imposed, but Cadillac had a problem very much like DuLhut in 1682. Somehow, La Pesant, a fat old man, managed to escape from French custody and paddle back to Mackinac. The Miami were furious, but the French could not afford to offend the Ottawa. Despite the presence of Fort Ponchartrain, the British and Iroquois continued making inroads into French trade and allies, and Cadillac invited more and more tribes to Detroit adding to the tense situation. Eventually, 6,000 Ojibwe, Wyandot, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Miami, Illinois, Osage, and Missouria were living near Detroit. The final straw was added in 1710 when Cadillac invited the Fox. 1,000 Fox came east from Wisconsin accompanied by many of their Mascouten and Kickapoo allies.
Before the Beaver Wars, Detroit had been part of the Fox homeland, and when they returned, they were not shy about informing the Ottawa and other tribes of this. The Ottawa and others were in no mood to listen and demanded the French send the Fox back to Wisconsin, but Cadillac ignored this. Fighting occurred between the Fox and other French allies, and when Cadillac was called back to Quebec for a meeting, the Ottawa and Potawatomi decided to take care of the Fox by themselves. In the spring of 1712, they attacked a Mascouten hunting party in southern Michigan, and the Mascouten fled to the Fox. When the French ordered them not to retaliate, the Fox attacked Fort Ponchartrain. Ottawa, Wyandot, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi warriors arrived and attacked the Fox from behind. Very few Fox escaped the slaughter, but the ones that did went back to their relatives in Wisconsin and made the French and their allies pay dearly for the massacre.
To the delight of the Iroquois and British, the Fox Wars (1712-16 and 1728-37) were civil wars between members of the French alliance. The First Fox War ended in a draw with both parties angry and distrustful. The Fox continued to annoy the French and their allies, and when the French proposed extermination as a solution to the "Fox Problem," the Ottawa and other members of alliance agreed. However, as the war went on, the Fox were close to extinction. It also appeared the Sauk, who had protected the Fox, would suffer the same fate, and French allies began to have doubts and wonder who would be next. At a meeting in Montreal in the spring of 1737, the Ottawa said "they no longer wanted to eat the Fox." This was enough to end the war. When the Ottawa and Potawatomi asked the French to forgive the Sauk and the Menominee and Winnebago made a similar request for the Fox, the French were forced to agree. The restrictions on the fur trade were lifted until after the death of Louis XIV in 1715. Coureurs de Bois (unlicensed traders) were legalized, and trading posts established at Mackinac, La Baye, La Pointe, Ouiatenon, St. Joseph, Miamis, Pimitoui, De Chartres, Niagara, Sandusky, and Vincennes, but it was too late and not enough.
The Ottawa and Ojibwe at Saginaw had started trading with the British during 1717, and to shorten the distance Great Lakes tribes had to travel, the Iroquois in 1727 had allowed British traders to build a trading post in their homeland at Oswego. Some of the Ottawa were drawn east and settled along Beaver Creek in western Pennsylvania. In 1728, 80% of the beaver at Albany came from French allies. The French were also having serious problems along the lower Mississippi River. In 1729 the Natchez had risen in revolt and killed 200 Frenchmen. In a war as brutal as the Fox War, they were defeated, and most fled to the Chickasaw. French demands for the Chickasaw to surrender the Natchez were refused and led to a war during which the Chickasaw closed the lower Mississippi to French trade. There seemed to be no combination of allies the French could assemble which could break the Chickasaw strangle-hold on French commerce. Meanwhile, a war had started in 1737 along the upper Mississippi between the Ojibwe and Dakota which would continue for more than a century. While this ended most French trade with the Dakota, the Ojibwe seized northern Minnesota and made up the difference.
For the Ottawa, the years of separation took the bands at Mackinac, Detroit, and Manitoulin Island down different paths. The Ottawa became the dominant tribe at Detroit. Among the most loyal of the French allies, their warriors raided the pro-British Cherokee and Chickasaw to the south. However, the Wyandot had many relatives who had been adopted by the Iroquois (1649-56) and this was hard for some of them to ignore. Orontony's faction of the Detroit Wyandot refused to participate in a raid against the Cherokee. This was bad enough, but Orontony in 1738 helped the Cherokee ambush a Detroit war party which earned him the hatred of the other tribes at Detroit. He left Detroit for northern Ohio, settled on the upper Sandusky, and began trading with the British. Meanwhile, the Mackinac Ottawa were becoming closer to the Ojibwe than their relatives at Detroit. The soil at Mackinac was exhausted by 1741, and they crossed over to lower Michigan and settled at L' Arbre Croche on Grand Traverse Bay. Their villages eventually stretched from Little Traverse Bay to the Grand River with some bands moving across Lake Michigan to southeastern Wisconsin.
The King George's War (1744-48) followed the pattern as the Queen Anne's War with most of the fighting being in New England and eastern Canada. An important difference was the British capture of Louisbourgh in 1745 followed by a blockade of the St. Lawrence River which cut the supply of French trade goods to the Great Lakes. French authority collapsed, and the British were close to taking the Ohio Valley without firing a shot. Warriors from the Detroit Tribes went east with the Ojibwe and other French allies to help the French defend Quebec from a British invasion which never came. Their departure left the French with few allies to keep British traders out of Ohio. Orontony concluded a peace with the Cherokee and Chickasaw in 1745 and gave permission for Pennsylvania traders to build a blockhouse near his village. The Detroit tribes had enough warriors to challenge this, but during 1746 they were fighting with the Fox, Sauk, and Mackinac Ojibwe. Their leader in this war was a young Ottawa war chief named Pontiac (Pondiac).
Orontony burned the French trading post at Sandusky in 1748 and started to attack Detroit, but the other Wyandot did not help. Worried about retaliation, Orontony abandoned his village and moved to the White River in Indiana. His people did not return to Ohio until after his death. In 1750 the French built a fort at Sandusky to limit Orontony's Wyandot trading with the British. But the struggle for Ohio was just beginning, and the next conspiracy which the French faced was more dangerous. Ohio was claimed by three powers on a collision course: Iroquois by right of conquest; French by right of discovery; and British since the Iroquois had been placed under their protection by the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) - something the Iroquois had never requested. None of these claimants actually lived in Ohio or controlled of the tribes that did.
The Ohio tribes ( Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo) nominally were members of the Iroquois Covenant Chain, but they had left Pennsylvania to distance themselves from the Iroquois and had no wish to be dominated by anyone. They also wanted to trade with whomever they pleased, and this opened the door for the British to go to Ohio and trade directly with the resident tribes. The lure of British trade goods was irresistible to the Miami chief Memeskia - called La Demoiselle by the French and Old Britain by the British. Memeskia signed a treaty with the British at Lancaster in 1748 allowing them to build trading posts in Ohio. Afterwards, he sacked his French trading post on the Wabash River and moved his people from Indiana to a new village in western Ohio, Pickawillany (Piqua, Ohio). After the British built a trading post there, he invited the other Miami, as well as Kickapoo, Illinois and Potawatomi, to come to his village to trade.
The French took this in stride until they asked the Detroit tribes to attack Pickawillany and force the other Ohio tribes to expel the British traders. But the Ottawa and other tribes at Detroit were also thinking of trading with the British and excused themselves because of a recent smallpox epidemic. The French realized how serious the situation had become, and in desperation, Charles Langlade, a French Métis (mixed blood), organized a war party of 250 loyal Ottawa and Ojibwe at Mackinac. In June, 1752 his warriors attacked Pickawillany. Thirty Miami, including Memeskia, were killed, and the British trading post was looted and burned. Langlade's warriors then boiled Memeskia's body and ate it. This left few doubts among the French allies of what awaited them if they broke with the alliance to trade with the British.
By that fall the rebels had made their apologies to the French and renewed attacks on the Chickasaw. The French began construction of a line of new forts across western Pennsylvania to keep British traders out of Ohio. The Shawnee, Mingo, and Delaware were not part of the French alliance and did not want to be. They protested to the Iroquois who turned to the British. In 1753 Virginia sent a young militia major named George Washington to demand the French abandon their new forts. This was refused. The following year, Washington brought some Virginia militia along, and the fight he got into with French soldiers started the French and Indian War (1755-63). Washington was quickly surrounded and surrendered, but the British were determined to remove the French forts. They assembled an army under General Edwin Braddock, an experienced soldier, but unfortunately a man of incredible arrogance who though fighting with savages was beneath him.
In the spring of 1755, Braddock's army moved slowly west towards Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) cutting its own road through the wilderness. the French could only assemble a force of 600 warriors and 300 French Canadians to face Braddock's 2,200 men, but it was enough. In July, just south of Fort Duquesne, Braddock blundered into an ambush which killed almost half his command, including himself. Pontiac led the Ottawa in this battle. Afterwards, Ottawa warriors went east and participated in the French campaigns in northern New York. During the siege of Fort William Henry in 1757, they contracted smallpox and brought this back to their villages that winter. The resulting epidemic during the winter of 1757-58 took most of the Great Lakes tribes out of the war. Quebec fell to the British in September, 1759, and the French had lost the war and North America. Montreal surrendered the following year, and that summer and fall, British soldiers occupied French forts in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley. Only the Fort de Chartres and the Illinois country remained under French control.
French allies did not resist the takeover, since the French had run out of powder at Detroit, and they hoped the British would supply them. In September Pontiac met with Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers before they reached Detroit and, after making certain they knew they were on his land, gave them permission to proceed. William Johnson, the British Indian Commissioner, hoped to continue the French system of dealing with the alliance tribes, but he was overruled by Jeffrey Amherst, the British commander in North America. Amherst considered the practice of annual gifts to chiefs as bribery and ordered it discontinued. He also raised the prices of trade goods and restricted supply (especially gunpowder and rum) and then left Johnson to deal with any problems. These were not long in coming. At a Detroit meeting in 1761 with the tribes of the old French alliance, Johnson learned the Seneca were circulating a war belt calling for an uprising.
Hardly surprising, since Amherst had just given some Seneca lands at Fort Niagara to his officers for their service in the war (later overruled by London). The effect of the trade restrictions was devastating. The tribes were dependent on trade goods, and basic skills, such as fashioning arrowheads, had been lost. Crowding near the trading posts had exhausted the hunting, and several tribes were in danger of starvation. Some commanders provided as much powder and lead from their fort's supplies, but this was far from adequate. Tensions built, and during 1762 the Detroit tribes (Ottawa, Wyandot, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi) were close to fighting the Shawnee. William Johnson had squashed the Seneca plot in 1761, but afterwards two additional war belts from the Illinois and Caughnawaga (Christian Mohawk at Montreal) began making the rounds. The small response to these lulled the British into a sense of false security.
Technically, France and Great Britain were still at war, and although many of the French allies had agreed to peace with the British, most thought of these as a temporary. During the summer of 1762, there was drought in the Ohio Valley, followed by epidemic and starvation that winter. All that was needed for a revolt was unity, and this was provided by a new religious movement centered around the teachings of the Delaware Prophet, Neolin (Enlightened One). From his village near the Ohio River, Neolin began preached the rejection of trade goods and a return to traditional native values. The British dismissed him as the "Impostor," but he gained a large following among the Delaware which spread to other tribes. The Delaware were respected as "grandfathers" (original tribe of all Algonquin), but they had not been members of the old French alliance and did not have the political credentials to lead a revolt.
But the Ottawa did, and Neolin's most important convert was Pontiac, the Ottawa chief at Detroit whose mother was an Ojibwe. He was also a leader of the Metai (Grand Medicine Society), a religious society in most Great Lakes tribes. Hoping to restore French rule, Pontiac made Neolin's religion anti-British. That winter, his messengers went in secret to the other tribes in the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes carrying war belts and asking for their support. Since an Ottawa chief was speaking, all listened. Pontiac gained promises of support from the Ottawa, Ojibwe, Kickapoo, Illinois, Miami, Potawatomi, Delaware, Seneca, Shawnee, and Wyandot, but how quietly he did it is questionable. Rumors reached the British, and Amherst sent reinforcements to Detroit, but he never realized how widespread the revolt would be. On April 27th, 1763 a war council was held on the Aux Ecorces River. Pontiac addressed the representatives urging them to rid themselves of "these English, these dogs dressed in red."
The uprising began in May and quickly captured eight of the twelve British forts west of the Appalachians: Sandusky (Sandusky, OH); St. Joseph (Niles, MI); Michilimackinac (Mackinac, MI); Miamis (Fort Wayne, IN); Ouiatenon (Lafayette, IN); Venango (Franklin, PA); Le Boeuf (Waterford, PA); and Presque Isle (Erie, PA). Fort Edward Augustus at Green Bay was abandoned by its garrison bringing the total to nine. Only three forts survived - Detroit, Niagara and Pitt, but they were surrounded and cut off. Only the L' Arbre Croche Ottawa, Menominee, Sauk, Fox, Winnebago, and Iowa refused to participate and sent wampum belts to the British pledging their loyalty. Fort Michilimackinac would have been a massacre, if Charles Langlade and Father du Jonais had not intervened and saved some of the garrison. The Ottawa arrived too late to loot the trading post and were given the British prisoners as compensation. They later escorted them and the garrison from Green Bay safely to Montreal. The Miami were also careful with their British prisoners, but others were not as fortunate. After surrounding Fort Pitt, the Delaware, Shawnee, and Mingo attacked the Pennsylvania frontier killing over 600 settlers. William Johnson got the Mohawk to retaliate and the eastern Delaware were taken out of the war.
Pontiac had taken for himself the responsibility of capturing Detroit. He had the support of the Detroit Potawatomi and Wyandot, Saginaw Ojibwa, and some of the Mississauga from Ontario, but he was facing a 120-man garrison augmented by 40 British traders and two armed schooners. Since a direct assault would cost too many lives, Pontiac tried deception. Accompanied by a large group of warriors carrying concealed short-barrel guns under their blankets, he entered the fort on May 7th by asking for a meeting with the commander, Major Henry Gladwyn. However, Gladwyn had been warned by an informer (believed to have been Catherine, a young Ojibwe woman rumored to have been his mistress). The entire garrison was armed and ready, and sensing this, Pontiac did not to give the signal for the attack. Two more tries were made to take the fort by surprise, but the gates remained closed, and on May 9th all hell broke loose. There was no assault, but the fort came under fire, while warriors combed the countryside killing all of the British civilians unfortunate enough to still be outside. The French were not harmed.
During the siege which followed, Pontiac moved his village to the west side of the Detroit River to reinforce the Potawatomi and completely surround the fort. With only a three-weeks supply of food, Gladwyn sent a schooner to Fort Niagara for help. Meanwhile, Captain Donald Campbell and a Lieutenant McDougal volunteered to go to Pontiac's village to negotiate a truce. Pontiac gave them protection when they arrived but would not allow them to return to the fort. By now, Pontiac realized there had been an informer, and his suspicion fell upon Catherine. He sent some warriors to get her. They took her to the fort first, and Gladwyn allowed them to enter, but with Campbell and McDougal being held hostage, he could do nothing to save her. The warriors left with Catherine and took her to Pontiac. She was beaten but surprisingly not killed. Hated by her people, Catherine became an alcoholic afterwards and died alone. An Ojibwe tomahawked Campbell to avenge a relative, and embarrassed by his failure to protect his hostages, Pontiac most likely arranged for McDougal to escape. Pontiac had hoped the French at Detroit would join the revolt, but they remained neutral. The British were not the only ones short of food during the siege, and Pontiac's warriors began taking what they needed from the French. Pontiac issued promissory notes on birchbark for their losses, and for years afterwards, the Detroit tribes honored these notes carrying Pontiac's otter sign.
News spread slowly, and on May 13th a routine supply fleet of 20 bateaux and 96 men under Lieutenant Abraham Cuyler left Fort Niagara for Detroit unaware of what was happening. By May 28th they came ashore to make camp at Point Pelee just east of Detroit and were attacked by the Wyandot and overwhelmed. 56 were killed, and only four were taken prisoner. Cuyler got 40 of his men into two boats and escaped. He sailed across the lake to Fort Sandusky but found it destroyed and headed back to Niagara to spread the alarm. Two days later, lookouts at Detroit spotted the supply fleet coming up the river flying a British flag. As the fleet drew close, the gates were opened, but one of the British soldiers rowing the lead bateaux suddenly attacked the warrior next to him and both fell overboard fighting. The ruse was discovered, and during the melee which followed, the schooner Beaver opened fire and forced the "relief ships" to retreat.
By the time the other schooner reached Fort Niagara, its commander, Major Wilkens, did not need to be told there was an uprising. He was surrounded, and 90 men sent to clear the Niagara Portage was wiped out. However, he loaded the ship with 60 soldiers and all the supplies it could carry and sent it back to Detroit. It arrived at the entrance of the Detroit River on June 23rd but was becalmed next to Fighting Island, just south of the fort. That night it was attacked by 800 warriors, but the British were waiting and fought them off. Forced to drop downstream to wait for favorable winds, it did not reach the starving garrison at Detroit until June 30th. Besides much needed food and additional men, the schooner brought the first news of the Treaty of Paris and the end of the war between Britain and France. This was relayed to Pontiac, but he thought it was a lie. Several fire rafts were launched from upstream to destroy the two schooners which were Detroit's only link to the outside. Some of these barely missed.
On July 30th, 20 barges commanded by Captain James Dalyell reached Detroit loaded with supplies and 280 men, including Rogers Rangers. Enroute from Niagara, Dalyell had destroyed the Wyandot villages at Sandusky and lost 15 men. However, he was still spoiling for a fight and insisted on an immediate attack. Gladwyn gave his consent, and that night, Dalyell slipped out of the fort with 247 men and headed towards Pontiac's village. Crossing Parent's Creek just as dawn broke, he ran into an ambush. The British lost 70 killed and 40 wounded at the Battle of Bloody Brook. Among the dead was Dalyell, who lost his head (literally). It might well have been the entire command if Rogers Rangers had not fought a rear-guard action to cover the retreat. The fighting at Detroit slowed after this. Pontiac sent messengers to Fort de Chartes asking for French help, but an answer arrived on October 20th confirming the peace treaty and advising him to quit. On October 31st, Pontiac agreed to a truce with Gladwyn and withdrew to his winter hunting village on the upper Maumee River in Indiana.
When the Pontiac Rebellion began, most British soldiers on this side of the Atlantic were fighting in the West Indies, and it took time before they could be sent west against the uprising. Niagara was harassed not under any real danger, but the situation at Fort Pitt was as desperate as Detroit and became worse after smallpox broke out among the defenders. While assembling a relief force, Amherst wrote the commander, Captain Simeon Ecuyer, suggesting that smallpox blankets be given to the Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo surrounding the fort. Ecuyer took this as an order, and the resulting epidemic spread from the Shawnee to tribes in the southeast which were not part of the uprising. Colonel Henry Bouquet's 460-man relief force fought off an ambush during a two-day battle at Bushy Run in August, 1763 and reached Fort Pitt. The Delaware, Shawnee, and Mingo retreated into Ohio but continued their raids into Pennsylvania.
In November, Amherst was replaced by Thomas Gage, and William Johnson was back in control. The British also announced the Proclamation of 1763 halting further settlement west of the Appalachian crest. Gage lower prices and increased the supply of trade goods, and this ended most of the complaints which had led to the uprising. As British reinforcements arrived, the Pontiac Rebellion began to collapse. In the summer of 1764, Colonel John Bradstreet was sent with 1,200 men to relieve Detroit. Reaching Niagara in July, he halted to lend his "support" to William Johnson's peace conference, a large meeting with 2,000 representatives from 22 different tribes. The Seneca were conspicuous by their absence until Bradstreet sent a message telling them to "show up or else." They came and signed. The conference concluded, Bradstreet departed on August 6th escorted by Mississauga and Caughnawaga warriors.
On August 23rd at Presque Isle (Erie, PA), he met with the Wyandot, Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo and concluded a peace with them. Pontiac had not returned to Detroit that spring and was still on the upper Maumee. Without him, the Wyandot, Potawatomi, and Ojibwe were ready to quit. Bradstreet continued west intending to attack the villages at the mouth of Maumee but learned they were also ready for peace. They were told to meet him at Detroit. At the conference held at Detroit on September 7th, the Detroit Ottawa, Potawatomi, Wyandot and Ojibwa made peace with the British. The Miami, Saginaw Ojibwe, and western Mississauga also signed. Gage rejecting Bradstreet's treaty with the Ohio tribes because Johnson had not been consulted and instructed him to invade northern Ohio. He left Detroit and landed at Sandusky. After destroying some abandoned villages, he started south. At the same time Bouquet moved west from Fort Pitt, trapping the Delaware and Shawnee between. In November, the Delaware and Shawnee signed a peace treaty with the British at Coshocton, and the rebellion was over.
That is except for Pontiac. Throughout 1764 he remained on the upper Maumee and tried to organize a second uprising in the west to keep the British out of the Illinois country. War belts were sent to former French allies on the lower Mississippi asking them to stop the British from moving up the river to Illinois. The Tunica and Choctaw forced the British to fight their way past Baton Rouge. At the same time, the Kickapoo turned back the expedition Bradstreet had dispatched to Fort de Chartres. Although the Illinois were outspoken in their support of the French, Pontiac had to threaten them to win a promise of support. He them went with 400 warriors to Fort de Chartes to ask its commander, Louis St. Ange for support and gunpowder. St. Ange urged peace and had no powder to give him.
Pontiac returned to the upper Maumee and pondered his next move. In May, 1765 the Kickapoo attacked the British expedition of George Croghan enroute to take over the Illinois country. Croghan was captured, but three Shawnee chiefs in his escort were killed. The Kickapoo did not want a war with the Shawnee, so they took Croghan to Fort Ouiatenon and gave him to the Miami. The Kickapoo then asked the Miami to speak on their behalf to the British about "covering the Shawnee dead." The Miami did as asked, and the British took care of things. Meanwhile, the Miami also arranged a meeting that summer between Croghan and Pontiac at Ouiatenon. Pontiac agreed to "bury the hatchet" and went with Croghan to Detroit in October to sign a peace. That same month, the French flag was lowered for the final time at Fort de Chartres and replaced by the British Union Jack.
In July, 1766 Pontiac met with William Johnson in New York to sign another treaty promising to never fight the British again and confirming the Detroit agreement of the previous year. The failure of the rebellion and his subsequent capitulation to the British did enormous damage to Pontiac's reputation. At a meeting in Ontario in 1766, Ottawa warriors openly defied him, but no one took his surrender harder than the Illinois. During this meeting, Pontiac got into an argument and stabbed the Peoria chief Matachinga (Black Dog). The wound was not fatal but Matachinga did not forgive him. Pontiac left Detroit in 1767 and moved to the Kankakee River in northern Illinois. After the Iroquois ceded the Ohio Valley at Fort Stanwix in 1768, there were rumors he was trying to organize another uprising. His differences with the Illinois grew even worse following another bitter argument at one of their councils which he attended that year.
In April, 1769 Pontiac went to St. Louis to see his old friend St. Ange who was now working for the Spanish. To mark the occasion, he wore the French uniform which had been given him by General Louis Montcalm in 1757. After a few days, he decided to visit the mixed French and Illinois village of Cahokia across the Mississippi. St. Ange warned him this could be dangerous, but Pontiac was both fearless and known to enjoy a drink. On April 20th he went to Cahokia with his bodyguards. After a considerable drinking, they ended up in the establishment of a British trader named Williamson where Pontiac got into an argument with a young Peoria warrior named Pina, a nephew of Matachinga. Pontiac left and walked out to the street, but Pina followed and tomahawked him from behind. He then stabbed him for good measure and left him dead in the muddy street. When they sobered up, the bodyguards looked for Pina but were driven out of town by the Illinois.
St. Ange buried Pontiac with honors at his fort on a hill overlooking St. Louis. The exact location is unknown. There were rumors Williamson had given Pina a barrel of whiskey to murder Pontiac. Although the British were suspected, the wrath fell upon the Illinois. Had he lived, Pontiac would have been surprised how much respect he still commanded within the old alliance. Afterwards, Minavavana, the Ojibwe chief at Mackinac, came to Cahokia looking for Williamson. Not finding him, he killed two of his employees. A general war followed against the Illinois during which the Ottawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Fox, Sauk, Mascouten, and Winnebago united to avenge Pontiac. The Illinois were almost exterminated. The Peoria made their last stand at the site of the old French Fort St. Louis, but they were surrounded by Potawatomi. They died from starvation, which has since given this sad place the name of Starved Rock. Only 300 Illinois managed to reach safety with the French at Kaskaskia. The victors afterwards divided the lands of the Illinois among themselves.
The death of Pontiac was the end of Ottawa power and influence. They had once been the leaders of the French alliance, but after the Pontiac Rebellion, only the Wyandot retained their old authority. The British never really forgave the Ottawa and soon bypassed them as middlemen in the fur trade to trade directly with the Ojibwe. There is also a good possibility that the British attempted to destroy them by the same means Simeon Ecuyer had used against the Delaware and Shawnee at Fort Pitt. The L' Arbor Croche Ottawa had not joined Pontiac in 1763 and even rescued British prisoners at Fort Michilimackinac, but they were of the same tribe as Pontiac. They remember a mysterious tin box given them by British traders shortly after the war, which they were told not to open until they got back to their villages. They did as instructed, but there was nothing inside other than a strange brown powder. Immediately afterwards, an especially deadly smallpox epidemic broke out which decimated their villages in northern Michigan.
The Proclamation of 1763 was unpopular in the British colonies. Within five years, American pressure forced the British to seek cessions from the Iroquois at Fort Stanwix which opened the Ohio Valley to settlement, and at best, Pontiac had bought only a few years for the Ohio tribes. After 1763, American frontiersmen (Long Knives) simply ignored the proclamation and squatted on native lands. The British could not stop them, and the few efforts they made became a cause for the American Revolution (1775-83). To protect their own homeland from settlement, the Iroquois surrendered lands occupied by other tribes which they did not control, and the British gave this land to a people who were about to separate from them. The resulting war lasted almost 50 years and cost thousands of lives. Shawnee protests to the Iroquois over the treaty went unanswered except for threats of annihilation if they opposed it. In 1769 the Shawnee made overtures of alliance to the Illinois (those who remained), Ottawa, Wea, Piankashaw, Miami, Mascouten, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Wyandot, Delaware, Ojibwe, Cherokee, and Chickasaw. They met on Ohio's Scioto River in 1770 and 1771, but William Johnson prevented an alliance with threats of a war with the Iroquois. Frontiersmen poured into western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. When the Shawnee opposed settlement of their hunting grounds in Kentucky, there was war.
The British decided to wash their hands of the entire affair and withdrew or reduced their garrisons in the west to sit back to watch the two sides fight it out. Lord Dunmore's War (1774), between Virginia militia and the Shawnee and Mingo, has been called the opening battle of the American Revolution. When the war actually began the following year, the British ceased being neutral, armed the Ohio tribes, and encouraged them to attack American settlements along the Ohio River. The Ottawa in northern Michigan were remote to this conflict and were not involved except for occasional support for their Detroit relatives. Most of the early fighting was done by the Shawnee and Chickamauga Cherokee, but as reds and whites exchanged raids and counter-raids across the Ohio, more tribes were drawn in, and the British at Detroit happily supplied them. A major escalation occurred during the summer of 1778 when, taking advantage of the small British garrisons in Illinois, George Rogers Clark and 200 Kentucky militia captured Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes without a fight. Clark won over the local French population, and the Americans were in control of Illinois country.
Colonel Henry Hamilton, the British commander at Detroit (known as the "hair buyer" in Kentucky because he paid for American scalps) gathered a small army of Canadians and Detroit warriors (including Ottawa) and recaptured Fort Sackville at Vincennes that fall. Clark, however, made a mid-winter march across southern Illinois and attacked Hamilton at Vincennes forcing him to surrender in February, 1779. British and French prisoners were spared, but Clark hated Indians, and the warriors were executed with tomahawks. The British launched a major offensive in the spring of 1780. While one force attacked the Spanish at St. Louis, Captain Henry Bird left Detroit with 600 warriors. Adding others as he moved south through Ohio, he had 1,200 when he crossed the Ohio River. During the next three months, there was death and destruction all over Kentucky. American retaliation during the next three years drew almost every tribe in the Ohio Valley into the war on the side of the British.
The Revolutionary War ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, but the fight for Ohio continued until 1795. There was a lull in 1783, when the British asked their allies to stop attacking the settlements, but they were encouraging an alliance to keep the Americans out of Ohio. They also refused to leave their forts in the region until the United States paid the compensation required by the treaty to British Loyalists (Tories). Saddled with huge debts from the war, there was no way the Americans could do this unless they could sell the land in Ohio. The British, of course, were aware of this and waited for the inevitable economic collapse. During a meeting at Sandusky in 1783, the British got the alliance they were seeking. It membership would eventually include: Ottawa. Canadian Iroquois, Wyandot, Miami, Delaware, Shawnee, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Fox, Sauk, and Chickamauga Cherokee. The western (Northwestern) alliance was a formidable barrier to the settlement of Ohio, but the Americans dismissed it as a British plot (which it was) and tried to deal with the individual tribes. Their first target were the Iroquois in New York who had been badly mauled by American armies during the war. After concluding a second treaty at Fort Stanwix in 1784 verifying their cession of Ohio in 1768, the Americans tried to confirm this with the Ohio tribes at Fort McIntosh in January of 1785. The first treaty between the Ottawa and the United States, it was also signed by the Delaware, Wyandot, and Ojibwe. A similar agreement was made with the Shawnee at Fort Finney (Greater Miami Treaty) the following year, but neither of the treaties represented the alliance which, backed by the British, opposed settlement north of the Ohio.
Unfortunately, the American representatives who signed did not represent the frontiersmen, who simply ignored the treaty and moved onto native lands. There were 12,000 settlers living north of the Ohio River in 1785 with more coming, and short of civil war, the government could not stop them. When alliance warriors tried to expel the squatters, the war resumed. The first council fire of the alliance was at the Shawnee village of Waketomica, but this was burned in 1786 by Kentucky militia and was moved to Brownstown, a Wyandot village near Detroit. In December, 1788 the Americans made a final try for a treaty with the alliance and asked for a conference at Fort Harmar. The alliance was divided on its response, but the Wyandot convinced the Detroit Ottawa, Delaware, Potawatomi, and Ojibwe to attend. The other members remained hostile, and fighting continued throughout the summer with the Shawnee and Miami raids into Kentucky and the Kickapoo ambushing an army convoy on the lower Wabash. Even the soldiers building the council house for the Fort Harmar meeting came under attack from the Saginaw Ojibwe and Ottawa.
The Fort Harmar Treaty (January, 1789) established the Muskingum River as the boundary of settlement, but this was not honored by the either frontiersmen or the hostile faction of the alliance. Fighting resumed with the militant Miami and Shawnee dominating the alliance, and the Americans decided to resolve matters with military force. Their first offensives of Little Turtle's War (1790-94) ended with the worst defeats ever suffered by American armies at the hands of Native Americans. Led by the Miami war chief Little Turtle, alliance warriors defeated Josiah Harmar in 1790 and Arthur St. Clair in 1791. But the Americans could not afford to quit, and President Washington sent Anthony Wayne west to take command in Ohio. Americans called him "Mad Anthony," but the Ottawa would call him Chenoden (The Strong Wind).
For two years, Wayne made careful preparations to destroy the alliance villages in northwest Ohio. Meanwhile, American peace commissioners made further attempts to resolve the dispute by treaty. The Shawnee murdered the first two American representatives in 1792, but the Delaware protected the delegation which arrived in 1793. The negotiations reached an impasse, but the alliance was having serious problems feeding its 2,000 warriors for extended periods. The Sauk and Fox left as a result, the Wabash tribes made a separate peace after the Americans captured many of their women and children, and the alliance had only 700 warriors when it faced Wayne at Fallen Timbers in 1794. After their defeat, the alliance warriors saw the British close the gates of Fort Miami to them rather than risk a confrontation with Wayne. The British had decided to settle their differences with the United States and in November signed the Jay Treaty agreeing to withdraw from their forts on American territory.
Abandoned by the British, the Detroit Ottawa and other members of the alliance signed the Treaty of Fort Greenville in August, 1795 ceding all of Ohio except the northwest. Since their villages were either on the Maumee in northwest Ohio or the Huron River in southeast Michigan at his time, the Detroit Ottawa did not lose any land in exchange for the $1,000 they received, but the defeat of the alliance led to social disintegration and breakdown of tribal authority after the Greenville Treaty. The Shawnee chief Bluejacket tried to resurrect the alliance council in 1801 but was opposed by Little Turtle and the other "peace chiefs" who were trying to reach an accommodation with the Americans. They had an impossible task. The Americans kept whittling away at native lands, and peace chiefs were often in danger of being killed by their own people. At Fort Industry in 1805 the Ottawa and others surrendered their claim to the Western Reserve in northern Ohio to the Connecticut Land Company for $16,000.
At Detroit in November, 1807 the Ottawa, Ojibwe, Wyandot, and Potawatomi ceded seven million acres of southeast Michigan. In exchange, the Detroit Ottawa received $3,333, an annuity of $800 for ten years, and a 28,800 acre reservation in Ohio on the Maumee River above Roche de Boeuf. A treaty signed at Brownstown the following year took a little more, and as they were being pressed into an ever smaller space, the Ohio and Detroit Ottawa asked the Ottawa a L'Arbre Croche for permission to move in with them - they were refused. After the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, there was talk of war along the upper Mississippi during the next two years. About this time, a prophet arose among the Shawnee with a message much like Neolin's in 1763 - reject trade goods and return to traditional ways. His name was Tenskwatawa (The Open Door), but Americans found this difficult to pronounce and simply called him "The Prophet." There were several other prophets at this time, including Trout, the Ottawa visionary at Mackinac, but Tenskwatawa's brother was Tecumseh, a spell-binding speaker and respected Shawnee chief.
Tecumseh added a political cause to his brother's new religion ...no further land cessions to the Americans, and to make this point, he built his village at the treaty line on the abandoned grounds of Fort Greenville. The Prophet's following grew but met resistance from the peace chiefs. There was also a cool reception in the northern Great Lakes. When Tenskwatawa's messengers visited Mackinac in 1808, the Ottawa listened but had their own prophet in Trout, and the Metai (Grand Medicine Society) felt their authority was threatened by this new religion. Tecumseh meanwhile had been busy building an alliance, and in 1808 got the support of the British for this. Facing the growing opposition of the peace chiefs, he and the Prophet moved their capital to Tippecanoe in western Indiana. During the first winter in this location, a large group of the Mackinac Ottawa and Ojibwe came to Prophetstown to listen to Tenskwatawa. They picked a bad time. The winter was unusually harsh, and there was not enough food. Epidemic struck during which many Ottawa and Ojibwe died but few Shawnee. They left disillusioned planning to attack Prophetstown until dissuaded by Michigan governor William Hull. Their participation in the War of 1812 (1812-14) was limited to helping the British defend Fort Michilimackinac in 1814 from the Americans.
In 1809 the peace chiefs ceded millions of acres in treaties signed at Fort Wayne and Vincennes. When Tecumshe heard, he disavowed the treaties, promised they would never be carried out, and threatened the chiefs who signed with death. In 1810 his Wyandot followers executed one chief who had signed, Leatherlips, and sent the wampum belts of the old western alliance to Tippecanoe. Meeting at Brownstown, the peace chiefs condemned the prophet as a witch. Tecumseh met twice with William Henry Harrison, governor of the Northwest Territory, but these almost ended in armed confrontation, and sensing war was coming, Tecumseh went south in the fall of 1811 to add the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, and Choctaw to his cause. While he was absent, Potawatomi raids in southern Illinois provided Harrison with an excuse to raise an army and march on Prophetstown in November.
Tippecanoe was not as important as an American military victory but for the damage it did to Tenskwatawa's reputation as a prophet. When Tecumseh returned that January he had less than six months to rebuild his alliance before the War of 1812 began in June. Tecumseh and his warriors joined the British, and their presence around Detroit so unnerved General Hull that he surrendered his command in August to a much smaller British force. With this victory, many of the Detroit Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Wyandot went over to Tecumseh and remained with him until he was killed at Battle of the Thames in 1813. The War of 1812 ended in stalemate between Great Britain and the United States, but for the tribes of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, it meant total defeat. It took two treaties for all of the Ottawa to make peace with the Americans after the war: the Second Treaty of Fort Greenville (July, 1814) and the Treaty of Spring Wells (September, 1815). There were no land cessions in these agreements. A treaty signed in 1816 with the Ottawa west of Lake Michigan only asked they surrender any claim to lands in western Illinois ceded by the Sauk and Fox in 1804.
The treaty signed at Miami Rapids (Fort Meigs) in September, 1817 was the first land cession by the Ottawa after the war. The Ohio Ottawa ceded their Ohio lands in exchange for two reservations: Blanchard's Creek and the Little Auglaize River (34 square miles total). The land was not granted but merely reserved for their use in exchange for an annuity of $15,000 for ten years. Boundaries were adjusted at St. Marys in 1818 for which the Ottawa were to receive an additional $1,500/year forever. Meanwhile, other treaties were slowly stripping the lands of the other Ottawa bands. In July, 1820 the L'Arbre Croche Ottawa and Mackinac Ojibwe surrendered St. Martin's Island in Lake Huron (plaster of Paris deposits) in exchange for an unspecified amount of trade goods, while at Chicago the year following, they joined with the Potawatomi and Ojibwe to cede most of southwest Michigan. The Treaty of Prairie du Chien (1825) established tribal boundaries in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and northern Illinois, but treaties signed at Green Bay (1828) and Prairie du Chien (1829) took back most of what had been assigned to the Ottawa west of Lake Michigan.
After the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, pressure grew to remove the tribes still east of the Mississippi. The Blanchard's Fork and Little Auglaize Bands ceded their Ohio reserves in 1831 and agreed to remove to Kansas. The Roche de Boeuf and Wolf Rapids also ceded their reserves but delayed their agreement to removal until they could negotiate with other Ottawa in Michigan and Canada about moving in with them. Nothing came of this, and in 1833 they signed a second treaty agreeing to Kansas. Both groups (about 500 souls) were assigned 34,000 acres along the Marais des Cygnes River just south of the Shawnee in what is now Franklin County, Kansas. The Blackhawk War (1832) hastened the departure of the remaining tribes. In August, 1833 the Ottawa and Ojibwa west of Lake Michigan joined the Prairie Potawatomi to cede their last lands in Illinois and Wisconsin. All three agreed to move to southwest Iowa. By 1846 Iowa was a state and they agreed to a new reserve north of Topeka, Kansas. The Ottawa and Ojibwa moved also, became part of the Prairie Potawatomi, and still reside in Kansas.
Two treaties signed by the Michigan Ottawa resulted in their being declared legally dead. In 1836 they ceded their remaining land in upper and lower Michigan for a series of reserves, $30,000 per year for 20 years, $350,000 in cash, and payment of $300,000 in debts. So far so good, but the treaty signed at Detroit in 1855 (all bands were not present) created an imaginary Ottawa and Chippewa Nation. The signers agreed to 80 acre allotments and the dissolution of the non-existent tribe. Fraud during the allotment process by 1860 had cost the Ottawa most of their remaining land and became so obvious the federal government was forced to intervene. However, nothing was done to restore tribal status, and the result has been almost 150 years of legal battles. In 1905 the Michigan Ottawa successfully sued the United States in the Court of Claims for redress for fraud and treaty violations, but when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed by Congress in 1934, the Michigan Ottawa were not allowed to organize under its provisions. Only Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa has regained federal recognition, and this took them until 1980.
Kansas was admitted as the 34th state in 1861, and the Blanchard's Fork and Roche de Boeuf bands in Franklin county could see their days were numbered. In June, 1862 they agreed to dissolve their tribal government, become citizens, and accept 160 acre allotments. The excess lands were to be sold to whites for not less than $1.25 per acre and 20,000 acres were to be donated to Ottawa University to ensure the education of their children. However, many could not agree to the end of tribal relations, and in 1867 signed a treaty selling their Kansas land and agreeing to move to the Indian Territory. They purchased land from the Shawnee in northeast Oklahoma, but lost most of this in 1891 to the allotment required by the Dawes Act. The educational benefits from the 20,000 acres given to Ottawa University in 1862 were never realized, and a lawsuit to recover the value of the donation and compensation for lands sold illegally by Indian agents was finally settled in 1965. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Ottawa organized under the Indian Reorganization Act in 1936. Twenty years later the government tried to terminate their tribal status, and if this had succeeded, there would have been 24 treaties between the United States and a tribe which did not exist. However, it did not happen, and Pontiac's people are hidden but very much alive.
First Nations referred to in this Ottawa History: