Essay Sample on The Life Of Chief Pontiac

Published: 2023-04-04
Essay Sample on The Life Of Chief Pontiac
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Community American history Personal leadership
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1985 words
17 min read

Different theories and stories have been formulated to explain the origin of Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa people. The controversies surrounding his birth extend to the tribal affiliations that different publishers have accorded to his parents. Most debates revolve around the notion that one of his parents was an Ottawa (Peckham, 1994). A renowned chief in Miami also argued that Ottawa was Miami, gossipy chief justice in New York said that Ottawa was a Catawba who had been captured but later overcame his Ottawa captors. All these and other suggestions in regards to Pontiacs, tribal affiliation have led a sizable number of historians to conclude that chief Pontiac did not belong to the Ottawa tribe. However, it has been generally agreed that Pontiac belonged to the Ottawa nation by birth (Peckham, 1994).

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The main reason why Pontiac might not have been a full-blooded Ottawa was the friendly relationship that existed between Ottawas, Chippewas, and Miamis, who used to be neighbors during those times. The close relationship could have resulted in intermarriages, which in turn could lead to having Pontiac belonging to more than one tribe. In 1718, Ottawa village was positioned at the north side of the Detroit River, where his first appearance can be traced. Historians have tried their best to establish the actual birth date by using an inductive procedure that considers the different events that can be significantly recognized during his adulthood (Peckham, 1994). One of the known factors is that he had already become a respected chief in 1763 after having been a warrior among his people. Benson John Lossing used his research to place an estimation for the man's birth year, which he said was 1720 (Peckham, 1994).

To understand the Pontiac's childhood, one needs to examine the typical life stages that an Ottawa baby boy went through. It is historically known that the naming of an Ottawa baby took place when the baby was a few months old, and the parents would invite a few friends for a feast.

During the feast, the parents would keep on recommending a guardian god/spirit who would guide and protect the baby throughout their lives. Also, the name given to the baby was not usually an original one, but it could be adopted from the family. Babies born amongst the Ottawa people were never weaned until they turned three years of age, and the solid food had to be gnawed by the mother first. A young boy was taught hunting tactics and traditions that would play a significant role in helping them become future providers of the family.

Life amongst the Indians was all full of struggles since it depended on the weather, which could favor them one year and disgrace them the next, and such would also apply to their hunting efforts. Apart from learning the woodcraft, the boys would also become familiar with the Whiteman's guns, knives, traps, among other tools that were accessible from the French traders in Detroit. These weapons became so popular with time that they replaced the Ottawa traditional weapons (Middleton, 2006). The youth had to be taught more things concerning their traditions, which included fighting and making war. The initiation process would involve participating in a real raid that could be carried out against their traditional enemies like the Indians. The learning process for children and youth was traditional, for there were no books to help with the teaching. Hero worship was practiced as a way of motivating the younger generations to become more productive in the future.

The rewards for hard work followed simple logic and hence considered distinct. For instance, the careless canoe maker would sink and die in the rapids, and the expert hunter would be more productive, living a better life as compared to the lazy and poor ones (Marquis, 1915). When it came to issues of war, the most talented warrior would be allowed to lead a war party while the most eloquent speaker was listened to by the council.

Just as the reward system of the Ottawa people, the political structure was fluid and straightforward. Each village had its chief who would ascend to the position through different means. In other words, there was more than one way that an individual would become the chief during those times. For instance, a chief's son would only inherit his father's position if the village elders agreed upon it. A warrior would also become chief if he can convince his fellow warriors to follow his directions. Such chiefs were commonly known as war chiefs, and most of them would attain the position by being the best tacticians and hard fighters during the war (Nolan, 2004). A war chief was able to maintain his job if he was able to guarantee victory to his fellow warriors. Losing in battles would get the warriors questioning his capabilities and even removing him from the position. Also, the war chief was able to convince warriors from another village to fight under him, as Pontiac did.

Local chiefs were commonly older than the war chiefs and would rarely be involved in warfare, even though they might have been war chiefs during their younger ages. The civil chiefs would occasionally try to exercise control over the war chiefs, especially in matters concerning warfare, but they could not entirely curb the hostilities (Loomis, 2016). Nevertheless, they controlled broad societal issues that could involve choices made in regards to trade partners and peace. Apart from civil and war chiefs, there emerged other chiefs commonly known as the medal chiefs. These chiefs were puppets made by the European colonizers whenever they encountered powerful resistance from the native chiefs. The crowning of these medal chiefs was done in the eyes of the great white father across the Atlantic.

The medicine man, also known as the shaman, was never considered as powerful unless he was in his field of onus. Some of his duties would include chanting prayers on various occasions, prophesying, preserving rites, among other functions. The individual was also considered as the village physicist archivist and historian as well.

During summer, the Ottawas would consider it an excellent time to make war. The most common enemies for the Ottawa community were both the northern and southern tribes, who created favorable conditions for war. There were games played against the different villages, and betting was done as different stars were developed amongst various participants. At the age of 20 to 24, Ottawa youth were allowed the freedom to exercise courtship, a period during which men like Pontiac would win a woman's heart (Powell, 1950). Lavish gifts were to be offered to the parents of the bride as price before marriage. Even though the community was not monogamous, the number of women that a man could marry was determined by the financial factor. In other words, a man could marry more than two wives if he could support them. The separation between partners was allowed, especially if the couple has not had children yet.

Different sources have argued that Pontiac was not good-looking in his adulthood, especially according to the standards of the white race. However, others have come out to suggest that he was a remarkably handsome warrior whose dress code matched his ornaments. His hair was black, and he did not have a beard. His skin was described as relatively light, and his skin was most probably tattooed as per the customs practiced by his people (Wood, 2002). His short hair is said to have been in the shape of a small pompadour worn from the front to back. The nose is believed to have been left in that state since it provided their enemies with less to hold on. Pontiac might have worn a collar of plumes and maybe a few feathers around his neck.

In the 1730s, trade was becoming one of the most common activities amongst the French, the British, and the Indians. Both the whites and the French were competing intensively for the market provided by the Indian people. The competition resulted in the king Georges war, known as the war of the Austrian succession in Europe, and it was the first one to affect America during Pontiacs time. Pontiac is believed to have remained loyal to the French as different rebellions and uprisings arose between the warring nations (Marquis, 1915).

War parties from the Ottawa community did take part in raids contacted by the French in New York. As an aspiring war chief, Pontiac took part in those raids and many others.

In 1763, one of Pontiac's war events were put on record as he tried to persuade the French to help him fight the British. The persuasion process involved reminding them of seventeen years before that time when he helped the French defeat many of their powerful enemies (Dixon, 2005). However, the Ottawas did their best to always remain loyal to the French at all times. It was during this period that the British were doing their best to win allegiance from the different Indian tribes. Pontiac was never swayed by any attempts to influence him away from supporting French. In 1763, Pontiac had already become a renowned leader in Detroit. It was during the same year that he led an attack against the British which turned out to be unsuccessful after the British had received information about it. On April 20, 1769, Pontiac was assassinated by a Peoria whose primary intent was to revenge his uncle's death, who had been poorly stabbed by Pontiac years back.


This essay has engaged brought to life significant features about Pontiac's life that could not be easily retrieved. For instance, an establishment of the Ottawa culture throughout the growth of a young boy paints a clear picture of what can be considered to be a replica of Pontiacs life growing up. Pontiacs lived during the eighteenth century when industrialization was about to catch up. Trade has come out as one of the factors that significantly contributed to the numerous disagreements that led to the different wars that Pontiac was involved.

It was also due to the trade that alliances were formed between different communities to help support one another. The waring parties mainly consisted of the Britain, French, and the Indians. French and Britain realized the potential threats that they faced if alliances between different Indian communities were not formed. Pontiac and members of his community, (Ottawa) were only loyal to the French regime.

Pontiac is one of the most recognized war chiefs amongst the native Indians. Even though his childhood has not been clearly described in the history books, it is believed that he lived a typical childhood that any child inn Ottawa would live. Pontiac is considered to have gotten into warfare in his twenties, where he began to rise to popularity amongst his people, as they fought for the French. (Peckham, 1994).

One of the factors that have been used to suggest his age as he began to raise to power was when he argued with the French and he had to remind them about events that had taken place 17 years ago. The French were his people's allies, while Britain's were their sworn enemies. In his arguments, it is also clear that he did not only fight for only against Britain but he could also be used by the French to suppress their enemies He is believed to have led most of his followers in great battles, most of which they emerged as winners.

Most of his conflicts with the British arose as a result of different disagreements that took place as the British failed to fulfill their promises as to the per the treaties signed between the two communities. The great war chief was murdered in 1769, marking the end of his reign. The killer is said to have been a member of the Peoria community, even though the location of his death has never been defined clearly.


Dixon, David. Never come to peace again: Pontiac's uprising and the fate of the British Empire

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