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Pontiac Urges Wisconsin Indians to Fight, 1763

Introduction: By the time Ottawa chief Pontiac gave the speech cited below, English settlers had been crowding Indians off their ancestral lands and French traders had been exploiting them economically for 150 years. During the brief window after the French surrendered in 1760 but before the English could establish control, Pontiac saw a chance for all the oppressed tribes to rise up together and drive the Europeans into the sea. In the early 1760s he traveled everywhere from Kentucky to Canada enlisting support for his vision. In the summer of 1763 simultaneous attacks across the west did, in fact, drive English troops from outposts such as Green Bay and Mackinaw, but a siege of the main British garrison at Detroit was unsuccessful and Pontiacʹs campaign ultimately failed.

Background Reading: ʺColonialism Transforms Indian Lifeʺ h t t p : / / w w w . w i s c o n s i n h i s t o r y . o r g / t u r n i n g p o i n t s / t p 0 0 8 / ? a c t i o n = m o r e _ e s s a and ʺBackground Essayʺ on the ʺJournal of Pontiacʹs Conspiracy, 1763ʺ http://www.americanjourneys.org/aj135/summary/index.asp y

Document to Analyze: Pontiacʹs Speech to Indians at Milwaukee, 1763, in: Porlier, Louis B. ʺCapture of Mackinaw, 1763.ʺ http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=47

Who, What, Where, When, Why: Pontiac was born in a community of Ottawa Indians between 1712 and 1725, probably near Detroit, and fought with the French during the French and Indian War (17551763). After the English won that war, a group of Ottawa, Ojibwa, Huron, Potawatomi, and other chiefs from Lake Superior met secretly in 1762 to consider how to oust the English; over the next year they reached out to sympathetic tribes in the region. During this period Pontiac visited Milwaukee (a stronghold known to the English as ʺthose renegates of Milwaukee ‐‐ a horrid set of refractory Indiansʺ) and delivered the speech related here. It was heard by Menominee Indians, passed orally to Souligny (17851864), who spoke it in 1848 in the presence of fur trader Louis Porlier. By the time Porlier wrote it down, Pontiac had been dead for more than a century and 30 years had elapsed since Porlier had heard Souligny deliver it. In tone and substance, however, it is very much like the contemporary transcription made of another Pontiac speech in the ʺJournal of Pontiacʹs Conspiracyʺ linked below.

Related Documents: Gorrell, James. ʺLieut. James Gorrellʹs journal [17611763]ʺ (pp. 3648) http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=20 and Grignon, Augustin. ʺSeventytwo yearsʹ recollections of Wisconsin.ʺ (pp. 224228) http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=28


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