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Pontiac's uprising

KC‑3.1.I.C (KC)
Unit 3: Learning Objective B
WOR (Theme)
After the Seven Years' War, Native Americans continued the battle by seizing forts in the Great Lakes region. 


  • Pontiac was a leader of the Odawa tribe located in the area of modern-day Ontario, Canada, and the Great Lakes region.
  • He led a rebellion against the British colonists after they expanded their military presence in the Great Lakes area during and after the French and Indian War.
  • Pontiac’s uprising demonstrated the viability of pantribal cooperation in the struggle against European-American territorial expansionism and contributed to the deterioration of relations between Great Britain and its North American colonies.

The Seven Years' War

The Seven Years' War, also called the French and Indian War, which broke out in 1754 and lasted until 1763, was an imperial war between Britain and France over control of the Ohio territory. The French and British rushed into the region to build forts and establish a military presence in order to solidify their colonial claims on the area. A young George Washington, at only 21 years of age, was sent on behalf of the Virginia colony to build a fort at the forks of the Ohio river in what is modern-day Pittsburgh. When Washington and his small force of Virginians and Native American allies attacked a French reconnaissance party, the French counterattacked and drove them out of their fort and back into Virginia. The skirmish led to an outright declaration of hostilities.start superscript, 1, end superscript
The war pitted the British colonists and their Native American allies against the French colonists and their Native American allies. Though the French gained the advantage in the early years of the war, the British ultimately triumphed, and in the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763, France surrendered nearly all of its claims to North American territory. The Native American tribes of the region rejected the notion that France had the authority to cede their lands to the British.
Moreover, the Seven Years' War heightened tensions between the British and its North American colonies; once the French were removed from the region, a variety of other issues arose, including disagreements over westward expansion, taxation, and relations with the native tribes.squared

Pontiac’s uprising

At the end of the French and Indian War, France abandoned its outpost at Fort Detroit, in what is present-day Michigan. The British took control of Fort Detroit and imposed a number of changes that dissatisfied the various Native American tribes that inhabited the Great Lakes region and had allied with France.
For instance, whereas the French had respected Native American traditions and had traded freely with the tribes, the British did not seem to care about maintaining good relations with the Native Americans and restricted their ability to trade. The Native Americans had grown accustomed to hunting with weapons and ammunition supplied by the French, but when the British took control of the area, they refused to provide arms to the Native Americans, which had a negative effect on their ability to hunt. British attitudes and actions provoked the distrust and hostility of the tribes in the area, many of which banded together to resist the further encroachment of the British onto their lands.cubed
Painting depicting the siege of Fort Detroit
Frederick Remington, depiction of the siege of Fort Detroit, late 19th century. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
In May 1763, Pontiac, a leader of the Odawa tribe, led a force of 300 members of different tribes in an attack on Fort Detroit, attempting to wrest it from the British. The British commander of the fort learned of Pontiac’s plan, however, and successfully defended against the siege. Although the British managed to hold onto Fort Detroit and put an end to Pontiac’s siege, Native American resistance spread, and soon Pontiac had tripled his force. Moreover, other Native American tribes launched attacks on British settlements and military outposts, managing to capture eight of the 11 British forts in the Ohio Valley.start superscript, 4, end superscript
Artists' impression of Pontiac
John Mix Stanley, artist's impression of how Pontiac may have looked, mid-1800s. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
On July 25, 1766, Pontiac and the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs negotiated an end to the war. Though the Native Americans were unable to kick the British out of the Great Lakes region, the uprising demonstrated the viability of pantribal cooperation in the struggle against European-American colonialism. The British government issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, drawing a boundary line in the Appalachian mountains and forbidding colonists from settling the lands west of the line, which were designated Indian territory.
The British hoped to neutralize conflict between white settlers and Native Americans, but they ended up provoking the wrath of the colonists, who cited the Proclamation of 1763 as one of the grievances leading to the American Revolutionary War.start superscript, 5, end superscript

What do you think?

Why do you think the outcome of the French and Indian War was significant?
How did the British differ from the French in their relations with Native American tribes?
Do you sympathize with Pontiac? Was he a hero or a villain?
In your opinion, what was the most consequential result of Pontiac’s uprising?

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