Battle for a Continent
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Battle for a Continent
Pontiac's revolt
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Indians reject British control
By 1763 the territorial battles between English and French had been resolved but the Indians, most of whom had been allies of the French, had been excluded from the process.
Pontiac, war chief of the Ottawa, called on Indian nations to annihilate the British in North America. (As portrayed by August Pallascio in Canada: A People's History)
Pontiac, war chief of the Ottawa, called on Indian nations to annihilate the British in North America. (As portrayed by August Pallascio in Canada: A People's History)
Pontiac, the war chief of the Ottawas, rejected the idea that Britain would now control his people's fate. Supported by other chiefs, he urged the Indian nations to attack the English.

At Fort Michilimackinac, by Lake Superior, the Ojibway chief Minavavana issued a warning to a group of English traders. "Englishman, although you have conquered the French you have not yet conquered us! We are not your slaves. These lakes, these woods, and mountains were left us by our ancestors. They are our inheritance; and we will part with them to none... Englishman, our Father, the king of France, employed our young men to make war upon your nation. In his warfare, many of them have been killed; and it is our custom to retaliate, until such time as the spirits of the slain are satisfied.
Indian nations drew up a war plan against the British at a Grand Council on May 5, 1763. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Indian nations drew up a war plan against the British at a Grand Council on May 5, 1763. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
But, the spirits of the slain are to be satisfied in either of two ways; the first is the spilling of the blood of the nation by which they fell; the other, by covering the bodies of the dead, and thus allaying the resentment of their relations. This is done by making presents. Englishman, your king has not sent us any presents, nor entered into any treaty with us, therefore he and we are still at war."

The French defeat had disturbed almost two hundred years of alliances and a new instability threatened the interior. For nine years the Indians had been using guerrilla tactics to keep British and American settlers out of their traditional territories. But now the British occupied all the French forts and new settlers were arriving in greater numbers.
Part of the success of the French/Indian alliance lay in the fact that the French were traders and soldiers – they inhabited the land the way the Indians did, nomadically and seasonally. The English were settlers who were marking the land into grids, clearing and cultivating it, moving west, encroaching on the Indian hunting patterns.

Pontiac, distressed by the changing face of the frontier, travelled among the Indian nations recounting a vision from the Master of Life. "The land where ye dwell I have made for you and not for others. Whence comes it that ye permit the Whites upon your lands? Can ye not live without them?...
drive them out, make war upon them. I do not love them at all; they know me not, and are my enemies, and the enemies of your brothers. Send them back to the lands I have created for them and let them stay there."

Pontiac made plans to capture various forts in the interior, which the British now held. Described as "proud, vindictive, warlike, and very easily offended," Pontiac was a leader respected by all sides.

On May 5th, 1763, he addressed hundreds of Ottawas, Huron and Potawatomis in Grand Council, calling for the total annihilation of the English: "It is important for us, my brothers, that we exterminate from our lands this nation which seeks only to destroy us. You see as well as I that we can no longer supply our needs, as we have done, from our brothers, the French.
The English sell us goods twice as dear as the French do ... When I go to the English commander and... ask anything for our sick, he refuses with the reply that he has no use for us...you can well see that they are seeking our ruin. Therefore, my brothers, we must all swear their destruction and wait no longer. Nothing prevents us; they are few in numbers, and we can accomplish it. All the nations who are our brothers attack them, – why should we not attack? Are we not men like them?"


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