Obwandiyag (Pontiac), Odawa chief (born c. 1720 along the Detroit River; died 20 April 1769 in Cahokia, Illinois Country).
Obwandiyag (Pontiac), Odawa chief (born c. 1720 along the Detroit River; died 20 April 1769 in Cahokia, Illinois Country). Obwandiyag was the leader of a loose coalition of Aboriginal nations that opposed British rule in what became known as Pontiac’s War (1763–66), and is regarded by many as a historical antecedent to more contemporary Aboriginal rights movements.
Obwandiyag may have served with the French and Aboriginal forces that defeated Major-General Edward Braddock at Fort Duquesne in 1755, but he is best known for his leadership of Aboriginal peoples against the British regime in North America in Pontiac’s War, which began after the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) — known as the French and Indian War in North America — and the fall of New France. Under Obwandiyag’s leadership, an alliance of Odawa, Wyandot, Potawatomis and Ojibwa ignited hostilities in the spring of 1763. On 28 May, the group attacked a contingent of 96 British soldiers at Point Pelee, about 25 miles from the mouth of the Detroit River. Some of the soldiers escaped, but the majority were either killed or captured. Aboriginal forces laid siege to Fort Detroit. Fort Michilimackinac, Fort Sandusky, Fort St-Joseph, Fort Miami and other military installations fell as the resistance spread throughout the Pays d’en haut.
Despite these early victories, Obwandiyag had difficulty holding the alliance together. On 31 July, at the Battle of Bloody Run, Obwandiyag’s forces ambushed British troops en route to engage in a surprise attack against nearby Aboriginal forces. Obwandiyag’s direct control was limited to the warriors around Detroit, but even that group disintegrated little by little as the Ojibwa and Odawa returned to winter hunting grounds. The resistance, commonly known as Pontiac’s War, lost much of its momentum and was formally resolved three years later at a peace conference in Oswego, New York. Obwandiyag was a key signatory to the peace treaty signed on 23 July 1766. Though he insisted that Aboriginal peoples were not surrendering their land by making peace, his presumption of power led to resentment among Aboriginal delegates and undermined his already fragile leadership. Banished from his village sometime before 1768, Obwandiyag was killed by a Peoria assassin outside a trading post near Cahokia, Illinois on 20 April 1769.
Jane Fleischer, Pontiac, Chief of the Ottawas (1979); Howard H. Peckhorn, Pontiac and the Indian Uprising (1970).