La Grand Traverse
Early autumn 1760
Pontiac stood at the top of the dune facing the large gathering of tribes who had come to hear the words of this imposing and captivating Ottawa warrior and chief. The wind from off of the lake blowing his unbraided hair, he waited until everyone was settled before beginning what he hoped would be the talk needed to get the tribes united behind him. The tribes had been camped together for two months and during that time Pontiac and his followers visited each of the tribes and talked to them of the idea of rebellion against the British and the ways of the white man and tonight he would find out if they would accede to support his leadership. Since there were many tribes and many languages and dialects to deal with, he had seen to the placing of those who could translate among the people so all would understand exactly what he said. He raised his eyes and his hands to the star filled night sky and softly uttered, ‘Manitou, be with me and speak through me.’ His chosen bodyguard came to join him after seeing that everything was in readiness for their chief.
‘The Great Spirit in his wisdom made this land for us,’ Pontiac began, pausing frequently for the translators, ‘he made it for us to dwell in for as many years as there are grains of sand on this hill or stars in the sky. He gave us everything we needed from the forest, from the lakes, from the fields we sow, from the streams and rivers. Then the evil spirit came to us and we became dependent on first the French and now the British white men to supply us with goods we did not need before they arrived. Now the whites are holding back those goods and we cry to them because we feel betrayed, because we have become dependent on them. This is not what the Great Spirit intended for his people. The whites also brought us new ways to worship claiming they knew more about The Great Spirit than our fathers did, that their Christ was more important than what our fathers taught us. This also is not what The Great Spirit intended for his children. The white man also brought us sickness and death with his smallpox and with his whisky and rum. Our time with the French is now over and while they started this downfall of our culture, our religion, our very identity, they did not steal our land or go back on treaties when we allowed them the land they desired for their forts and trading posts. The British whites have stolen the land from us and they continue to do so as they push us further and further into the setting sun even when they have said they would not. They have time and time again ignored the treaties they sign, ignore the promises they made. Now the British have driven the French away. How long will it be before they drive us from our land here and in the Ohio country? How long will it be before the whites enter our sacred hunting lands below the Ohio, the Cantuckee lands? The Great Spirit has appeared and spoken with many of his children of all these evils and he is telling us to throw off the yoke put around our necks and to return to the time of our fathers, to return to the time before the evil one brought the whites to our land. The Great Spirit is telling us to resist them, to fight them, to halt the progress of the evils they bring. The time to do this is now but we cannot succeed against the British if we take up the hatchet as individual tribes. The Ojibway, the Potawatomi, the Delaware, the Shawnee, the Ottawa cannot bring victory if they fight alone. If we take up the war hatchet we must be as one, we must band together. Any old arguments and differences must be thrust aside and let go. Just as we use the wind to blow away the chaff from our crops we must let these past problems between us blow away like the chaff. Instead let us use the wind to fan the flames of war. The Great Spirit is calling us to unite; only by being as one people can we return to the ways of our fathers. I know we can do this but it will take time to form the alliances, to gather the warriors for the task of ridding the land of the evil. I ask that the war chiefs of all who are gathered here to speak to their people and to prepare for when the time becomes ripe for war. I ask the chiefs to give me some of their young braves that I may use them to spread the word of our plans and our purpose. I ask the chiefs to give me the power to lead our people to the victory that the Great Spirit intends for us.’
Pontiac awoke the next morning to the sound of waves breaking along the shore. A brisk wind from the northwest promised to bring rain as it whipped the previously placid surface of the lake into four foot breakers. He followed the trail down the dune and plunged into the lake, the water refreshing him and helping to ease the aches from the ballgame of yesterday. He stood in the water as the waves broke upon him remembering the thundering roar of the people, his people after his talk last night. On the beach, Eluwilussit, the hoary, white haired Ottawa holy one watched his chief and spoke, ‘Just as these waves strike and fall away from you so shall the British disappear as droplets of water into the air.’ Pontiac shook the water from his hair as he walked to his spiritual advisor. ‘Manitou will bring us great victories but it is up to us to bring it about,’ he said, taking Eluwilussit by the shoulders, ‘come old friend, let us begin.’
The delegation from the Seneca was waiting for Pontiac to emerge from his tent. With them were Pontiac’s most trusted warrior, Machk and a few Delaware and Ojibway braves. They were seated around the campfire, the Seneca cloistered in conversation when Pontiac, preceded by Eluwilussit, came out resplendent in his finest buckskin leggings, war vest and a headdress adorned with two eagle feathers. His long hair braided and finished with the downy breast feather of a wild turkey hanging from the ends. They all stood up as Pontiac made his way around the circle greeting each by name. ‘Sit, my friends, ‘he said recognizing the positive effect his appearance and manner was having, ‘the time has come for us to begin striking fear into the hearts of those who would take our land; who would destroy our way of life. It will be many moons before we are ready to strike at Fort Detroit or Michilimackinac but we have an opportunity in the land of our brothers the Seneca.’ He then proceeded to lay out his plans for the coming spring. The Seneca along with warriors from the Delaware and Ojibway would assault and destroy the many white settlements along the Allegheny River working their way south toward Fort Pitt.