French and Indian War- “Pontiac's Rebellion”

French and Indian War- “Pontiac’s Rebellion”
Colonialism Transforms Indian Life (Introduction)
Please read. This sets the stage for Pontiac’s speech.
European microbes probably reached Wisconsin's Indians before European explorers. In the fifty
years following Hernando de Soto's invasion of the lower Mississippi in 1539-1540, disease wiped out
90 percent of Indian villages in the middle Mississippi Valley - villages with whom Wisconsin's Oneota
culture had traded for centuries. Some archaeologists therefore think it likely that epidemics of
measles or smallpox may have swept through native communities here decades before Nicolet
stepped ashore at Red Banks.
When the French arrived and began living in Indian villages, diseases once again broke out.
"Maladies wrought among them more devastation than even war did," wrote contemporary French
visitor Bacqueville de la Potherie, "and exhalations from the rotting corpses caused great mortality."
European contact also caused displacement and disruption as eastern tribes emigrated into
Wisconsin between 1640 and 1680. During those years the Iroquois invaded neighboring nations in
Michigan and Ontario, driving the Sauk, Meskwaki (Fox), Potawatomi, Mascouten, Kickapoo, Ottawa,
and other tribes into the land between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi. The ensuing competition
for food and furs prompted almost a century of intertribal warfare among these nations and the
already-present Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Sioux, and Ojibwe. To make matters worse, until 1763 the
English were eager to divert Indian hunters away from the traders in Green Bay, Michilimackinac, or
Detroit, and the Meskwaki (Fox) often supported these efforts.
The result was clandestine attacks, retribution, open warfare, and a tangle of shifting alliances. From
1700 to 1730 the Meskwaki (Fox) and the Mascouten were in open rebellion against the French, who
showed little mercy in suppressing their adversaries. In 1712, for example, the French killed nearly
1,500 members of these tribes during the siege of Detroit. The French also mounted several military
expeditions against the tribes, including the major battle at Little Lake Butte des Morts in 1716 (near
present-day Neenah), and sent their most important leaders into slavery in French colonies in the
Caribbean. By 1750, the remnants of the Meskwaki (Fox) had taken refuge in a village near the
mouth of the Rock River, a few miles from the Mississippi.
Finally, the need for European goods, especially guns and ammunition, made Wisconsin Indians
dependent upon French traders. Father Louis Hennepin noted in 1680 that Indians he visited in the
upper Mississippi region were using clay pots, stone tools, and bows and arrows; ten years later
trader Nicolas Perrot, traveling in the same area, found that these had been entirely replaced by
brass kettles, iron axes, and firearms.
Although such rapid transformation was not universal, and Indian communities maintained their
traditional activities and beliefs, they increasingly used imported technology to carry out the tasks of
daily life. By the early eighteenth century, Wisconsin's Indians tended their cornfields with hoes of iron
instead of stone or bone, they dressed in cloth garments more often than deer skins, they lit fires with
steel flints, their jewelry was made of silver, bronze, and copper shipped from France, and they
pursued game with firearms rather than with bows and arrows.
All these basic necessities of life could be had only from the French, and in return for them the traders
demanded furs. As game grew scarcer, the Indians were forced to range farther and farther. At the
command of French officials, many abandoned their villages and clustered around the fur-trading
posts, which were established at centers of influence such as Green Bay, Chequamegon (Madeline
Island), or Michilimackinac. Concentrating in such large communities exposed them to European
diseases: epidemics were reported among large groups of Indians who came together to trade in
1666, 1676, 1683, 1701, 1757, 1762, and 1783.
In 1760, after nearly a decade of war, the English finally managed to seize control of New France and
its fur trade. The resulting chaos helped the Ottawa chief Pontiac unite tribes from Kentucky to
Wisconsin in a campaign to drive all white governments back to the Atlantic. English troops, newly
arrived in Green Bay, Detroit, Mackinaw, and other western posts, were surrounded by thousands of
Pontiac's warriors and captured or killed. Most Wisconsin tribes remained neutral, though the
Wisconsin Ojibwe backed Pontiac and engineered the successful sneak attack on Fort Mackinaw.
The consequences of a century of disease, warfare, and colonialism are clear. By the mid eighteenth
century, several tribes -- such as the once-powerful Ho-Chunk, Mascouten, and Meskwaki (Fox) -had been reduced to tiny fractions of their precontact size and influence. Among nearly all the Indian
societies in Wisconsin, work life, gender roles, religious practices, daily tasks, clothing, and social
structure had all changed dramatically with the arrival of the Europeans. Most tribes were transformed
from settled agricultural communities who engaged in seasonal hunting on the side, to full-time
trappers and hunters who wandered far and wide to harvest beaver and other pelts wherever they
could found.
Assignment: Due Tues. Oct. 2, 2012
Read the introduction to Chief Pontiac’s speech below. When done, click on the link provided and
read Pontiac’s speech. Finally, when finished with that, answer the questions included on this page.
You can copy and paste the questions into a Word document or you can write the answers on a
separate sheet of paper.
Intro: Speech of Pontiac (1763) against white incursions.
Capture of Mackinaw, 1763.
Souligny's version of a speech by the Ottawa chief Pontiac (1720-1769) made at Milwaukee in 1763,
urging the Wisconsin tribes to resist white advances into the Old Northwest and Mississippi Valley.
He also describes how Charles de Langlade prevented British prisoners from being executed when
Pontiac's warriors captured Mackinac in 1763. But he (Souligny) was much respected by both Indians
and white settlers, and the informational content of the speech is presumably correct.
Link to Pontiac’s Speech:
Answer the following questions using EXAMPLES to support your opinion.
1. How do we know what Pontiac said in Milwaukee? What is the evidence? How trustworthy is this
2. What are Pontiac's main points in this speech?
3. What reasons does he give for Wisconsin Indians to join his campaign? In your opinion, are they
good reasons? Would you risk your own life for any of them?
4. How does Pontiac's argument relate to modern ideas such as freedom, liberty, national identity,
individual conscience, or civic duty? Would you risk your own life for any of these ideas?
5. In textbooks this war is often called "Pontiac's Conspiracy" or "Pontiac's Rebellion." What do those
names tell you about who wrote the textbooks? About the audiences for whom they were written?
Make up two new names for these events that express two different viewpoints, neither of which
repeats the values of the traditional names.