During an April 24 Michigan Radio program Ben Hinmon, a descendant of Chief Pontiac, spoke about his great-great-great-great grandfather’s legacy.
On April 27, 1763 Pontiac, an Ottawa chief, called a council of tribes together to figure out a way to drive the Army and English settlers from the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions. The council met on the banks of the Ecorse River in what is now Council Point Park in Lincoln Park in Michigan. He urged other tribes to rise up against the British.
“Like many of our people at that time there was a struggle to really protect and preserve our way of life and Pontiac saw the changes that were happening in his own communities as many Anishinaabe were beginning to adopt Western society practices,” Hinmon, who is also the cultural instructor for the Seventh Generation Program for the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe in Mount Pleasant, says on the Michigan Radio show. “They were using muskets, they were wearing some of the clothing, they were trading with the British at that point, and many times the items they were receiving were things that were not part of Anishinaabe culture, so Pontiac was concerned about the whole colonization process that he saw happening.”
This artistic interpretation of Chief Pontiac was painted by John Mix Stanley.
Pontiac held the council after having a vision about the destruction of the Native American way of life. Hinmon said the chief was concerned with the loss of language, land and spirituality that he saw among his people.
Pontiac’s Rebellion started in early May and lasted three years. It ended with Pontiac signing a treaty with the British in 1766. Pontiac was assassinated in 1769 by a Peoria Indian while in Illinois.
“It was a great loss to the Anishinaabe because his predications about what would happen over the next couple hundred years would come true,” Hinmon said. He went on to talk about the introduction of the Indian boarding school system, which involved the forced removal of Native children from their homes and families and forced assimilation.
The interviewee on Michigan Radio wondered what Chief Pontiac would say today if he were around to see what things are like 250 years after his council met on the Ecorse River.
“I think he would be saddened because many of the things that he talked about in his own vision came to realization,” Hinmon said. “In his lifetime… there was a time when every young man in our community when they were walking into ceremonies… they knew exactly what their role was and what to do. Sadly, today because of the assimilation policies, the impact of colonization, the establishment of Indian boarding schools… we’ve seen tremendous loss of our cultural teachings and beliefs.”
(Related story: :250th Anniversary of Chief Pontiac's Council Commemoration Ceremonies”)