Pontiac, (1720?–1769), an Ottawa Indian chief. Pontiac's attack on the British fort at Detroit in 1763 caused a general uprising known as Pontiac's Rebellion or Conspiracy. For a few months British authority along the western frontier was almost destroyed.
Pontiac was probably the son of an Ottawa chief. He may have led Ottawa warriors serving with the French at General Braddock's defeat (1755) in the French and Indian War. In 1759 the British decisively defeated the French at the Battle of Quebec. The French gave up Canada, the Ohio Valley, and the Great Lakes region. Indian tribes became resentful because the British reduced supplies of guns, ammunition, and clothing, and would not allow them free access to the forts as the French had done.
Pontiac planned a surprise attack on Detroit in May, 1763. He and 300 Ottawa warriors were to meet the commander of the fort in council At a signal from Pontiac the Indians, carrying weapons concealed under their blankets, were to attack the British. The plot was betrayed, however, and the Indians found the fort's soldiers well prepared. The British, seeking to avoid an Indian uprising, allowed Pontiac and his braves to leave the fort peacefully. Pontiac, however, then chose to besiege the fort.
News of Pontiac's revolt caused most of the other Indian tribes to rebel. Of 12 western forts, all fell to the Indians except Forts Niagara, Pitt, Ontario, and Detroit.
In October, 1763, Pontiac heard of the Treaty of Paris by which France surrendered continental North America to Britain. Pontiac now knew he could no longer hope for French help. He lifted the siege of Detroit, but did not make peace until 1766, when he signed a treaty with Sir William Johnson. Pontiac moved to the Illinois country, where he allegedly was murdered by an Indian bribed by a British trader.