In a famous council on April 27, 1763, Pontiac urged listeners to rise up against the British. (19th-century engraving by Alfred Bobbet).
250th Anniversary of Chief Pontiac's Council Commemoration Ceremonies
Excitement has been building for this month’s 10-day historical celebration commemorating the 250th anniversary of Chief Pontiac’s call for a council along the Ecorse River in southern Michigan.
The event, which starts today, April 19, and concludes with a weekend pow wow April 27-28 at Lincoln Park’s Council Point Park, features an educational series, concert, movie showings, a carnival, a Pontiac car show and the popular U.S.-Canada border river canoe crossing.
“We want to remember Chief Pontiac as a fighter—somebody who fought for our rights. He was a visionary,” said Helen Wolfe, co-chairman of the pow wow for host organization American Indian Movement, as well as the committee in charge of the 10-day event.
Aside from the AIM Michigan Chapter, the committee is composed of representatives from the Lincoln Park Historical Commission and Museum and the Detroit Historical Commission.
Chief Pontiac, head of the Ottawas, is known for the Pontiac War that was launched in 1763 after he called on other tribes to retake the Great Lakes area from the British.
To honor Chief Pontiac and his historical contributions, a council ceremony will be held on the first day of the pow wow that highlights a new State of Michigan Historical Site Marker. Representatives of Great Lakes tribal communities are expected to attend along with other dignitaries and government officials.
“Some of his descendants will speak about the chief. There will be pictures of his descendants and some memorabilia coming from the family,” said Wolfe.
Artist Judy Gould has donated the trademark for the event, a pencil sketch of the Chief. Her artwork will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the pow wow’s operational fund.
She said she expects 4,000 people to come to the 10-day event that is free and supported by donations, including $10,000 from Chrysler Corporation.
She said Natives from California, New York, Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, Manitoba, Ontario are among those who plan to attend.
Grammy Award-winningsinger and musician Bill Miller, Mohawk, will perform April 26, and Native American flutist Kelly Kiyoshk, Anishnaabe, will be live at 5 p.m. on the 24th (for a full schedule of events click here).
The border crossing has been set on Friday, the day before the pow wow. In honor of Chief Pontiac, a war canoe will join 10 canoes crossing Detroit River from the metro area to Windsor, Ontario, Canada for the first time.
The canoe border crossing relates to the Jay Treaty, ratified 1796, when American statesman John Jay went to England and averted the threat of a war. It is significant because it gives Natives the right to freely cross the border.
“At the pow wow we will also be offering rides but just up and down the Ecorse River,” said Wolfe.
Gordon Sands has been named as MC and Mark Davis from AIM, Alabama Chapter is arena director. Wolfe said she expect the traditional gathering will feature at least 200 dancers and five drums.
“The pow wow will move back to August next year. We are thinking of the 30th and 31st,” said Wolfe, adding that the AIM pow wow will revert to its “Honor Our Culture” theme.
AIM moved the pow wow to April this year to be part of the Chief Pontiac’s anniversary celebration.
“We are growing. We are getting bigger. This is an important event—one time in 250 years. This is the first time that they [the public] recognize the Chief. He is somebody you should know about. He is a historical figure.”
For more info on the week of celebrations, including the pow wow, click here.