Jan. 31, 2024

Episode 5: The Uprising

As the British began to assert control over North America in the wake of the Seven Years' War, the actions of British American settlers and the messages of a native prophet convinced some Indigenous peoples throughout the Ohio Country and beyond that...

As the British began to assert control over North America in the wake of the Seven Years' War, the actions of British American settlers and the messages of a native prophet convinced some Indigenous peoples throughout the Ohio Country and beyond that resistance through force was the best way to preserve their sovereignty and usher in the revitalization of their communities.

Featuring: Fred Anderson, George Ironstrack, Maeve Kane, and Hayley Madl.

Voice Actors: Anne Fertig, Kathyrn Gehred,  David Mackenzie, Loren Moulds, Angel-Luke O’Donnell, Norman Rodger, and Brandon Tachco.

Narrated by Jim Ambuske.

Worlds Turned Upside Down is a production of R2 Studios at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

Further Reading:

Fred Anderson, The Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754 - 1766 (2001).

Ned Blackhawk, The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History (2023).

Gregory Evans Dowd, A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815 (1993).

Gregory Evans Dowd, War Under Heaven: Pontiac, the Indian Nations, and the British Empire (2004).

George Ironstrack, "From the Ashes: One Story of the Village of Pinkwi Mihtohseeniaki" (2006).

Lorri Glover, Eliza Lucas Pinckney: An Independent Woman in the Age of Revolution (2020).

Maeve Kane, Shirts Powdered Red: Haudenosaunee Gender, Trade, and Exchange across Three Centuries (2023).

Paul Kelton. “The British and Indian War: Cherokee Power and the Fate of Empire in North America.” The William and Mary Quarterly69, no. 4 (2012): 763–92. https://doi.org/10.5309/willmaryquar.69.4.0763.

Robert Lowell and James Vaughn, eds., Envisioning Empire: The New British World from 1763 to 1773 (2019).

Jane T. Merritt, At the Crossroads: Indians and Empires on a Mid-Atlantic Frontier, 1700-1763 (2011).

John Oliphant, Peace and War on the Anglo-Cherokee Frontier, 1756–63 (2001). 

Jon William Parmenter, “Pontiac’s War: Forging New Links in the Anglo-Iroquois Covenant Chain, 1758-1766.” Ethnohistory 44, no. 4 (1997): 617–54.

Matthew C. Ward, Breaking the Backcountry: The Seven Years' War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1765 (2004).

Primary Sources:

Charles Beatty, Journals of Charles Beatty, 1762-1769 edited by Guy Soulliard Klett (1962).

John Blair to George Washington, 24 May 1758,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-05-02-0150. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 5, 5 October 1757–3 September 1758, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988, pp. 194–197.]

Colin G. Calloway, ed., The World Turned Upside Down: Indian Voices from Early America: A Brief History in Documents (2016).

Alexander Henry, Travels and adventures in Canada and the Indian territories between the years 1760 and 1776: in two parts (1809). https://archive.org/details/cihm_35677/page/n57/mode/2up

George Mercer, George Mercer papers relating to the Ohio Company of Virginia ed., Lois Mulkearn (1954).

Timothy J. Shannon, The Seven Years' War in North America: A Brief History with Documents (2013).

The Papers of Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry Digital Edition, ed. Constance Schulz. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2012. https://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/PinckneyHorry/

Museums and Cultural Heritage Sites:

Colonial Michilimackinac 

Fort de Chartes

Museum of the Cherokee People

Myaamia Center


Worlds Turned Upside Down

Episode 5: "The Uprising"
Published 01/30/2024

Written by Jim Ambuske


JIM AMBUSKE: Sometime, in the months after September 1760, after the British had conquered New France at great cost, although historians are not sure just when, a young man called Neolin sat alone by a fire, deep in thought.

AMBUSKE: Neolin was a member of Lenni Lenape, more commonly known in English as the Delaware. And for his nation, and for many others, much had changed since Indigenous peoples had decided the fate of the Seven Years’ War in North America.

AMBUSKE: Like many native nations in the Ohio Country and throughout the Great Lakes, the Delawares had once been allies of the French. Those alliances had once ensured New France’s survival. They were based on a foundation of reciprocity, on a willingness to nurture relationships through trade and diplomacy, all in pursuit of mutual interests that flowed like two rivers running in parallel over the land.

AMBUSKE: Indigenous alliances had made it possible for the French to hold Fort Duquesne at the Forks of the Ohio River, to inflict devastating defeats on the British in northern New York, and check the progress of British settlers who claimed land west of the Appalachian Mountains.

AMBUSKE: But from the point of view of the Delawares and other nations, the French had forgotten the meaning of reciprocity. They had allowed the chain of friendship to rust.

AMBUSKE: Influenced by the Cherokees and the Haudenosaunee, the peoples of the Ohio Country abandoned their French father, and made peace with their British brothers at Easton, Pennsylvania in 1758. Fort Duquesne soon fell into British hands. And together with the Haudenosaunee’s decision to end their long-standing neutrality between the British and the French, Indigenous peoples had turned the tide of the war.

AMBUSKE: But what now? Neolin must have wondered that night, as he sat, staring into the fire.

AMBUSKE: The defeated French were leaving North America, a reality some Indigenous nations struggled to accept.

AMBUSKE: The victorious British were taking command of forts in the Ohio Country that had once been occupied by the French, and they were building new ones. In short order, they would embark on a quest to transform America into a proper, well-managed empire. Under orders from King George III and his ministers, surveyors and cartographers would soon travel over the land, to create new maps that would direct the settlement of places like Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, East and West Florida, and Dominica.

AMBUSKE: And it seemed that some of the king’s subjects were no longer interested in honoring the peace and reciprocity that had made Great Britain's victory possible. 

AMBUSKE: For British Americans, who were never prouder to be British than they were in this moment, they were turning their gaze west, beyond the Appalachian Mountains, and dreamed of “a never ending empire all the way to the horizon.”

AMBUSKE: That night, Neolin sat “musing & greatly concrned,” as he later said, “about the evil ways he saw prevailing among the Indians.” Native peoples had incorporated elements of European ideas like religion, and trade goods like guns, alcohol, metal tools, and cloth into their cultures. But what did it cost them? Where should they draw the line?

AMBUSKE: As he ruminated on the past, and contemplated a future that flickered in the fire light, Neolin heard a voice calling out to him, from the dark.

AMBUSKE: Before him appeared a powerful vision of being in the shape of a man. As he would later tell Indigenous and white audiences alike, this was the Master of Life.

AMBUSKE: The Master of Life’s message that night was clear: Neolin was right to see Europeans as a corrupting influence on native peoples. The road to Hell was paved with alcohol, guns, and other white trade goods. The journey to Heaven, and the restoration of Indigenous lands for that matter, required a series of harder choices. They must lessen their dependence on white people, live separately from them, and return to the traditional lifeways of their ancestors.

AMBUSKE: In the months that followed Neolin’s encounter with the Master of Life, word of it spread among Indigenous communities throughout eastern North America, from the Seneca in the east to the Illinois Country in the west. He was not the first native prophet, nor would he be the last. But, Neolin’s message, and others like it, helped to embolden a spirited resistance to British authority in the years after New France’s fall.

AMBUSKE: For many native peoples, like the Odawa warrior Pontiac, who were already skeptical of the promises the British had made near the end of the war, the militancy and immediacy contained within Neolin’s prophetic vision pointed to only one conclusion: to defend their lands and their sovereignty, Indigenous peoples must drive the British and their colonists back over the mountains.

AMBUSKE: I’m Jim Ambuske, and this is Worlds Turned Upside Down, a podcast about the history of the American Revolution. 

AMBUSKE: Episode Five: “The Uprising”

AMBUSKE: On December 26, 1760, Odawas gathered at Fort Detroit and watched as New France came to an end. Having laid down their arms, the French garrison lowered the white flag of France. It had been flying above the fort for almost 60 years. In its place, the soldiers and officers of the Royal American Regiment hoisted the flag of Great Britain, and with it, the dawn of a new, uncertain era. 

 AMBUSKE: Six years after the balance of power had collapsed in the Ohio Country, sparking a war of global proportions, the British completed the conquest of New France and began taking possession of Canada.

AMBUSKE: While the fighting raged on in Europe, India, Africa, and Asia, British politicians and enlightened thinkers began planning for North America’s future. By right of conquest under international law, King George III could claim these new American lands as his dominions and the people within them as his subjects.

AMBUSKE: When that war came to an end three years later, that right would empower the king and his ministers to create new colonies, and redesign British America, in hopes of building an empire that benefited all the king's subjects.

AMBUSKE: Indigenous peoples saw matters differently.

AMBUSKE: As Britons on both sides of the Atlantic celebrated New France’s demise, native peoples wondered what it would mean for their own sovereignty as the British king replaced their French father.

AMBUSKE: The Odawas who watched their French allies surrender Fort Detroit that December day, along with Indians throughout the Ohio Country and beyond, had not been involved in the negotiations between the British and the French over the capitulation of Montreal four months earlier. Nor would they, or other peoples like the Haudenosaunee or the Cherokee, be invited to the peace talks in Paris beginning in September 1762 that would bring the Seven Years’ War to its formal end.

AMBUSKE: From this point of view, even if the French ceded the idea of New France to the British, and King Louis XV’s claim to the territories it encompassed, the Indigenous communities who inhabited these lands never relinquished their right to them. Their nations were, “and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”

AMBUSKE: So, what did this all mean for Britain’s relationship with Indigenous peoples in the wake of New France’s defeat? How did diplomatic missteps turn former allies into enemies? And how did disputes over trade, sovereignty, and the words of a prophet lead to the outbreak of another war? 

AMBUSKE: To begin answering these questions, we’ll range far and wide over North America, arriving first on the western shores of Lake Huron, where a conversation between a British trader and an Ojibwa chief revealed how much was at stake in this new world the war had made.

AMBUSKE: We’ll then head south by nearly 1,000 miles, to explore how insults leveled against Britain’s Cherokee allies in Virginia quickly spiraled out of control in the South Carolina backcountry.

AMBUSKE: Before returning several hundred miles back north, back to the Ohio Country, where settlers' ambitions and Indigenous unity made clear to the British how much they had won in war, and how much they stood to lose in peace.

AMBUSKE: The capitulation of Montreal in September 1760 was a moment of triumph for the British and British Americans. For them, nothing could be more certain. Even as British politicians began debating whether it was worth the expense of keeping Canada, or whether it ought to be used as a bargaining chip for a more profitable Frenc h colony like Martinique, few could deny its importance to the British Empire. As the Pennsylvania Gazette reported on September 11, 1760:

PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE [KATHRYN GEHRED]: We now have the Pleasure to congratulate our Countrymen upon the most important Event, as we apprehend, that has ever happened in Favour of the British Nation . . . the War in Canada is at an End: The Governor, has surrendered the Country to the British General Amherst without Bloodshed. The Subjects of France are to be sent Home, all that remain of the French are to swear Allegiance to His Majesty, and retain their Possessions.”

AMBUSKE: The view looked very different when facing east from Indian country.

FRED ANDERSON: At that point, Indian people hope that they'll have their lives back that this dark and terrible time will be over.

ANDERSON: I’m Fred Anderson, professor emeritus, University of Colorado, Boulder.

ANDERSON: Now, you got to remember that there are many very different Indian groups with very different senses of what they want out of this. The Delawares and the Mingos in the Shawnee at the forks of the Ohio all have a vision of themselves now functioning normally because the extraction of the Delaware's the crucial group from the French Alliance happens with a Treaty at Easton in 1758. By which the British promised that they're not going to allow settlers in beyond the reach of the Appalachians into the valley. But they promised open a trade. That's what they think they're going to get. The Iroquois see it quite differently. They see the moment of 1760 when they have fulfilled their alliance promises with the British as the crucial one, because now they're going to get back what had been in abeyance during this war, which is control of the peoples at the forks of the Ohio. So already you've got a problem. The Iroquois have one set of expectations, the peoples at the forks of the Ohio have another set of expectations, the Indian groups that are that concentrated Niagara and Detroit and Michilimackinac at the former, French points of trade and alliances in the interior. They all have different notions of what's going to happen because most people think the French are coming back. And they have every reason to imagine that they will because they've always come back in the past.

AMBUSKE: In 1761, the Ojibwa chief Minavavana conveyed the belief of many Indigenous peoples throughout the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley that their French allies would soon return to trade with them and keep British American expansion in check.

AMBUSKE: The Algonquin-speaking Minavavana met with the British trader Alexander Henry at Fort Michilimackinac. The fort was built on the northern tip of what is now Michigan’s lower peninsula to guard the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. Its cedar-picket walls enclosed two acres of land, protecting 30 small homes and a church inside.

AMBUSKE: The French had maintained a presence at Fort Michilimackinac since the seventeenth century. It was one of a number of forts built in the region to conduct trade with native peoples, including at Detroit. But after New France’s defeat in 1760, the British began taking control of these outposts and asserting control of the Indigenous trade.

AMBUSKE: Speaking through a translator, Minavavana confronted Henry in a confident, calculating manner:

MINAVAVANA [BRANDON TACHCO]: “Englishman, it is you that have made war with this our father. You are his enemy; and how could you have the boldness to venture among us, his children. You know that his enemies are ours.”

MINAVAVANA [BRANDON TACHCO]: “Englishman, we are informed that our father, the King of France, is old and infirm; and that being fatigued with making war upon your nation, he is fallen asleep. During his sleep you have taken advantage of him and possessed yourselves of Canada. But his nap is almost at an end. I think I hear him already stirring and inquiring for his children, the Indians, and when he does awake, what must become of you? He will destroy you utterly!”

AMBUSKE: The French father, however, would never again awaken from his slumber. The Delawares, the Haudenosaunee, the British, and their colonists had seen to that. And soon peace negotiations would begin in Paris that would make Britain's conquest of New France complete.

AMBUSKE: But in important ways, it didn’t matter. Minavavana reminded Henry that his people had not ceded their lands, despite what the French may have written on a piece of paper.

MINAVAVANA [BRANDON TACHCO]: “Englishman, although you have conquered the French, you have not yet conquered us! We are not your slaves. These lakes, these woods and mountains were left to us by our ancestors. They are our inheritance, and we will part with them to none.”

AMBUSKE: That meant that the British and the Ojibwa were still at war. And they would continue to be so, Minavavana remarked, until they had avenged fallen Ojibwa warriors or George III gifted them presents to atone for the deaths of their kin.

AMBUSKE: Minavavana, though, was a shrewd negotiator and he sensed an opportunity. Having made his point, the chief acknowledged that Henry had come to trade. And that, was a welcome development:

MINAVAVANA [BRANDON TACHCO]: “You do not come armed with an intention to make war; you come in peace to trade with us and supply us with necessaries of which we are in much want. We shall regard you, therefore, as a brother.”

AMBUSKE: Having finished speaking, Minavavana offered Henry a pipe to smoke in friendship, and shook his hand. Might, he asked, the young men with him have a taste of English-made rum? They wanted to see how its quality stood up against what the French used to bring them.

AMBUSKE: Minavavana’s speech and his request for rum reflected the complicated world Indigenous peoples now faced as the defeated French began withdrawing from North America.

AMBUSKE: Even as Minavavana asserted his people’s sovereignty and believed that the French father would return one day, the evacuation of New France meant that native peoples would no longer be able to play the British and the French off of each other in diplomacy or trade.

AMBUSKE: And If trade was a form of reciprocity, a means to demonstrate regard for your partners by the value and quality of the goods you offered, trade was also a way for Indigenous peoples to supply their communities with food and other necessary items.

AMBUSKE: For the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Iroquois, who had remained neutral between the French and British until 1759, trade with both European powers had given them access to particular trade goods they in turn used to shape their cultural identities. 

AMBUSKE: As Dr. Maeve Kane, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Albany explains, the Haudenosaunee living in towns like Canajoharie or near Fort Hunter in northern New York were discerning customers when they dealt with traders like Jelles Fonda.

MAEVE KANE: The Haudenosaunee, when they're buying things, they're buying things both that settlers are buying, but they're also buying things that they specifically reshape settler economies. In that community of Fort Hunter and Canajoharie, there's settlers and Haudenosaunee people living almost literally side by side like you can see people's houses from one another. And both those settlers and the Mohawk families that are living in that those communities attend the same churches they buy from Jelles Fonda. And they buy the same things, but not all of the same things. So they buy the same kind of range of like woolen goods, the same quality of linen, the same quality of things like silk ribbons and things for decorations. But Haudenosaunee, people don't buy, and I think what they don't buy is almost as significant as what they do buy, they don't buy things like hard soled shoes, they don't buy by interlinings, which is necessary in the 18th century to make kind of a stiff shoulder is different than men's coats. They don't buy things like men's hats, those are seen as very specifically settler. In the very few, like visual depictions that we have, or in written descriptions. They're wearing many of the same materials, but they're very visually distinct, because people are thinking about kind of the creation of identity and the creation of a community through this kind of clothing.

AMBUSKE: As the Haudenosaunee and other native peoples blended European goods into their own cultural practices, their buying habits reshaped local and transatlantic economies.

KANE: Traders like Fonda or Robert Sanders, who's in Albany. They're writing letters back to England or to other manufacturers in Europe and saying, I need X, Y, and Z specific kinds of cloth. And then those manufacturers are responding. Within towns like Albany, or even some of the further east coast towns like Boston or Philadelphia, overseers of the poor are doing things like instead of giving direct aid to widows and orphans, they're giving cloth and buying things like having those widows and orphans make shirts, or make leggings for the Indian trade. There's a lot of goods that people like Fonda sell like leggings, specifically made shirts that are distinct for the Indian trade, that are not being sold to settlers.

AMBUSKE: With the French gone, however, the British would be able to exert greater control over the cloth, guns, ammunition, tools, and alcohol that native peoples had integrated into their respective cultures.

AMBUSKE: Yet, even as policymakers in London began crafting a coherent plan to manage Briton’s relationships with numerous native nations, who were spread all over eastern North America, each with different interests of their own, British officers and settlers on the ground still had to operate on native terms.

AMBUSKE: For as recent events had shown, disputes over trade and reciprocity could fracture alliances, and lead to an explosion of violence between the British, British Americans, and native peoples in North America.

AMBUSKE: Over 800 miles to the south from Fort Michilimackinac, where Alexander Henry and Minavavana were beginning a new era of British-Ojibwa relations, a conflict known to the Cherokees as “The war with those in red coats” was coming to an end.

AMBUSKE: For much of the first half of the eighteenth century, the Cherokees had been allies of the British and key trading partners with the colony of South Carolina. About 10,000 Cherokees lived in three principal village communities in and around the rugged and mountainous terrain of what is now eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia, northwestern South Carolina, and western North Carolina. They also claimed expansive homelands and hunting grounds in parts of what is now Kentucky, western Virginia, and northern Alabama.

AMBUSKE: The Cherokees sold deer skins and war captives to the Carolinians. Sometimes, they captured enslaved people who had escaped from farms and plantations in the east and returned them to their white neighbors in exchange for rewards.

AMBUSKE: During the Seven Years’ War, Cherokee raids played a key role in weakening the bonds of alliance between the French and the Delawares and other Indigenous peoples in the Ohio Country. They helped lead to the Treaty of Easton in October 1758 and the withdrawal of the Lenni Lenape from the war.

AMBUSKE: But in the spring and summer of 1758, Brigadier General John Forbes made a serious mistake, with consequences no one could foresee.

AMBUSKE: The Scottish-born Forbes had recruited several hundred Cherokee warriors for his planned assault on Fort Duquesne at the Forks of the Ohio River, the center of French power in the Ohio Country. A series of delays left the Cherokees impatient, and Forbes’ attempt to treat them as subordinates instead of allies left them insulted.

AMBUSKE: Most of the Cherokee warriors headed home from Forbes’s headquarters at Winchester, Virginia, carrying the weapons he had given them.

AMBUSKE: Although Forbes learned his lesson, and came to recognize the value of Indigenous partnerships to a degree that few European-born officers did, the British and the Cherokees paid an unexpected price for his diplomatic misstep.

AMBUSKE: The surviving sources offer a confusing account of what happened next.

AMBUSKE: As the armed Cherokees passed through Bedford County, in the piedmont of western Virginia, on their way south toward the Great Smoky Mountains, their appearance provoked fear among white settlers. In the middle of a war, with raids against settlements a frequent occurrence, it’s possible the Virginians mistook them for enemy Shawnee warriors. It’s also possible that with tensions running high in the backcountry, it didn’t matter what nations they were from.

AMBUSKE: Either deliberately or by mistake, the Cherokees took horses that Virginia settlers claimed. Rumors swirled of marauding Indians in the backcountry. John Blair, the acting governor of Virginia, tried to make sense of the various reports. On May 24, 1758, he wrote to Virginia planter and militia colonel George Washington that:

JOHN BLAIR [NORMAN RODGER]: “Last Saturday brot me an Accot of a large party of Indians who in passing thro’ Bedford spread themselves in smaller Companys many Miles wide and Robb’d every Plantation they came at. This provoked the Inhabitants to a great degree; Col: Talbot sent out Militia to protect them, who came up with a Party of them and seeing some of their Horses demanded restitution; but the Indians answered they must fight for them, and fired upon them, and killed one Man; whereupon they fired upon the Indians and killed some of them.”

AMBUSKE: The skirmish left three Cherokee chiefs and at least one settler dead. Recognizing the incident could destabilize relations with the Cherokees, Blair ordered an inquiry. He promised to send the results to Governor William Lyttelton of South Carolina:            

JOHN BLAIR [NORMAN RODGER]: “to beg his Assistance, to prevent the disaffection of the [Cherokee] Nation and the ill consequences that might ensue on a misrepresentation.”

AMBUSKE: Settlers killed at least 30 more Cherokees before they managed to return home.

AMBUSKE: South Carolinians made matters worse. While the warriors were in Virginia, white Carolinians violated Cherokee territory to hunt game. By poaching deer and other wildlife, the settlers compromised the available supply of game the Cherokees would rely on during the winter.

AMBUSKE: Over the course of 1759, as some Cherokee leaders called for vengeance, others, like Attakullakulla, or the Little Carpenter, counseled a more moderate approach. He requested that Governor Lyttelton and the South Carolina government give the Cherokees a large present to atone for the settlers’ transgressions.

AMBUSKE: Lyttelton refused. The governor’s decision weakened Little Carpenter's standing as a negotiator among his people. When Lyttelton learned that Cherokee warriors had killed thirty settlers, he stopped the customary shipment of arms and ammunition to the Cherokees until their leaders gave up those responsible for the settlers’ deaths.

AMBUSKE: Lyttelton doubled down in October 1759. He took hostage a new Cherokee delegation of chiefs sent to Charleston to negotiate for peace. To demonstrate the colony’s resolve, the governor then marched the hostages and 1,300 provincial soldiers to Fort Prince George, the trading post near the Cherokee town of Keowee in what is now the northwest corner of South Carolina.

AMBUSKE:  On November 4, 1759, the elite South Carolina planter, botanist, and enslaver Eliza Lucas Pinckney wrote to Jane Thorpe Onslow about the war. From Charleston, she described Lyttelton’s intentions this way:

ELIZA LUCAS PINCKNEY [ANNE FERTIG] : “He set out a few days…. last week for the Cherokee nation to demand satisfaction at the head of an army for the Cruel murders they have commited on our back settlers[.] what the Event will be Heaven only knows[.] we hope a good and lasting peace.”

AMBUSKE: But there would be no good or lasting peace. By taking the moderate chiefs hostage, Lyttelton enhanced the influence of the more militant Cherokee leaders. They likely received encouragement to fight from Creek leaders in northern Alabama, who offered the tantalizing possibility of a new alliance and aid from the French. Neither ever materialized.

AMBUSKE: Governor Lyttelton promised to give the Cherokees three tons of gunpowder and the hostages, if they turned over the warriors who had killed the settlers. From the Cherokees’ point of view, the warriors had fulfilled an obligation to avenge the deaths of their people. But the South Carolinians saw them as murderers.

AMBUSKE: Although his power was waning, the Little Carpenter managed to convince his fellow chiefs to release two of the accused warriors to the governor and his soldiers.

AMBUSKE: Knowing that his soldiers’ enlistments were about to expire, and apparently satisfied that he had accomplished as much as he could, Lyttleton left the rest of the  hostages and the gunpowder in the care of the garrison at Fort Prince George, with orders to release both once the Cherokees had given up the rest of the accused warriors.

AMBUSKE: Pinckney offered her friend, Wilhelmina-Catharine Troye King, a rosy, triumphant assessment of Lyttelton’s expedition. In February 1760, she wrote:

ELIZA LUCAS PINCKNEY [ANNE FERTIG]: “Govr. Lyttelton with our Army are safely returned from their Cherokee Expedition where they went to demand satisfaction for the murders commited on our people[.] the first Army yt ever attempted to go into that wild Country[.] they had been very insolent and commitied sevl Murders and Outrages in our back settlements nor ever expected white men would have resolution enough to march up their Mountains. Mr. Lyttelton has acted with great spirit and conduct and gaind much honour in the affair and obtained from them what Indians never before granted[,] such of the murderers as they could then take and Hostages for the rest till they could be taken”

AMBUSKE: What Pinckney and other Charlestonians didn’t know is that in mid-January, Cherokee warriors attacked Fort Prince George in an attempt to free the hostages. In the days and weeks that followed, the Cherokees began raiding from Virginia down through Georgia, sending settlers fleeing back east. The attacks severed contact with Fort Loudoun to the northwest.  In retaliation, the garrison at Fort Prince George, slaughtered the remaining 22 Cherokee hostages.

AMBUSKE: The Cherokees attacks were so effective, and so devastating, that they pushed the line of white settlement in South Carolina back 100 miles, all the way to Orangeburg, which lay just 75 miles from Charleston, the provincial capital.

AMBUSKE: With few soldiers and militia at his disposal, Lyttelton appealed to the governor of Virginia for provincial troops and asked General Jeffrey Amherst, the commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, for British regulars. Amherst, who was busy planning the final campaign against Montreal and New France, dispatched Colonel Archibald Montgomery with the 1st and 77th Regiments of Foot, made up of almost entirely Scottish officers and soldiers.

AMBUSKE: In June 1760, Montgomery and his regiments, joined by Carolina Rangers, marched into the Cherokee Lower Towns, located in western Carolina and northern Georgia. As Pinckney reported to George Morley on July 19th:

ELIZA LUCAS PINCKNEY [ANNE FERTIG]: “Our Indian affairs are in a poor way, Colo. Mongomerie at the head of 16 hundred men including rangers marchd into the [lower] Cherokee Towns and destroyd 5 towns wch. raised the spirrits of people much.”

AMBUSKE: After the Cherokee refused to negotiate, Montgomery sent his men northwest, into the mountains, toward the Middle Towns located along and near the Little Tennessee River. To reach them, his Scots would have to climb through the unforgiving terrain of the Great Smoky Mountains. 

AMBUSKE: The mountainous landscape and fierce Cherokee resistance ground Montgomery’s campaign to a halt. He ordered a retreat, first to Fort Prince George, and then back to Charleston, much to the disappointment of settlers like Eliza Lucas Pinckney:

ELIZA LUCAS PINCKNEY [ANNE FERTIG]: “While we imagind he was proceeding to Fort Loudon he began his march towards Crs. Town in order to return to Genl. Amherst in consiquence of whose orders ’tis said he returns.”

AMBUSKE: The British regulars sailed for New York, with a confident Amherst satisfied that they had sufficiently humbled the Cherokee.

AMBUSKE: Amherst was wrong.

AMBUSKE: In June, when the Cherokee in the Overhill Towns on the west side of the mountains learned of Montgomery’s attack on the Lower Towns, they began pressing a siege to Fort Loudoun. Cut off from the rest of British forces in January, the garrison had managed to survive as long as it did in part because some Cherokee women brought the fort food. They were the wives of some of the British soldiers there.

AMBUSKE: When the garrison surrendered in August, the warriors killed several of the officers and men, and took many more soldiers and civilians into captivity. John Stuart, a South Carolina militia captain and friend of Little Carpenter, was the only officer spared.

AMBUSKE: Although a period of quiet followed the attack on Fort Loudoun, it came to an end in early 1761. Amherst acknowledged that the Cherokees had not been chastised after all. Having completed the conquest of New France, Amherst sent Lt. Colonel James Grant of Ballindalloch south to end the Anglo-Cherokee War.

AMBUSKE: Grant had been with General Forbes on the expedition to Fort Duquesne in 1758. And in a few years’ time, George III would name him governor of the new colony of East Florida.

AMBUSKE: In the summer 1761, Grant had nearly 3,000 well-trained and well-supplied British regulars and provincial troops under his command. They were joined by some Mohawk and Stockbridge scouts from the north, and Catawba and Chickasaw warriors from the south.

AMBUSKE: Grant’s force succeeded where Montgomery’s had failed. His men confronted Cherokee communities weakened by the previous year’s campaigns and running low on supplies and ammunition. In June, Grant’s army began climbing into the mountains and laid waste to the Middle Towns. They burnt homes and crops, killing many.

AMBUSKE: In August, faced with the loss of 15 towns and 1,500 acres of cropland as winter neared, an outbreak of smallpox, with no help coming from the Creeks, and with British-allied native peoples now raiding their villages, the Cherokees asked to negotiate peace.

AMBUSKE: To the dismay of South Carolinians, the British and Cherokees negotiated surprisingly generous terms. With the more militant Cherokees’ influence diminished in the wake of the British victory, the moderate leader Little Carpenter spoke for his people. In separate treaties signed with Virginia and South Carolina, the Cherokees agreed to return white prisoners, enslaved people, and livestock. They also agreed to cede some of their hunting grounds in the Lower Towns to South Carolina, a token yet strategic move that preserved the majority of their lands.

AMBUSKE: Like many Charlestonians, Eliza Lucas Pinckney didn’t think the war had gone far enough. Writing around the time of Grant’s campaign, she reflected:

ELIZA LUCAS PINCKNEY [ANNE FERTIG]: “I know not what to tell you of our affairs in ye Indian Country on wch. to found any real satisfaction our army are still there, we have destroy’d Sevl. of their Towns, but when you consider what Indian Towns are, and how soon rebuilt, you will think we need not be too much elated with the success we have had hithertoo unless we had killed more Indians.”

AMBUSKE: In the afterglow of their conquest of New France in September 1760, and their defeat of the Cherokee nearly a year later, British officers, colonial officials, and settlers in North America took away a series of conflicting lessons, as they tried to extend British authority and influence west of the mountains.

AMBUSKE: Amherst, the commander-in-chief, seemed to learn all the wrong ones. He believed that the end of the war in North America should also mark the end of humoring native peoples with gifts and presents.

AMBUSKE: Like his late French counterpart, the Marquis de Montcalm, Amherst viewed the distribution of trade goods to the Haudenosaunee and other allied peoples as an increasingly expensive and unnecessary charge against the King’s accounts.

AMBUSKE: Amherst could not or was unwilling to see this type of exchange as essential to ensuring that the chains of friendship with Indigenous communities did not turn to rust. Nor could he anticipate the consequences of his inattentiveness to native cultural practices. In his mind, they ought to get what they needed from proper, commercial transactions alone.

AMBUSKE: In February 1761, Amherst made this point to Sir William Johnson. As Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern District, Johnson managed the government’s relationship with the Six Nations Iroquois and other native peoples in the northern colonies.

AMBUSKE: Providing some clothing and ammunition made sense in the short-term as the British took control of trading posts like Detroit, but Amherst told Johnson that:

JEFFREY AMHERST [ANGEL-LUKE O’Donnell]: “When the Intended Trade is once Established they will be able to supply themselves with these, from Traders, for their furrs, I do not see why the Crown should be put to that Expence.”

AMBUSKE: But Johnson did. His very office embodied the lingering uncertainty that plagued the British in these years as they attempted to define their relationship with native peoples. He was at once the king’s representative to sovereign nations, and a liaison to the people who inhabited the lands George III now claimed. But more than that, he was a seasoned colonial official who had over two decades of experience working with Indigenous cultures, most especially the Mohawk.

HAYLEY MADL: Johnson's an Indian agent first and then an official of the empire. And so and that's the way that he approached a lot of these relationships.

MADL: My name is Hayley Madl. I am a PhD student at George Mason University. And my specialization is in community engaged Indigenous history

MADL: What I think Johnson did, that made him such a successful Indian agent and negotiator and eventual Superintendent of Indian affairs in the north. He really went and immersed himself in indigenous society.

MADL: Johnson emigrates, over from Ireland in 1738. And he sets up on essentially on Mohawk land, and he really just gets to work. I don't want to say that Johnson didn't have the same sort of prejudices against indigenous people as Amherst, I think he was just less like, militant about it. He could see benefits in the ways that indigenous people operated, and consequently, in what developing those relationships could do.

MADL: And he really invested a lot of time in developing those personal relationships. Those are personal connections, friendship connections that he had made, that eventually made him very successful as superintendent. But it was that sort of immersion in Mohawk way of life and in Mohawk culture, and knew within their specific issues. He was there to kind of solve their issues and advance his own influence.

MADL: When someone like Johnson walks into a treaty Council, and enters into these negotiations, it becomes a much different game. And it's because he puts so much work into developing these sorts of connections and  adopting a lot of these, life ways, and from leveraging those relationships, like Molly Brandt was just as powerful among her people, as William Johnson was arguably more so.

AMBUSKE: Here’s Maeve Kane.

KANE: So Molly Brandt was the second wife of Sir William Johnson.

KANE: She's unique in her marriage to this very prominent British diplomat, she's described as very unique by European settlers who described her where she wears this very distinctive mix of settler style silk match was with silver hair plates, which is a distinctively indigenous decoration or indigenous style earrings, leggings with her silk mantra was, which is really interesting mix.

KANE: There's very few letters. Molly Brandt was probably literate in English. She was certainly literate in Mohawk, because there's descriptions of her writing in Mohawk by other people, and there's a few letters in English where it's not clear if she wrote them or if she dictated them.  

KANE: And scholars debate this but I would argue that Mali grant is in large part how he becomes so prominent. Molly Brandt and her younger brother Joseph Brant are from a very prominent holding shown a leadership family. There have many influential relations and when Molly Brandt marries William Johnson in the 1750s. She brings him into this network of connections that he wouldn't have had otherwise.  

AMBUSKE: Johnson’s experiences negotiating with Indigenous peoples, bolstered by Molly Brandt’s own standing and authority in her community, afforded him insights into the cultural importance of reciprocity that military officers like Amherst could not understand.

AMBUSKE: In late summer 1761, as the British were busy assuming control of former French forts in the Great Lakes and the Ohio Country, Johnson was preparing to meet with native peoples in Detroit. Learning of unrest throughout the region, Johnson’s goal was to assuage their fears of Britain’s victory, establish good diplomatic and trade relations with the formerly French-allied peoples, and bring them under British influence.

AMBUSKE: The last objective was of considerable importance. Privately, Johnson feared that someday the Haudenosaunee would use their claim to speak for Ohio natives to unite with them against the British.

AMBUSKE: To prevent that, Johnson chose to deal with the Ohio peoples directly at Detroit, much to the annoyance of the Six Nations’ grand council fire at Onondaga. Johnson shrugged off these Haudenosaunee complaints, believing that in this case, it was in Britain’s imperial interest to establish a strong diplomatic presence in the region.

AMBUSKE: To secure this new alliance, Johnson advised Amherst that presents must be given as a token of George III’s friendship in keeping with native diplomatic customs.

AMBUSKE: Hayley Madl explains:

MADL: People like the French in particular, and people like William Johnson understood the necessary aspect of gift giving, and this reciprocal relationship. That's an indigenous conception of relationship, that it is what's much easier for people like Johnson to leverage that to accomplish their own aims.

AMBUSKE: The so-called conqueror of Canada saw things differently.

MADL: People like Amherst only saw the expense of that relationship. They were like we're sinking so much money into the Indian trade. And it's got to stop. We just fought a war. We have no money.

AMBUSKE: Amherst believed that native peoples could get what they needed through trade. Their dependence on the King’s purse ought to be eliminated. Johnson was also instructed to mention the results of the Cherokee war, an implicit threat and a demonstration of British power. Moreover, it made little sense to him to gift ammunition:

JEFFREY AMHERST [ANGEL-LUKE O’Donnell]: “since nothing can be so impolitick as to furnish them with the means of accomplishing the Evil which is so much Dreaded.”

AMBUSKE: Amherst’s view of trade and gifts as purely commercial, rather than as cultural transactions, made for a bad first impression with Britain’s potential new Indigenous partners and its existing ones.

AMBUSKE: Denying them gunpowder made it more difficult for them to hunt on behalf of their communities. Further orders restricting trade itself to British forts theoretically prevented traders from traveling to native villages as they had before, forcing Indigenous peoples to carry their furs and trade goods over longer distances.

AMBUSKE: We can learn much about these growing tensions from an exchange between Sir William Johnson and the Wyandot chief Anáiása at Detroit in September 1761. It speaks to the delicate relationships between the British and native peoples of the Ohio Country at the end of the Seven Years’ War in North America.

AMBUSKE: On September 9, 1761, Johnson met with representatives from the Ojibwe, Odawa, Wyandot, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Miami, and others. Johnson spoke for the king, with the power to negotiate on behalf of the empire. He opened the meeting with a speech declaring Britain's intention to:

SIR WILLIAM JOHNSON [LOREN MOULDS]: “wipe away those Tears from your Eyes which were shed for the losses you sustained during the War in which you were imprudently engaged against the English…I do also pluck out of your heads the Hatchet with which we were obliged to strike you, & apply a healing salve to the Wound.”

AMBUSKE: A few moments later, Johnson presented the assembled delegates with a belt of wampum featuring 20 rows of the finely-tooled shell beads. The belt represented the Covenant Chain, the treaties of friendship between the British and Indigenous peoples like the Haudenosaunee.

SIR WILLIAM JOHNSON [LOREN MOULDS]: “Brethren. With this belt In the name of his Britannick Majesty I strengthen and renew the antient Covenant Chain formerly subsisting between us, that it may remain bright & lasting to the lates Ages.” 

AMBUSKE: Johnson wanted to brighten the chain of friendship and bring stability to the region. Crucially, he claimed that George III had no desire to take their lands. The soldiers who were coming to occupy former French forts in the region had orders to keep the peace in the Ohio Country in the interest of friendship and protecting mutually beneficial trade.

AMBUSKE: On the following day, September 10th, the Wyandot chief Anáiása rose to give the delegates’ reply. He expressed skepticism about British intentions. The delegates wanted peace no less than the British, but on terms acceptable to their nations. That meant treating them as equal partners, as brethren, preserving their sovereignty, and preventing encroachment on their lands.

ANÁIÁSA [BRANDON TACHCO]: “Brother. It gives us great satisfaction to hear that the King has no intentions to deprive us of our Lands (of which we were once very apprehensive) and as to the Troops who are now going to the distant posts, we are well pleased therewith, and hope they will look upon and treat us as Brethren, in which light they shall always be Esteemed by us as we are determined to live on the best terms with them”

AMBUSKE: In accepting the Covenant Chain, he reminded Johnson and the British of their obligation to polish that chain so that it would not lose its luster.

AMBUSKE: As he finished his speech, Anáiása argued that the high price of goods was a sign of disrespect to their communities. It was also an acknowledgment of just how essential those goods had become to their way of life.   

ANÁIÁSA [BRANDON TACHCO]: “There is but one thing more which we have to say to you before we Make an end, that is, to remind you of your promises concerning trade, of which, and of the dearness of goods, and Scarcity of ammunition we could say a great deal. The traders selling their Goods so dear that we are scarcely able to purchase them, besides, many articles are very scarce & in particular powder is sold so sparingly & is so hard to be got that we are all apprehensive we must shortly be obliged to leave off hunting entirely.”

AMBUSKE: British Americans gave Ohio peoples every reason to believe that George III and his government were incapable of fulfilling their promises or controlling settlers.

AMBUSKE: If, as some British politicians would soon argue, the object of the war was the destruction of New France and the security of Britain's colonies in North America, then for British Americans, especially colonists in Pennsylvania and Virginia, the end of the war meant the settlement of the west.

AMBUSKE: Those desires ran afoul of the imperial policies the British had begun putting in place since the war began to manage Indigenous relationships from London.

AMBUSKE: In the Treaty of Easton of 1758, for instance, British and colonial officials had promised the Delawares, the Haudenosaunee, and others that they would restrain settlers from entering the trans-Appalachian west.

AMBUSKE: But only a year later, Francis Fauquier, the lieutenant governor of Virginia, wrote to London calling on the Board of Trade to develop a plan to grant lands west of the Allegheny Mountains in the Ohio River valley.

AMBUSKE: Land grants had been promised to military veterans like Colonel George Washington for their service in the war. Wealthy, elite members of the provincial council sought huge tracts of land along the Ohio River for themselves, and they were determined to use their privilege and power to shut out smaller players. Land speculators like the Ohio Company of Virginia pooled resources to lobby for land grants from the king. Virginians raced to settle the west before their rival Pennsylvanians.

AMBUSKE: Unsurprisingly, the Board of Trade rejected Fauquier’s request. To permit settlement in the Ohio Country would violate the Treaty of Easton, where the British had:

BOARD OF TRADE [ANGEL-LUKE O’DONNELL]: “solemnly relinquished to the Indians all the Land to the Westward of the great mountains, and Engaged not to make any Settlement upon it.”

AMBUSKE: Later, in December 1761, the King’s Privy Council reinforced the government’s position by commanding colonial governors not to make land grants over the mountains.

AMBUSKE: Despite such pronouncements from London, the Ohio Company continued to lobby the Virginia government and the King’s ministers for land grants. Meanwhile, British officers in the North American borderlands struggled to honor the treaty’s terms.

AMBUSKE: In the fall of 1761, Henry Bouquet, a Swiss-born British officer, was in command at Fort Pitt at the Forks of the Ohio River, which the British had built to replace the ruined Fort Duquesne. On October 30th, Bouquet issued a proclamation ordering illegal white immigrants to retreat east back across the mountains. In the spring of 1762, he deployed soldiers to burn down the squatters’ homes.

AMBUSKE: Much as these turn of events alarmed elite land speculators and ambitious squatters, they eroded Indigenous confidence in British promises, despite whatever inroads Sir William Johnson may have accomplished at Detroit.

AMBUSKE: New restrictions on presents and trade, the appearance of settlers west of the mountains, the construction of new roads and forts, and the loss of the French as a counterweight to the British, convinced some native nations that resistance through force was the best way to preserve their sovereignty, and revitalize their communities, before it was too late.

AMBUSKE: The Myaamia, or Miami, whose homelands encompassed parts of what is now Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, shared this conviction.

GEORGE IRONSTRACK: It's really as the Seven Years’ War comes to an end. And you see a transition to British control of the French forts scattered throughout our homelands. That's when you see big impact.

IRONSTRACK: George Ironstrack, citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, and Assistant Director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University.

IRONSTRACK: So this transition is pretty rough. The British come in and you know, think Jeffery Amherst is sort of symbolic of all this kind of swaggering around and throw on their elbows. And, the French, were weak and behaved kind of weak. People were very, very frustrated by this. And so certainly we participated in in what people call Pontiac's war Pontiac’s Uprising is attempt, at the very end of the Seven Years’ War to push back against this British presence of this type, this very aggressive Imperial British presence in these trading scenarios. And so there's a major effort at like renewal and revitalization through the messages brought by the Delaware Prophet Neolin that are about rejecting some aspects of European culture and European trade goods, an attempt to regain a sense of interdependency among indigenous nations and remove this dependency on Europeans that both the French and the British tried to play off of. And I think the end of the Seven Years’ War really lights a fire under that.

AMBUSKE: In late 1761, wampum war belts began circulating among many different nations in the Ohio and Illinois Countries, including the Odawas, Shawnees, Delawares, Ojibwas, Potawatomis, Miamis, and the Seneca.

AMBUSKE: For more than a century, historians have searched for a singular plot or a conspiracy to explain the outbreak of violence that soon erupted, but there really wasn’t one.

AMBUSKE: Instead, disbelief over the French cession of their lands without their permission following Canada’s surrender, shared frustrations over General Amherst’s new trade restrictions, an awareness of their dependence on European-made goods, and their alarm at the appearance of squatters over the mountains, congealed over many months into a pan-Indigenous alliance that offered a formidable challenge to British power and its empire.

AMBUSKE: Likewise, since the 1850s historians have argued about the nature of the man typically identified as the movement’s most visible leader.

AMBUSKE: Was the Odawa warrior Pontiac the commander-in-chief of Indian forces in the battles to come, or was he just the person the British begrudgingly respected and conveniently assigned to that role? Did he lead a rebellion, a conspiracy, or a war against the British and their colonists? Was it “Pontiac’s War,” as we have come to call the conflict, or, much as the term “French and Indian War” erases the distinctiveness of French-allied nations, does the name “Pontiac’s War” similarly obscure its many different leaders?

AMBUSKE: In fact, we know very little about the life of Pontiac before 1763. He was born sometime in the early eighteenth century, likely on the western edge of Lake Erie - possibly in the Odawa village at Detroit. He probably fought with other Odawas alongside the French during the Seven Years’ War and he certainly shared the grievances felt by his and other Indigenous peoples after New France’s defeat.

AMBUSKE: Even as historians continue to debate Pontiac’s precise role in the war that bears his name, what we do know is that he was able to marshal this shared Indigenous sense of disappointment, betrayal, fear, and anger to great effect.

AMBUSKE: That he could do so was thanks in large measure to the teachings of the Delaware prophet Neolin. Since his first encounter with the Master of Life that night sometime after September 1760, possibly in a Lenape village in what is now eastern Ohio, Neolin claimed that war with the British was all but certain. His vision of the Master of Life, and the spirit’s admonishment to lessen their dependence on white ways and live separately from them, added to the growing fervor. It helped to drown out more moderate voices who preached conciliation with the British and their colonists.

AMBUSKE: The Prophet’s messages require careful reading. As word of his prophecies spread orally from the Ohio Country in the east to the Illinois Country in the west, the Master of Life’s commandments varied in form, and they evolved with time.

AMBUSKE: Some British sources, such as the journals of British traders like James Kenny, suggest that Neolin preached the removal of all white people and culture from Indigenous societies.

AMBUSKE: By March 1763, Neolin began laying out a gradual process for how cultural revitalization would happen. Native boys would be taught to use the bow and arrow as their ancestors once had. For seven years, they would eat a diet that included an herbal tea, known in some cultures as “the black drink.” It would induce vomiting, and thus purge their bodies and minds of white influence. During this time, trade with Europeans would continue to ensure good hunting and access to other supplies, but after the seventh year, trade would cease.

AMBUSKE: Other evidence survives in French manuscripts, like the journal attributed to Robert Navarre. They offer an equally complicated tale.

AMBUSKE: Navarre was a former French officer who was stationed at Detroit. By 1763, he was working for the British there when Pontiac and native forces arrived at the fort. On April 27th, Navarre witnessed Pontiac relate a version of Neolin’s experiences as he spoke in council to a gathering of Odawa, Objiwa, and Potawatomis. According to Pontiac, the Master of Life was unhappy that native peoples had become consumed by white ways and allowed white people to live on their lands. Nevertheless, he would permit the French to live among them. Other French manuscripts report similar sentiments, and they correspond with the generally favorable treatment of French settlers in the war to come.

AMBUSKE: Regardless of whether the sources made distinctions between the two European powers, the implication for what must be done to the British was clear. As Pontiac recounted the Master of Life’s words at Detroit: “drive them out, make war upon them…Send them back to the lands which I have created for them.”

AMBUSKE: Pontiac began that war in early May 1763. Here’s Hayley Madl:

MADL: This was a major indigenous uprising to essentially protest can continued British occupation of spaces when they're not fulfilling their side of agreements. And this is this was a major problem. Pontiac's War really showcased how people like Amherst, you can't just roll back the Indian trade you can't just pretend that you're the one in charge now, like, these are still like nations that have the significant amount of power.

AMBUSKE: By then, it had been three months since the French had formally ceded Canada to the British in the Treaty of Paris, without Indigenous input. It would take months before word of the treaty reached the farthest French outposts in the Illinois Country.

AMBUSKE: A few days after he invoked the Master of Life’s command to drive the British back over the mountains, Pontiac attempted to capture Fort Detroit by subterfuge. The fort was home to about 2,500 civilians and 120 British soldiers.

AMBUSKE: On May 1st, Pontiac persuaded Major Henry Gladwin, the fort’s commander, to grant him and as many as 50 other native people entry to perform a ceremonial dance. As the drums beat, and as British soldiers, civilians, and former French settlers watched, ten warriors took note of the fort’s layout, including the location of the gunpowder magazine.  

AMBUSKE: The English-born Gladwin suspected a trap. Some evidence suggests he had an Indigenous informant. When Pontiac returned on May 7th under the guise of holding talks with the British, he was accompanied into the fort by 300 Wyandots and Anishinaabeg, who had guns hidden underneath their robes. As they dispersed along the fort’s streets, they waited for Pontiac to give the signal to attack, but Gladwin had his own men under arms and stationed along the fort’s walls. They had the high ground. 

AMBUSKE: Perhaps Gladwin and Pontiac exchanged knowing glances before the Ojibwa warrior and his men withdrew from the fort.

AMBUSKE: With the element of surprise gone, and after further attempts to gain Gladwin’s trust proved futile, Pontiac and a force of what would grow to 900 warriors began laying siege to the fort on May 9th. He believed his actions would convince the French father to awaken from his deep sleep and once again make war on the British.

AMBUSKE: Detroit was one of over a dozen British forts west of the Appalachian Mountains to come under attack by native warriors in the spring and summer of 1763.

AMBUSKE: Pontiac’s ruse at Fort Detroit might have failed, but Fort Michilimackinac was a different story. It was among the many British forts to fall in the early months of Pontiac’s War.

AMBUSKE: That spring, warriors from the Ojibwe and Saux nations developed a stratagem to lull the garrison at Michilimackinac into a false sense of security.

AMBUSKE: By all appearances, the allied warriors who arrived outside the fort’s walls that spring had come to trade. And they often played lacrosse in front of the fort’s main gate to the amusement of its British occupants.

AMBUSKE: What the soldiers and civilians within didn’t know is that Ojibwe women had hidden weapons in the warriors’ trade packs.

AMBUSKE: On the morning of June 2, 1763, the warriors began playing a game of lacrosse, in honor of George III’s birthday, to celebrate the British king who had replaced their French father. Rumors of possible Indian attacks were so frequent that Captain George Etherington, the commander of Fort Michilimackinac, believed they were nothing but baseless whispers.

AMBUSKE: On that cool morning, Etherington watched the warriors play for several hours before one of the combatants sent a ball sailing through the fort’s open gate.

AMBUSKE: That was the signal.

AMBUSKE: Before Etherington understood what was happening, the Ojibwe and Saux warriors rushed the fort, wielding the tomahawks and short spears the Ojibwe women had hidden for them. They took Etherington and his second in command hostage and killed fifteen soldiers and a civilian. From inside his home, the trader Alexander Henry heard the commotion before he, too, was captured. Besides captives, their greatest prize was fifty barrels of gunpowder. 

AMBUSKE: Of the fourteen forts that came under attack in the spring and summer months, nine, including Michilimackinac, fell to Indigenous forces.

AMBUSKE: Just as the Cherokees had rolled back the line of settlement in South Carolina three years earlier, Pontiac and his fellow warriors captured British forts and sent British Americans fleeing east. For a time, as some 4,000 Virginians and Pennsylvanians fled the backcountry, it seemed as if Neolin’s prophecy was being fulfilled.

AMBUSKE: But they could not take Forts Pitt, Detroit, or Niagara.

AMBUSKE: At Fort Pitt, the British turned to a darker strategy. In June 1763, smallpox broke out among the garrison. In this scourge of the eighteenth century, General Amherst saw both a weapon and an opportunity. Writing from his headquarters in New York City, he encouraged Henry Bouquet to send blankets infected with the disease to the warriors outside the fort’s walls, and to pursue any other method they could think of to, as he said, “Extirpate this Excerable Race.”

AMBUSKE: Amherst was no doubt delighted to learn that Fort Pitt’s officers had anticipated such orders. Three weeks earlier, two Delaware chiefs named Turtle Heart and Maumaltee arrived at the fort to convince the British to surrender.

AMBUSKE: The Pennsylvania trader and militia commander William Trent wrote in his diary that:

WILLIAM TRENT [LOREN MOULDS]: “Out of our regard to them we gave them two Blankets and a Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect.”

AMBUSKE: In one sense, it did. British officials later learned that smallpox had broken out in nearby native communities.

AMBUSKE: However, it was not smallpox that saved Fort Pitt. In August, Bouquet and an army of mostly Scottish Highlanders, men who had just returned to the mainland after helping capture Spanish Cuba and French Martinique, managed to defeat the allied warriors at the Battle of Bushy Run in western Pennsylvania…but only just barely, and at considerable cost in men and supplies.

AMBUSKE: Even then, the British at Fort Pitt never really lifted the siege. The needs of Indigenous communities proved to be the fort’s salvation. By October, the warriors began departing for their homelands to prepare for the winter hunt.

AMBUSKE: Nearly 300 miles to the northwest, the siege of Detroit had ground to a halt. Pontiac and his fellow warriors couldn’t dislodge Major Henry Gladwin and his men, nor could Gladwin afford to hold out much longer.

AMBUSKE: In September 1763, a force of Ojibwa, Odawa, and Seneca warriors wreaked havoc along a key supply line connecting Fort Niagara in northwestern New York to the western outposts, including Detroit. Although the British managed to reclaim the line, and Niagara itself never came under attack, the disruption nearly sealed Detroit’s fate. 

AMBUSKE: Had it not been for a message from the French father, and the coming winter, then perhaps it would have.

AMBUSKE: In early October, news of the Treaty of Paris of 1763 finally reached Pierre-Joseph Neyon de Villiers, the commanding officer at Fort de Chartres. The fort sat on the east bank of the Mississippi River, about 50 miles south of modern-day St. Louis, Missouri, in what was then the French colony of Louisiana.

AMBUSKE: When Neyon learned that his king had ceded both New France, and the colony of Louisiana east of the Mississippi to the British, he also received instructions to send wampum belts and deputies to native peoples in the Illinois and Ohio Countries, to advise them that France was now at peace with Great Britain, and that they should make peace as well.

AMBUSKE: On October 28th, a young French officer brought Pontiac and the warriors outside Fort Detroit’s walls a message urging them “to make peace with their Brothers the English.” Ironically, Neyon received a plea from Pontiac for aid only a day earlier.

AMBUSKE: The French weren’t coming. And with winter on the way, Pontiac and his allies now had little choice but to abandon their siege, turn to the hunt, and prepare their communities for the cold months ahead.

AMBUSKE: Pontiac and Major Gladwin negotiated what amounted to a truce by November 1st. But there would be no permanent peace, not yet anyway, as Pontiac’s War would continue for another 15 months in intermittent fighting that convinced George III and his ministers in London that they must draw a line. Pontiac left Detroit, along with 150 Odawa and Ojibwa, and headed south for a village along the Maumee River, to winter, recover, and plan.

AMBUSKE: Henry Gladwin must have breathed a heavy sigh of relief as he watched Pontiac and his forces fade into the distance.

AMBUSKE: Pontiac never knew, as Gladwin did, that Fort Detroit had less than two weeks’ worth of flour left inside.


AMBUSKE: It snowed the morning of December 14, 1763 in Conestoga Town. And it was cold. It was near the banks of the Susquehanna River, in what is now Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

AMBUSKE: The village was home to the Conestoga people, part of the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannock Nation, that had once stretched from northern Maryland into southern New York.

AMBUSKE: By the late seventeenth century, however, disease, conflicts with Virginia and Maryland settlers, pressure from the Haudenosaunee, and the competing interests of various colonies had taken their toll on the Susquehannock. In 1701, part of the nation ceded land to William Penn, the founder and proprietor of Pennsylvania, in exchange for the right to continued use of the land. They became known as the Conestoga.

AMBUSKE: For much of the next 60 years, the Conestoga lived in relative peace in Conestoga Town. They traded with the Pennsylvanians who settled near them, adopted white clothing, often went by English names like Little John or Beatty, and made their living by tending gardens or selling bowls and brooms. Many had become Christians. To all appearances, they had adapted to white society.

AMBUSKE: But the Seven Years’ War, and most especially Pontiac’s War, changed all of that.

AMBUSKE: By the summer of 1763, devastating raids by the Delawares and Shawnees on backcountry settlements killed, by one estimate, 600 settlers. Everyday seemed to bring more and more petitions from the backcountry to the governor’s desk in Philadelphia, pleading with him and the legislature for soldiers and supplies, only to be met with frustration.

AMBUSKE: As they had in the 1750s, the Quaker majority in Pennsylvania’s assembly clashed with the governor over funding a war. For John Penn, the grandson of the colony’s founder who became governor in October 1763, this was a continuation of what he called “the old dispute.” They finally agreed to fund the militia, but it could only act on the defensive to protect harvesting parties. 

AMBUSKE: Some backcountry settlers, who had grown tired of what they saw as their government’s utter lack of inaction, and what they perceived as coddling of Indigenous peoples by imperial officials, decided to take matters into their own hands.

AMBUSKE: The Paxton Boys were among the Pennsylvanians who came to see enemies everywhere. Named for Paxton, a township to the north of Conestoga Town, the Paxton Boys were men who descended from Scots-Irish Presbyterians. They had little use for the colony’s Anglican and Quaker elite, and they believed they ought to do what a seemingly unresponsive government would not.

AMBUSKE: As rumors of impending attacks filled the air, and reports of armed and unknown natives circulated among neighbors, a belief grew that even friendly Indians like the Conestoga were internal enemies.

AMBUSKE: On that cold morning of December 14, 1763, nearly 60 armed Paxton Boys entered Conestoga Town, broke into the residents’ homes, and killed the six people they found there. Sheehays was among the dead. He had met William Penn as a young man, and kept the community’s copy of the 1701 treaty they had signed with him. 

AMBUSKE: Most of the Conestogas escaped death only because they were out trading that day.  Local officials moved them to a workhouse in Lancaster for their protection, but it was no use. On December 27th, with a crowd watching, the Paxton mob forced their way into the workhouse and murdered the remaining 14 Conestogas, including women and children.

AMBUSKE: No one involved in this uprising, of what Governor Penn called this “lawless party of Rioters,” ever faced justice for the killings.

AMBUSKE: The Pennsylvania merchant Edward Shippen’s reaction to the first attack reflected the feelings of many settlers in the backcountry, that even native allies were native enemies in waiting.

EDWARD SHIPPEN [DAVID MCKENZIE]: “Had it not been for the great Snow which fell here the day the Indians were killed at the Conestogo Town, harmless as they might have been before, it would not have been in our Power to have put them under any Confinement, but they would immediately have sought revenge as their Custom is[,] (on such occasions)[,] killed then next some of their neighbours, and then made off in the best way they could in Order to join their blood thirsty brothers the Delawares, and Shawanese, our most inveterate, and implacable Enemys.”

AMBUSKE: How the British would manage this mess, in this new world the Seven Years’ War had made, God only knew.

AMBUSKE: Thanks for listening to Worlds Turned Upside Down. Worlds is a production of R2 Studios, part of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Head to r2studios.org for a complete transcript of today’s episode and suggestions for further reading.  I’m your host, Jim Ambuske. Worlds is researched and written by me, with additional research, writing, and script editing by Jeanette Patrick. Our lead audio editor is Curt Dahl of CD Squared. Rachel Birch, Amber Pelham, and Alexandra Miller are our graduate assistants. Our thanks to Fred Anderson, George Ironstrack, Maeve Kane, and Hayley Madl for sharing their expertise with us in this episode. Special thanks to our voice actors Anne Fertig, Kathryn Gehred,  David Mckenzie, Loren Moulds, Angel-Luke O’Donnell, Norman Rodger, and Brandon Tachco. Special thanks also to Lynn Price Robbins and George Ironstrack. Subscribe to Worlds on your favorite podcast app. Thanks, and we’ll see you next time.













Fred Anderson, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Fred Anderson, Ph.D.

Professor of History Emeritus | University of Colorado-Boulder

Fred Anderson received his B.A. with Highest Distinction from Colorado State University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1981. He taught at Harvard and at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His publications include Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 (2000) and, with Andrew Cayton, The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America,1500-2000 (2005).

Maeve Kane, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Maeve Kane, Ph.D.

Maeve Kane is an associate professor at the University at Albany, SUNY, where she teaches Indigenous and early American history. Kane received her BA from Macalester College and her MA and PhD from Cornell University. Her first book, Shirts Powdered Red: Haudenosaunee Gender, Trade, and Exchange Across Three Centuries (Cornell 2023), argues that Haudenosaunee women used clothing and material culture to maintain an enduring Haudenosaunee identity in the face of American colonial pressures to assimilate and disappear. Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humantities, the Mellon Foundation, the New-York Historical Society, the Newberry Library, and the American Philosophical Society. Her other writing has appeared in the journals Ethnohistory and The Journal of Early American History, and she is the co-author of a forthcoming American women's history textbook covering the peopling of the Americas to 2021, American Women: A New Narrative (Wiley-Blackwell 2024).

George Ironstrack Profile Photo

George Ironstrack

George Ironstrack has participated in Myaamia language renewal projects as both a student and a teacher since the mid-1990s. George is a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and has assisted in the organization and administration of the Tribe’s Eewansaapita Summer Educational Experience since its inception in 2005. Examples of his work in history and education can be found on the Myaamia Community Blog: Aacimotaatiiyankwi.

Norman Rodger

Norman Rodger started as a History graduate, but after over twenty years playing in bands, working in adventure playgrounds, managing training programs for the long-term unemployed, working in multimedia, and more, playing in bands. Rodger found employment that made direct use of his degree. After over twenty years of working, with more twists and turns for the University of Edinburgh Library, he's about to hang up his boots and retire. We'll see what happens next!

Hayley Madl Profile Photo

Hayley Madl

Ph.D. Student | George Mason University

Hayley Madl is a Ph.D. student at George Mason University. She currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and as a Podcast Producer at R2 Studios whose credits include The Green Tunnel podcast. Hayley’s past work has centered on Indigenous expressions of sovereignty in treaty councils during the eighteenth century, particularly among the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations). Her current research focuses on the applications of 3D modeling and digital reconstruction to community memory and lost landscapes, especially within Indigenous communities.

Anne Fertig, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Anne Fertig, Ph.D.

Anne Fertig is the Digital Projects Editor at the Center for Digital History at the George Washington Presidential Library and the lead producer of the George Washington Podcast Network. A trained literary and book historian, Dr. Fertig completed her Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2022. In addition to her work at the George Washington Podcast Network, she is the founder and former co-director of Jane Austen & Co.

Loren Moulds Profile Photo

Loren Moulds

Digital Historian and Archivist

Loren Moulds leads the University of Virginia Law Library's efforts to develop online research tools and to promote, create and preserve its digital collections. Moulds received his bachelor's in English and American studies from Kalamazoo College in 2004 and earned a Ph.D. in History at the University of Virginia. He served as the director of the Project for Technology in History Education at the University of Virginia's Corcoran Department of History as well as the technology coordinator for UVA's Digital Classroom Initiative.

Angel-Luke O'Donnell

Lecturer at King's College London

Kathryn Gehred Profile Photo

Kathryn Gehred

Host of Your Most Obedient & Humble Servant

Kathryn Gehred is the creator and host of the podcast Your Most Obedient & Humble Servant which began releasing episodes in 2020. She has a master’s degree in Women’s History from Sarah Lawrence College and was part of a team of editors who completed The Papers of Martha Washington, a transcribed collection of all of Martha Washington’s known correspondence published by UVA Press in 2022. She is currently a media editor with Encyclopedia Virginia.