The True Legacy of Ogimaa Oboonidiyak (Chief Pontiac)
Once in a while a person of exceptional intellect and creativity, from the past or the present, inspires us into creating a painting, a graphic art work, a piece of jewelry, a poem… or a song. Today we like to share with you the remembrance of a great Anishinaabe Inini who lived two and a half century ago, and whose corrupted name – as it has been mangled through time in millions of strange mouths – is still widely known even today.
More than just a car
To the Anishinaabeg, OGIMAA OBOONIDIYAAK (Chief Obwandiyag) is a name with a magic ring that should be respectfully and properly pronounced at all times!
The name OBOONIDIYAAK, or OBWANDIYAG, or OBOITITIYAK, literally means “he stops (a canoe) by means of a spear handle.” The name proved itself quite fitting; after all, OBOONIDIYAAK would enter history as the last anchor of the Native cause against the rising tide of Zhaaganaash (British) dominion.
The THREE FIRE CONFEDERACY, or THREE FIRE COUNCIL is a long-lived political and military alliance of Anishinaabe peoples. According to the sacred birch bark scrolls of the Midewiwin, about 1200 summers ago after reaching Lower Peninsula of present-day Michigan on their migration westward from the Atlantic coast, three groups began to emerge from the Anishinaabe Nation: the OJIBWEG, appointed as ‘Faith Keepers’, or keepers of Anishinaabe religion and caretakers of the Sacred Waterdrum of the Midewiwin; the ODAAWAA- NISHNAABEG (Odawa) or Trader People, responsible for trade and sustenance; and the BODÉWADMIK (Potawatomi) or People of the Fire Pit, who came in charge of the Sacred Ancestral Fire. (Sometimes a fourth group, the MISI-ZAAGIWININIWAG or Mississauga, is distinguished but they are generally grouped with the Ojibweg.) These three or four groups formed a loose political-military confederation, called the NISWII-MISHKODEWIN (Three Fires). Although the niswii-mishkodewin had several meeting places, Michilimackinac (an island between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan) became the preferred meeting place because of its central location. From this island, the Council met for military and political purposes and maintained relations with fellow Anishinaabeg and other nations. The Three Fires Council is still very much alive today, its contemporary function being a movement of spiritual revival, maintenance and strengthening of the original Teachings, Rituals, Ceremonies, and Prohecies of the Anishinaabeg; all vested in in the Midewiwin, the Anishinaabe Lodge of the Good Hearted Ones.
War of liberation
Vision of the Wolf
The mysterious power of attraction that OBOONIDIYAAK held over so many Native Peoples, and which resulted in a temporary paralyzing of British interests over thousands of square miles, was partially built on a widespread Native revitalization movement that he helped to organize. This movement was based upon a vision that a visionary belonging to the nation of the Lenni Lenape received, of a wolf spirit who received instructions from the Master Of Life to promote general well-being among all Native Nations of Turtle Island. The wolf spirit told the Anishinaabe Peoples to stop drinking alcohol, to refrain from plural marriage and marital infidelity, to make peace among each other, to refrain from black magic, and, last but not least, to once and for all expel the Zhaaganaashag, their way of life and all their manufactured goods.
|Map by Kevin Myers. Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. |
End of a dream
A story of awakening
C. 1735 – OBOONIDIYAAK moves to the Canadian side to the site of the present-day Walkerville, Ontario.
1747 – OBOONIDIYAAK becomes war leader of the Odaawaa Anishinaabeg.
1754-1755 – OBOONIDIYAAK supports the Wemitigoozhiwag (French) during the French and Indian War.
1755 – OBOONIDIYAAK takes part in the French and Indian victory over the Braddock expedition on 9th of July in 1755.
1760 - OBOONIDIYAAK agrees to let Zhaaganaash troops pass unmolested through Odaawaa territory to occupy Michilmackinac on condition that he should be treated with respect by them.
1762 - Outraged by the disrespect and brutal treatment by the Zhaaganaash military, OBOONIDIYAAK enlists support from almost all Native Nations that live northwest of the Ohio river for a joint campaign to expel the Redcoats from the formerly French lands. According to OBOONIDIYAAK ‘s plan, each Nation would seize the nearest Zhaaganash fortification and then join forces to wipe out the undefended settlements.
1763 – On the 27th of April, OBOONIDIYAAK holds a large council about 10 miles below Fort Detroit which is now known as Council Point Park in Lincoln Park, Michigan. After the failure of the Native allies to capture Fort Detroit, OBWANDIYAG withdraws to the Illinois Country. Although his influence has declined around Detroit, OBOONIDIYAAK gains stature in the Illini and Wabash country as he continues to encourage resistance to the Zhaaganaashag (British).
1766 – OBOONIDIYAAK meets with the Zhaaganash superintendent of Indian affairs Sir William Johnson on the 25th of July at Oswego, New York. This heralds the end of OBOONIDIYAAK’S BEAVER WAR and the start of a formal truce between the Native allies and the Zhaaganaashag.
1768 – With his prestige among his own Nation almost gone, OBOONIDIYAAK is forced to leave Odaawaa village on the Maumee River and goes to live among the Nation of the Illiniwak at Cahokia.
1769 – OBOONIDIYAAK is assassinated at the French village of Cahokia on the 20th of April. His body is taken to St. Louis and buried in an unknown grave site.
> Read part 4 of the series.
About the author:
As an American artist and jewelry designer currently living in the Netherlands. I like to draw on the oral and pictorial traditions of my Ojibwe Anishinaabe ancestors from the American Great Lakes area. For this I call on my manidoo-minjimandamowin, or "Spirit Memory"; which means I try to remember the knowledge and the lessons of my ancestors.
The mazinaajimowinan or ‘‘pictorial spirit writings’’ - which are rich with symbolism and have been painted throughout history on rocks and etched on other sacred items such as copper and slate, birch bark and animal hide - were a form of spiritual as well as educational communication that gave structure and meaning to the cosmos.
Many of these sacred pictographs or petroforms – some of which are many, many generations old - hide in sacred locations where the manidoog (spirits) reside, particularly in those mystic places near the coastline where the sky, the earth, the water, the underground and the underwater meet.
It is these age-old expressions that provide an endless supply of story elements to my work – be it graphically, through my written stories, as well as in the context of my jewelry making.________________________________________________________