Michilimackinac and Pontiac’s Rebellion

The Fort and the Bridge

The Fort and the Bridge, photo by Joel Dinda

Mackinac State Historic Parks page on Colonial Michilimackinac says that:

French soldiers constructed the fortified community of Michilimackinac on the south side of the Straits of Mackinac in 1715. The community grew and prospered over the coming years as Michilimackinac became an important center of the Great Lakes fur trade. Every summer, thousands of Native Americans and French-Canadian voyageurs gathered at the post, which served as transfer station for furs trapped in the western Great Lakes and trade goods shipped in from eastern cities such as Montreal and Quebec. Michilimackinac came under British control in 1761, but the fur trade and community life remained relatively unchanged.

Fearful that the post was vulnerable to attack by American rebels, the British disassembled the fort and community and moved it to Mackinac Island in 1779-81.

One factor in the move may also have been an event that happened 252 years ago on June 2, 1763. The fort was captured by Ojibwa & Sauk warriors who gathered to play a huge game of baggatiway. Elizabeth Edwards of Traverse Magazine wrote a great article about the massacre that begins:

Under an unusually hot sun on a late spring day on the Straits of Mackinac, British Major George Etherington, commandant of Fort Michilimackinac, was suffering from an acute case of cultural blindness. And there was no excuse for it. Relaxed at the sidelines of a rousing game of baggatiway (similar to lacrosse) outside the fort, the major should have seen the danger signs in this Ojibwe versus Sauk contest of sweaty, half-naked bodies painted with white clay and charcoal.

The 30-year-old officer was born in the colonies, and most likely grew up on stories of Indian uprisings. He’d even served in the just-ending French and Indian War, in which the English had wrested control of North America from the French—a victory that had put this previously French fort in Etherington’s care. Though the major had been raised on American soil and had fought on it, he was still English. And in that country, a battle was a battle, and a sporting event was a sporting event.

Perhaps that explains why the major missed the clues…

Read on for much more at Traverse, and you can also watch a video on Pontiac’s Rebellion from the History Channel or jump right to the story.

Joel adds that almost every building at Colonial Michilimackinac is a reconstruction, with only two or three minor exceptions. View his photo background bigtacular and see more from the fort and surrounding area in his Straits of Mackinac slideshow.

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