He was called Pontiac by the English, while Americans named a car after him. His real name was Obwandiyag. He is the chief of the Ottawa. His powerful physique was covered in tattoos, and his words were eloquent. He was tall and strong, and people respected his presence. He was wary of European motives and commandeered warriors from 18 First Nations. They led the most successful resistance campaign in North American history.
At Captain Louis St. Ange de Bellerive’s invitation, he came to St. Louis for the wedding of his nephew. Obwandiyag, who had ignored his friend’s warning about Williamson, crossed the Mississippi to Cahokia. Williamson was an English trader and bore Obwandiyag an angry grudge.
According to the most popular account, the chief went shopping and then came out onto the village’s main street. He was clubbed from behind and then stabbed by a young Peoria who is a nephew of Black Dog. Why? But why? Rumors circulated that the young man would kill an English trader or whiskey chief to get his money, and even go as far as killing him. Many believed Obwandiyag was being hired by the English to die. Others believed it was an act of revenge by other First Nations. The assassination plan was mentioned in a Peoria council several weeks before.
Obwandiyag, despite his military achievements, was bitterly resentful and had been exiled from the village he lived in because he’d signed a treaty between the British and him in 1766. Obwandiyag’s graceful words to the Brits were: “It was the will of The Great Spirit that we should come here today and before him, all present I take your hand and will never part from it.” However, he signed the treaty out of necessity because many of the First Nations who had joined him in the fight had already left.
Obwandiyag’s tragic death is recounted in a romantic account, published 100 years later in the 1892 edition. Louis Post-Dispatch described Obwandiyag as melancholy, singing about his exploits, and ready to die at 49. According to most accounts, St. Ange took his friend’s body back home to St. Louis and had it buried at Broadway or Walnut.
This is now Stadium East’s parking garage. A plaque honoring him is located on the corner of Street Level. It was the least we could do.