The Wyandots living on the Detroit river were a remnant of the ancient Hurons of the famous mission near Lake Simcoe. For more than a century they had been bound to the French by ties of amity. They were courageous, intelligent, and in every way on a higher plane of life than the tribes of the Ottawa Confederacy. Their two hundred and fifty braves were to be Pontiac’s most important allies in the siege of Detroit.
South of the Michigan peninsula, about the head-waters of the rivers Maumee and Wabash, dwelt the Miamis, numbering probably about fifteen hundred. Influenced by French traders and by Pontiac’s emissaries, they took to the war-path, and the British were thus cut off from the trade-route between Lake Erie and the Ohio.
The tribes just mentioned were all that came under the direct influence of Pontiac. Farther south were other nations who were to figure in the impending struggle. The Wyandots of Sandusky Bay, at the south-west corner of Lake Erie, had about two hundred warriors, and were in alliance with the Senecas and Delawares. Living near Detroit, they were able to assist in Pontiac’s siege. Directly south of these, along the Scioto, dwelt the Shawnees—the tribe which later gave birth to the great Tecumseh—with three hundred warriors. East of the Shawnees, between the Muskingum and the Ohio, were the Delawares. At one time this tribe had lived on both sides of the Delaware river in Pennsylvania and New York, and also in parts of New Jersey and Delaware. They called themselves Leni-Lenape, real men; but were, nevertheless, conquered by the Iroquois, who ‘made women’ of them, depriving them of the right to declare war or sell land without permission. Later, through an alliance with the French, they won back their old independence. But they lay in the path of white settlement, and were ousted from one hunting-ground after another, until finally they had to seek homes beyond the Alleghanies. The British had robbed the Delawares of their ancient lands, and the Delawares hated with an undying hatred the race that had injured them. They mustered six hundred warriors.
Almost directly south of Fort Niagara, by the upper waters of the Genesee and Alleghany rivers, lay the homes of the Senecas, one of the Six Nations. This tribe looked upon the British settlers in the Niagara region as squatters on their territory. It was the Senecas, not Pontiac, who began the plot for the destruction of the British in the hinterland, and in the war which followed more than a thousand Seneca warriors took part. Happily, as has been mentioned, Sir William Johnson was able to keep the other tribes of the Six Nations loyal to the British; but the ‘Door-keepers of the Long House,’ as the Senecas were called, stood aloof and hostile.