Deeper Into Jeopardy! IX: Native Americans – $1600

Jeopardy! category: THE LAST CENTURY (03-04-2014)

$1600 clue: This Ottawa chief’s “drive” to capture Fort Detroit in 1763 might have been successful if he hadn’t been betrayed

Correct response

The gist: There aren’t too many people in history who have their very own wars named for them. All I can think of, besides this clue’s response, are Mithridates VI (a king of Pontus who fought three wars against Rome) and the Napoleonic Wars.* Even those two only got their names turned into adjective, though, while Chief Pontiac has his very own Pontiac’s War, a 1763 campaign waged by a confederation of Native tribes, primarily from the Great Lakes region, to kick the British out of their land. The British had gained control over most of eastern North America after winning the French and Indian War and adopted much more hostile policies towards the Native peoples than the French had, including suspending the traditional gifts of trade goods that the French had extended to their Native allies and parceling out huge quantities of land to newly-arriving settlers from the British world. In response to these new developments, a number of tribes, with Pontiac as only one of many leaders (his supposed primacy in the war is disputed by modern historians), rebelled against the British, and succeeded in capturing several forts around the Great Lakes. Fort Detroit was never successfully captured (in part due to the British being tipped off about the plan, the “betrayal” mentioned in the clue), but the Native forces did inflict severe casualties on the British at the Battle of Bloody Run during the siege of the fort. Although throughout the war the British suffered greater numbers in terms of military casualties, the British intentionally exposed Native soldiers at the siege of Fort Pitt to smallpox-infected blankets which caused many more thousands of deaths, and may have contributed directly to the epidemic that wiped out several hundreds of thousands of Natives over the next decades. The war ended largely in stalemate, with countless deaths of the Native side but a success in restoring policies more similar to those earlier employed by the French. As well, Pontiac’s War was likely an impetus for the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which declared land west of the Appalachians as “Indian land,” with European settlement forbidden for the immediate future.

A 19th century engraving by Alfred Bobbet of Pontiac rallying his troops

The clue: The punny “drive” in this clue is meant to suggest the automotive association of Pontiac’s name. Unfortunately, contestant Julie seems to have taken “drive” and Fort Detroit together, guessing “Cadillac,” which is of course a car strongly associated with Detroit as well as being named for a person, but that person is Frenchman Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, the founder of Detroit, not a Native warrior.

In Jeopardy!: Naturally, the vast majority of mentions of “Pontiac” in the J!Archive refer to the car maker – only seven of the 34 clues with the word are about the person, and five of those make some reference to the car. The other two look for Detroit (which he attacked) and his eponymous city of Pontiac, Michigan. Of course, if you see a clue about Native Americans and automobiles, don’t forgot about the Grand Cherokee.

* Then there’s Congressman Charlie Wilson, who didn’t have a war named for him exactly but did get a 2007 Tom Hanks biopic titled Charlie Wilson’s War about the CIA’s role in aiding the Afghan mujahideen warriors against the Soviets in the 1980s.

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