Black Hawk Additional Biography


(Native Americans: A Comprehensive History)

0111203676-Black_Hawk.jpg (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: Black Hawk led a band of Sauk and Fox against the Americans in an attempt to regain their traditional village sites along the Rock River in Illinois; the destruction of his band marked the end of armed Indian resistance in the region known as the “ {$IOld Northwest}Old Northwest.”

Black Hawk was born near the mouth of the Rock River in Illinois. He took his name early in life, after realizing that his guardian spirit would be the sparrow hawk. Little is known about Black Hawk's early life. He earned his right to be considered a warrior at the age of fifteen; after demonstrating his valor, he joined his father in a war against the Osages. It was during this war that Black Hawk killed and scalped the first of his opponents. By the time he reached his mid-thirties, Black Hawk was recognized as one of the most able war chiefs of the Sauk nation.

Black Hawk's hostility toward European Americans began in 1804, when a party of five Sauk and Fox leaders journeyed to St. Louis to negotiate the release of a Sauk brave accused of murder. Governor William Henry Harrison of the Indiana Territory took advantage of the situation. After encouraging the Indian leaders to drink heavily, Harrison managed to get their signatures on a treaty under which the two tribes ceded all their land east of the Mississippi River. Most of the money promised to the delegation was used to pay for the whiskey they drank. The Sauk and Fox were permitted to use the ceded land until American settlers moved into the region.

When the Sauk and Fox delegation returned to their homeland, they told their people little about the treaty. Upon learning of the terms the following year, more than 150 natives went to St. Louis to protest that the chiefs sent to the city the previous year had no power to sell land.

Inspired by the anti-American message of Tecumseh, Black Hawk led an attack on Fort Madison in 1811. When the War of 1812 began, Black Hawk assembled more than two hundred Sauk and Fox warriors and led them to Green Bay in order to fight alongside the British.

During the War of 1812, Black Hawk and his warriors fought with distinction in Tecumseh's Indian army. The Sauk warriors participated in the battles of the Raisin River, Fort Meigs, and Fort Stephenson. During Black Hawk's absence, many Sauk moved west of the Mississippi in order to seek the protection of the United States. Those who remained at Saukenuk, east of the river, chose Keokuk as their new war chief. When Black Hawk and his warriors returned to their homes in 1814, they were surprised by the election of Keokuk.

In spite of Keokuk's new position, it was Black Hawk who...

(The entire section is 1105 words.)