Black Hawk


Black Hawk
Black Hawk was born into the Sauk tribe, located in present-day Illinois. At age fifteen, he accompanied his father on a raid against a rival tribe and won great approval for his tactics, but his later efforts to establish himself as a war chief were fruitless until 1786, when he killed five men and a woman in battle. Black Hawk later accompanied his father in a raid against a band of Cherokees, but the elder man died in the battle’s aftermath. After an extended mourning period for his father’s passing, Black Hawk resumed his raids, and he soon became a celebrated leader in the Sauk community.

Black Hawk had always been opposed to ceding native lands to white settlers, and during the War of 1812 he and his people eagerly assisted British troops at Green Bay, Wisconsin. Black Hawk was awarded the rank of brevet Brigadier General for his assistance, but he detested the bloody European attack methods and soon returned home, only to find that his rival had been made leader in his absence. He rejoined the efforts during the end of the war, and after its conclusion he reaffirmed the much-disputed treaty of 1804, which had ceded Sauk lands to the U.S. government. Regardless of this original agreement, however, Black Hawk led several parties back to his homeland, each one ending in retreat until 1832, when, back by promises of British alliance, he led a group of 1500 men, women, and children into Illinois. Finding no support, he attempted to return home, but the undisciplined Illinois militia retaliated, escalating in the Black Hawk War. The war, carried out by Sauk as well as Fox, Kickapoo, and Ho-Chunk warriors, lasted nearly five months, and after Black Hawk’s defeat he was held in captivity with several other leaders at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri. After eight months, the Indians were taken east to Washington, where they met with Andrew Jackson and were delivered to a Virginia prison. They remained in jail for only a few weeks, however, after which they were taken on a tour of the country, where large crowds gathered to greet or jeer the enemies. Toward the end of his imprisonment, Black Hawk told his story to a government interpreter, who in turn published the first Native American autobiography in the U.S.

After the conclusion of his tour, Black Hawk returned to his people and settled along the Iowa River. He passed away in 1838 following two weeks of illness, and after his death he was buried on the bank on the Des Moines River.

Key events during the life of Black Hawk:

Earned recognition during a raid on the Osage tribe.
Treaty of 1804 ceded Sauk lands to the U.S. Gov’t.
Fought on the side of the British in the War of 1812.
Signed a treaty that reaffirmed the treaty of 1804.
Black Hawk War.
Captured and taken east to meet with President Andrew Jackson.
  The Autobiography of Black Hawk was published.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Black Hawk War  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
Black-hawk the Sac Patriot  in  Boy's Book of Indian Warriors  by  Edwin L. Sabin

Image Links

I am a man, and you are another.'
 in Conquest of the Old Northwest

Black Hawk
 in Indian History for Young Folks

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