Old Settlers Monument to

Black Hawk Leader

Black Hawk's poignant farewell speech was given in Old Settler's Park July 4, 1838, when he was a guest at a celebration. In response to the toast Our illustrious guest said: "It has pleased the Great Spirit that I am here today. I have eaten with my white friends. It is good. A few summers ago I was fighting you. I may have done wrong. But that is past. Let it be forgotten. Rock River Valley was my beautiful country. I loved my villages, my cornfields, and the home of my people. I fought for them. They are now yours. I was a great warrior. Now I am old and poor. Keokuk has been the cause of my downfall. I have looked upon the Mississippi since I was a child. I love the great river. I have dwelt upon its banks from the time I was an infant. I look upon it now and I am sad. I shake hands with you. As it is my wish, I hope we are now friends. I may not see you again. Farewell."

Black Hawk was Chief of the Sac and Fox Indians. He was born in 1767 in the Sac village on the Rock River. Following the War, the government recognized Keokuk as Chief, and Black Hawk retired to the Des Moines river. The old chief died Oct. 3, 1838, as he was nearing 72. Black Hawk was five feet 10 inches in height, with broad shoulders and of a commanding appearance. A writer who knew him said: "He was inflexible in matters relating to right and wrong and never consulted expediency. He never made war through malice or to gratify a personal grievance, but to protect his people from the encroachments of the white man. He loved his country, and was a patriot."
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On October 3, 1838, Black Hawk died peacefully. To him, Americans represented a selfish, greedy, and dishonest society. In opposing them, his behavior represented the actions of a patriotic Sauk. He sought to protect the Sauk values and way of life. By the 1830s, however, the frontier situation in his home region had changed so drastically that those ideas existed mostly in his memory.
Sources For a view of how the Black Hawk War has been treated, see Roger L. Nichols, "The Black Hawk War in Retrospect," Wisconsin Magazine of History 65 (1982), 239–46. For a subsequent fully contextualized account of the Black Hawk War from the American Indian perspective, see Kerry Trask, Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America (2006). Roger L. Nichols, Black Hawk and the Warrior's Path (1992) is the only full biography available. Roger L. Nichols, Black Hawk's Autobiography (1999) is one of several editions of that account.
Contributor: Roger L. Nichols

Cite as: Nichols, Roger L. "Black Hawk, Makataimeshekiakiak, or Black Sparrow Hawk" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 19 May 2012

BLACK HAWK [Ma'katawimesheka'ka, “Black Sparrow Hawk”], (1767-1838), American Indian warrior of the Sauk and Fox tribes, was born at the Sauk village on Rock river, near the Mississippi, in 1767. He was a member of the Thunder gens of the Sauk tribe, and, though neither an hereditary nor an elected chief, was for some time the recognized war leader of the Sauk and Foxes. From his youth he was intensely bloodthirsty and hostile to the Americans. Immediately after the acquisition of “Louisiana,” the Federal government took steps for the removal of the Sauk and Foxes, who had always been a disturbing element among the north-western Indians, to the west bank of the Mississippi river. As early as 1804, by a treaty signed at St Louis on the 3rd of November, they agreed to the removal in return for an annuity of $1000. British influences were still strong in the upper Mississippi valley and undoubtedly led Black Hawk and the chiefs of the Sauk and Fox confederacy to repudiate this agreement of 1804, and subsequently to enter into the conspiracy of Tecumseh and take part with the British in the war of 1812. The treaties of 1815 at Portage des Sioux (with the Foxes) and of 1816 at St Louis (with the Sauk) substantially renewed that of 1804. That of 1816 was signed by Black Hawk himself, who declared, however, when in 1823 Chief Keokuk and a majority of the two nations crossed the river, that the consent of the chiefs had been obtained by fraud. In 1830 a final treaty was signed at Prairie du Chien, by which all title to the lands of the Sauk and Foxes east of the Mississippi was ceded to the government, and provision was made for the immediate opening of the tract to settlers. Black Hawk, leading the party in opposition to Keokuk, at once refused to accede to this cession and threatened to retaliate if his lands were invaded. This precipitated what is known as the Black Hawk War. Settlers began pouring into the new region in the early spring of 1831, and Black Hawk in June attacked several villages near the Illinois-Wisconsin line. After massacring several isolated families, he was driven off by a force of Illinois militia. He renewed his attack in the following year (1832), but after several minor engagements, in most of which he was successful, he was defeated (21st of July) at Wisconsin Heights on the Wisconsin river, opposite Prairie du Sac, by Michigan volunteers under Colonels Henry Dodge and James D. Henry, and fleeing westward was again decisively defeated on the Mississippi at the mouth of the Bad Axe river (on the 1st and 2nd of August) by General Henry Atkinson. His band was completely dispersed, and he himself was captured by a party of Winnebagoes. At Fort Armstrong, Rock Island, on the 21st of September, a treaty was signed, by which a large tract of the Sauk and Fox territory was ceded to the United States; and the United States granted to them a reservation of 400 sq. m., the payment of $20,000 a year for thirty years, and the settlement of certain traders' claims against the tribe. With several warriors Black Hawk was sent to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, where he was confined for a few weeks; afterwards he was taken by the government through the principal Eastern cities. On his release he settled in 1837 on the Sauk and Fox reservation on the Des Moines river, in Iowa, where he died on the 3rd of October 1838.

See Frank E. Stevens, The Black Hawk War (Chicago, 1903); R. G. Thwaites, “The Story of the Black Hawk War” in vol. xii. of the Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin; J. B. Patterson, Life of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak or Black Hawk (Boston, 1834), purporting to be Black Hawk's story as told by himself; and Benjamin Drake, Life of Black Hawk (Cincinnati, 1846).


Jun 6, 2012

Special recognition for the Blawkhawk Tribute site has to be given to several people for making it happen. #1- To Clark and Nannette Griffin of Griffin Muffler and Brakes, for donating the cost of Tribute Scan that makes this memorial an interactive learning site, and Thank you all for making this a reality and learning experience for generations to come!! Your work, generousity, and thoughtfulness are greatly appreciated.

-Jay Schroeder