The life and times of Black Hawk. Historical events and persons

Seminararbeit, 2003

30 Seiten, Note: 1,3




The Northeast of today ’ s US and the Indian Tribes
The Fox and Sauk Indians
The Shawnee

Tecumseh ’ s strive for an Indian nation
The War of 1812

Black Hawk, war chief of the Sauk
The Black Hawk War of 1832

Important historical persons of the Black Hawk period
Keokuk (1788-1848)
James Madison (1751-1836)
William Henry Harrison (1773-1841)
Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)
Zachory Taylor (1784-1850)
Abraham Lincoln (1809-65)




Black Hawk’s famous “Surrender Speech” is one of the most popular examples of the great dignity and honor that the Native American spirit and culture stood for, even in the face of the falseness, suppression and cruelty of the American colonization policy. The events that led to it (the so-called “Black Hawk War”) are exemplary not only for his tribe (the Sauk-Fox) or region, but for the Native American population as a whole and their mistreatment by the “white man” throughout American History. Only in recent times (mid-1900s) has American society done some rethinking about the issue; far too late for the vast majority of the native American population.

We will try to shed some light on some of the events in Black Hawk’s lifetime (that might have formed his opinions and attitudes), which is e.g. the War of 1812 between Britain and the US or the “Indian Removal Act” (1830). We will also have a close look at Chief Tecumseh and his struggle for a united Indian nation. An ally of Black Hawk and a mythical figure nowadays, no one was ever so close to making the dream of Indian unity true. Then we will focus on some important persons of the era as for example Keokuk or Abraham Lincoln but will also give a deeper insight into the cultural and historical background of the Shawnee and Sauk-Fox Indians. For sure we also set a focus on the Black Hawk War (1832) itself and the circumstances which made him give his famous speech.

In our essay we just use the term Sauk Indians, though the term Sac is also commonly used, in order not to confuse the reader. Either Sac or Sauk is correct. Spelling variations of this are: Osawkee, Saki, Saque, and Sawkee. Alternate names for the Sauk were: Hotinestakon (Onondaga), Osaugee (Ojibwe), Quatokeronon (Huron), Satoeronnon (Huron), Zake (Dakota), and Zagi (Winnebago). This might give the reader an impression how difficult it was during our research to find out what is just a different way of spelling and what is or was a different tribe or clan. We hopefully managed to find our way through without any misunderstandings.

It should be noted that when we refer to the “Northwest” we mean the Northwest of the United States during Black Hawk’s time; the region that is the Northeast of nowadays US.

The Northeast of today’s US and the Indian Tribes

Even though Indian tribes formed “Confederations” there were still more than 500 different ones.1 So it is impossible to number them all in this paper. This means that we have to use a broader instrument of measurement to picture Indian nations in America. Language families are a commonly used way to do so. Below you find a picture where one can find more than 60 language families of North American Indian tribes.2 The eight most important are: Eskimo- Aleut, Nadene, Algonquin, Salishan, Iroquoian, Siouan-Catawba, Uto-Atztecan and Muskogean.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

The most important tribes for this paper are the Sauk, the Fox and the Shawnee Indians,which all belong to the Algonquin3 language family. Therefore we will only go into detail on the culture of these tribes who were to be found around the Great Lakes. Due to the American policy towards the Native Americans they are spread all over the US nowadays. In our time the Sauk-Fox Indians can be found near Tama, Iowa, while the Shawnee can be found in North and central Oklahoma.4

The Northeast of today’s USA was still covered with thick forests when the settlers started to move further West at the beginning of the 19th century. The forest consisted mainly of oak, chestnut and hickory.5 The woodlands were stretched out, steadily becoming lighter, from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi.6 The fertile area was the home of a wide range of animals including the deer, wapiti, black bear, raccoon, beaver, puma and lynx.7 It was the home of two main Indian groups, which were at war most of the times, the Algonquin and the Iroquoisian Indians.8

The Fox and Sauk Indians

illustration not visible in this excerpt

The Fox Indians are a North American Indian tribe of the Algonquin language family and originate in the Eastern Woodlands culture area.

The Fox called themselves the Mesquakie (Meshkwahkihaki, Meskwaki, Meskwakihuk, Meskwakihugi) meaning "red earth people." Early French explorers mistook a clan name (Wagosh meaning fox) for that of the entire tribe and began referring to them as the "Renard" (French for Fox), and the English and Americans continued the error in their own language. The name Sauk comes from their own language - Osakiwuk, or

Asakiwaki, meaning "people of the outlet" and refers to their original homeland on Michigan's Saginaw Bay which gets its name from them - Saginaw meaning "place of the Sauk." Since the Fox were the "people of the red earth," Sauk has often been inappropriately rendered as meaning "people of the yellow earth".9 The Sauk are also an Algonquin tribe.10 For a long period both tribes dwelt around Saginaw Bay in East Michigan, but in the early 17th century they were driven from this area by the Ottawa and other allied tribes. The Sauk and the Fox fled North across the Strait of Mackinac and then South into present Wisconsin. Thus in 1667, when visited by Father Claude Jean Allouez, they were settled around Green Bay in the northeast of Wisconsin. The Sauk Indians then numbered some 6,500 and the Fox Indians about 5,000. The Sauk never developed a soldier society to the degree the Fox did. The Fox were fierce warriors and constantly waged war with the Ojibwe (Ojibwe meaning “people of the other shore”, better known as Chippewa). It should be noted that the Fox were the only Algonquin tribe to fight a war with the French (actually, two wars). The French enjoyed good relations with every other Algonquin tribe in the Great Lakes (including the Sauk), but the Fox were antagonistic from the moment of their first meeting with the French. It seems likely that the Fox had taken the brunt of the fighting in

Michigan with French trading partners during the 1630s and 40s and were well-aware where the steel weapons used against them had come from. The French, harassed by the Fox, waged a war of extermination. By 1730 they had reduced the Fox to a mere handful of roughly 500 people. The remnants of the tribe incorporated with their long-standing allies, the Sauk, and from that time the two tribes have been known collectively as the Sauk-Fox.11 They remained in Wisconsin until 1734, when both were driven across the Mississippi River into eastern Iowa by the French.

Although joined in very close alliance after 1734, the Fox and the Sauk maintained separate traditions and chiefs. This was very apparent when Fox and Sauk chiefs, at the insistence of the United States, were forced to sign the same treaty. However, the signatures always appear in two distinct groupings, one for the Fox and the other for the Sauk. Both tribes have been described as extremely individualistic and warlike, although they appreciated the times of peace as well.

The tribal councils of their chiefs wielded considerable authority. Fox and Sauk chiefs fell into three categories: civil, war, and ceremonial. Only the position of civil chief was hereditary - the others determined by demonstrated ability or spiritual power.12 After a war with the Illinois (1765-1783), the Sauk and Fox settled on both banks of the Mississippi River in Illinois and neighboring areas. The Sauk and Fox people believe that long ago the Great Spirit chose a fertile valley and the land around it to be their home. He commanded that the Sauk and Fox must think of themselves as brothers. But, each would have their own sacred things.

The village of Saukenuk located at the convergence of the Rock and the Mississippi rivers was their home until they were forcibly removed to Iowa and Kansas after Black Hawk’s War. At Saukenuk or "River of the Rock" the Sauk and the Fox stayed to build their homes and plant their fields. There, in this rich valley the deer, buffalo, bear, and smaller game provided food and skins, which could be traded or made into clothing. Beaver and muskrat lived in the many streams, which were also filled with fish. North of the valley there was a great source of lead. Since it was close to the surface it could be dug out easily. At first it was used to make ornaments, later white traders taught them how to make lead musket balls to use in their guns. Soon they traded lumps of lead for goods. In the valley the soil was rich and fertile. Using the shoulder bone of a buffalo or deer, the women broke the land and turned over the soil. They grew corn, beans, squash, pumpkin and tobacco. Of all the crops corn was the most important. It could be boiled, roasted, or made into soup or dumplings. After the kernels were stripped from the cob it could be dried and pounded into meal or stored away for further use. When kernels were laid out on a hot rock they would pop into fluffy morsels. Corn provided its own seed for the next year's planting. As long as the Sauk and Fox had a good harvest of corn, they knew they would not go hungry. The Sauk women tilled the soil, raised the crops, gathered the harvest, prepared and stored the food and reared the children.

The mother was in charge of the family home and everything in it. If the mother belonged to the Sauk people, then all of her children were Sauk. The women had an important part in tribal government. Unless the women approved, a son could not take his fathers place as a sacred clan chief. The men protected the home, the fields, and the tribal hunting grounds. The Sauk farmed in villages in the summer and went to hunting grounds in the winter.13 Large communal buffalo hunts, especially after they acquired horses in the 1760s, were conducted in the fall and provided much of their meat during winter, but like other Great Lakes Algonquin, when the Fox or Sauk wanted to hold a real feast for an honored guest, the main course was dog meat from which the expression "putting on the dog" has come.14 Their lodges were large bark-covered wigwams with rounded roofs that let the rain and snow roll off easily. Most lodges were forty to sixty feet long and had several families living in them. Each family had its own cooking fire in the center of the lodge. Sleeping benches covered with skins and blankets ran along the inside walls.

The Sauk lived in towns from April to October. When the harvest had been gathered and the geese began to fly south, families went into the forests to build huts where they lived during the winter hunting season. People too old or weak stayed in town. Some strong young boys stayed behind just in case, also to protect the supply of food, which was stored in bark-lined caches in the ground.

Religion played an important part in their daily life. The Sauk believed that every person, animal, and thing had its own "manito", or guardian spirit. When a hunter killed a bear, a deer, a buffalo, or any animal he thanked the "manito" of the animal for the gift it was giving to the people. Children began learning the religion of their people at an early age. Boys were taught to fast and to keep holy vigils to bring their soul closer to the Great Spirit. When the boy was old enough he made a special vigil quest. The Great Spirit would show him his personal manito, which would stay with him the rest of his life. At that time, he chose his manhood name and began to collect the sacred things that would go into his medicine bag.

Although the Sauk were a peaceful people, sometimes they had to go to war to defend their hunting grounds or their towns. Neighboring tribes such as the Osage raided Sauk lands. The Sauk were noted for their courage, and they believed that every raid should be answered by a counter raid to uphold the honor of their people. When other tribes invaded Sauk lands, a council was called to decide what action to take. Often war parties were sent out to meet the enemy. Warfare had its own rules of conduct. In war, a Sauk gained honor if he could count coup (meaning that he had touched an armed enemy and lived to tell about it). Counting coup earned a warrior the right to wear an eagle feather in his crest.

They lived happily and well in the valley of the Rock River. But with the coming of the first white people, they learned to use guns as well as bow and arrows, and to ride horses to hunt and to make war. Guns were brought to the Sauk by the white traders who offered them in exchange for furs and lead.15 These lands were ceded to the Americans beginning with a treaty signed in 1804. Internal disagreements over accepting this treaty caused one Sauk group to separate from the others and move south to the Missouri River. Known as the Missouri Band, they remained there until 1824 when they were removed to the northwest corner of the state. Pressures from settlement after 1825 forced the Sauk along the Mississippi to leave western Illinois and relocate to southeast Iowa. The exception was Black Hawk's Band at Rock Island. Government records in 1829 reported there were 5,000 Sauk, 1,600 Fox, and another 500 Sauk in Missouri.16 The fight to keep the homeland at Saukenuk resulted in the Black Hawk War of 1832, of which we will hear about later in greater detail. As a consequence of the war, the Sauk were forced to surrender a large part of eastern Iowa.

In 1836 they exchanged their last lands in Missouri for a reserve west of the Missouri River on the Kansas-Nebraska border. The Fox and Sauk remained in Iowa until 1842 when they ceded their lands for a reserve in Kansas just south of present-day Topeka. After their removal from Iowa in 1846, the population of both tribes underwent a drastic decline. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) stated in 1845 that 1,300 Fox and 2,500 Sauk had left Iowa, but only 700 Fox and 1,900 Sauk arrived in Kansas. The Missouri Band at this time numbered less than 200. After a terrible smallpox epidemic, 300 Fox and 1,300 Sauk were all that remained on the Kansas reserve in 1852, but at least 300 Fox and an unknown number of Sauk were hiding in Iowa and kept the army very busy trying to find them. Others were on the Kickapoo reserve or in places where no one could count them. Once in Kansas, major disagreements developed between the Fox and the Sauk. So, most of the Fox left shortly afterwards and returned to Iowa. Following the Civil War, 600 Sauk and 100 Fox relocated to Oklahoma. Some of the Fox moved in with the Kickapoo and later left with them for northern Mexico. By 1859 Only the Missouri Band managed to stay in Kansas and the rest returned to Iowa where they purchased land near Tama.

The remaining Fox and Sauk sold their Kansas land and relocated to Oklahoma in 1869 where they were given a 750,000 acre reservation in Potawatomi, Lincoln, and Payne Counties east of Oklahoma City. On the one hand, after allotment, most of this was released to whites in 1891. Currently, “the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma”, headquartered in Stroud, has kept less than 1,000 acres. On the other hand, the Fox in Iowa have used their own money to purchase land, and their tribal holdings have grown to almost 5,000 acres. The only federally recognized tribe in Iowa, they prefer to be called the “Mesquaki Indian settlement”, but because of treaties signed jointly with the Sauk, their official name is“the Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa”.17

The removal from the land where the Woodlands nations evolved has drastically affected the knowledge and practice of the tribe's language, traditions, original teachings, ceremonies, ways of life, and relationship to the natural world. Originally, the Sauk and Fox were governed by a clan system (like e.g. the Thunder, Bear or Snow Clans). The traditional manner of selecting chiefs and governing themselves was forcibly replaced by the United States. Appointees and a constitution patterned after the American government was formed.18 The 1910 census listed 343 Fox in Iowa, 630 Sauk and Fox in Oklahoma, and 90 Sauk in Kansas. In 1990 Sauk and Fox descendants numbered 4517.19 The current enrollments of the three federally recognized Sac and Fox tribes are: 1,100 Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi (Iowa); 400 Sac & Fox Tribe of Missouri (Kansas and Nebraska) and 2,200 Sac & Fox Tribe of Indians (Oklahoma).20

The Shawnee

illustration not visible in this excerpt

The Shawnee are also a North American Indian tribe of the Algonquin language family and also originated in the Eastern Woodlands culture area.21 The Shawnee (meaning “Southerners”), were also known as the Shawano, Savannuca, Shawanese and Savannah.22 The Shawnee considered the Delaware as their "grandfathers" and the source of all Algonquin tribes. They also shared an oral tradition with the Kickapoo that they were once members of the same tribe. Identical language supports this oral history, and since the Kickapoo are known to have originally lived in northeast Ohio prior to contact, it can safely be presumed that the Shawnee name of "southerner" means they lived somewhere immediately south of the Kickapoo. Estimates of the original Shawnee population range from 3,000 to 50,000, but a reasonable guess is somewhere around 10,000.23

The Shawnee Indians were living in the Ohio Valley as early as 1660 AD. But the Iroquois were not willing to share these rich hunting grounds and drove the Shawnees away. As the power of the Iroquois weakened, some Shawnee Indians moved back into Ohio from the south and the east. They settled in the lower Scioto River valley.24 Others migrated to Florida and by 1800 reached Texas. Most, however, went to what is now Georgia and South Carolina. Part of this group, known as the Eastern Shawnee, then moved to Pennsylvania with the Delaware tribe. The other part settled in Tennessee. Both were pushed back to Ohio by other tribes in 1730-50.25 The Shawnees were fierce warriors. They were among the most feared and respected of Ohio's Indians. They were to clash with the Americans before the Sauk; we will focus on the history of their struggle later on in greater detail. For now it suffices to say that not even the legendary chief Tecumseh succeeded in keeping the Americans at bay. Between 1831 and 1833 the United States forced the Shawnees to give up their last reservations in Ohio. They were sent off to reservations in Oklahoma and Kansas and with it the Shawnees were divided into different clans.26

An Indian tribe consisted of the entire body of a nation. A clan represented a group within the tribe. The principal chief of the Shawnee could be compared with the President of the United States, with the clan chiefs as governors. Of all the original clans of the Shawnee tribe, history finds them with only five clans left in existence: the Thawegila, Peckuwe and Kispokotha, who generally stood together on tribal matters, and the Chillicote and Maykujay, who were likewise closely related in their activities. Each clan had its duties to the tribe. The Peckuwes e.g. were responsible for warfare and the training of warriors for battle. The Maykujays answered for matters pertaining to food, health and medicine. The two most powerful clans, the Thawegilas and Chillicotes, were responsible for overall tribal government and politics.27


1 H.J.Stammel, Indianer-Legende und Wirklichkeit, page 41

2 Christian F. Feest, Kulturen der nordamerikanischen Indianer, page 11 2

3 "Algonquin" comes from the word "alligewinenk" which means "come together from distant places."

4 Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, 29th Edition

5 Christian F. Feest, Kulturen der nordamerikanischen Indianer, page 107

6 H.J.Stammel, Indianer-Legende und Wirklichkeit, page 49

7 Christian F. Feest, Kulturen der nordamerikanischen Indianer, page 108

8 H.J.Stammel, Indianer-Legende und Wirklichkeit, page 49


10 Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, 29th Edition 3



13 4






19 Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, 29th Edition

20 6

21 Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, 29th Edition




25 Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, 29th Edition


27 7

Ende der Leseprobe aus 30 Seiten


The life and times of Black Hawk. Historical events and persons
Universität Paderborn  (Fachbereich Wirtschaftswissenschaften)
US Politics
ISBN (eBook)
676 KB
Black, Hawk, Politics
Arbeit zitieren
Thomas Müller (Autor)Christoph Junk (Autor), 2003, The life and times of Black Hawk. Historical events and persons, München, GRIN Verlag,


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