Black Hawk






Black Hawk

Black Hawk and His Early Life as a Warrior

Black Hawk was an Indian leader and warrior of the Sauk tribe from the Native American region. His native name was Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, which translates into ‘large black hawk’. He was born in Saukenuk, Illinois in the year 1767 to this father Pyesa who was the medicine man for the Sauk tribe, and died in 1838. At the tender age of 15 years, Black Hawk was already accompanying his father to tribal raids. He went along with his father to the raid against Osages where he killed his first enemy and thereby winning his father’s approval. Starting then, he tried leading other raids but was never successful until at the age of nineteen when he led a troop of two hundred men on a raid against the Osages. He emerged victorious and even managed to kill five men and one woman (Gerald11).

On the next battle against the Cherokees, his father was injured and he succumbed to his injuries. Black Hawk inherited his father’s medicine kits but would not practice medicine anymore. Rather, he opted to lead raiding parties and mostly targeted the Osages.         His clan did not provide leaders civilly hence, he attained his status through becoming a renowned warhead by leading successful battles. He continued his services as a war leader for the Sauk tribe in Saukenuk. He was however divergent to the idea of white settlers occupying the Native American land. He opposed the strength of a treaty that had been signed in 1804 between the Sauk and Fox Nations, which allowed the United States to use 50 million acres of the Native American land. The said treaty was also opposed by other tribal leaders who felt that their tribes had not been well consulted during its signing (Gerald 14).

Black Hawk engaged in his first direct war against the United States armed forces in 1812. The war also involved British forces against the United States. Black Hawk led an army of 200 men to the war but would later retreat after seeing the amounts of loss of lives since the rivals had more advanced weaponry. He therefore returned home and found that Keokuk his previous rival had become the tribe’s war chief. With the current state of things, he opted to go back into battle where he joined the British forces and helped drive out United States troops out of the Mississippi river valley (Gerald 16).

As stated by Gerald, in 1816 after the war was over, Black Hawk signed a peace treaty that was an acknowledgement of the 1804 treaty. This was followed by “the Foxes and Sauk tribes giving up their land to Illinois and moved to west of Mississippi” (27) in 1828. This was however disputed by Black Hawk and other tribal leaders claiming that they had not been well represented in the making of the deal. Black Hawk and his troop of Sauks and Foxes insisted that they had never given up their claims to the lands that they had lived on for one hundred years. They insisted that they had not intentionally ceded away their land. Black Hawk and other leaders enraged by the thought of loosing their ancestral land crossed the Mississippi beseeching them to return home, (65)

In April 1832, after the efforts were not paying off, “Black Hawk got into alliance with the British soldiers and other tribes” (69) and thus formed the ‘British Band’. He led the band of 1500 people, 500 who were warriors and the rest 1000 old men, women and children. Forces from other different tribes tried joining Black Hawk on the quest. As the battle progressed however, estimated support from other tribes and the British did not occur, food supplies were quickly running out, malnutrition, and poor health had their toll on the people. He would not give up hope as far as these challenges saw his troops lose their drive. The final blow was however coming when they met with the rivals at the Bad Axe River. Numerous scores of his British Band ranging from men, women and children were massacred by U.S. Army and the Illinois militia. This saw his surrender August 1832.


The Events of Black Hawk during His Life as a Prisoner Of War

Black hawk and most of the chief leaders of war that were arrested after the surrender remained in custody after the war. They were taken detained in Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri. After serving a short period, five of them were handed back to Keokuk. After seven months, Black Hawk and the rest were sent east to Fort Monroe prison passing through Washington D.C. they attracted hug crowd whenever they passed through some of who just came to see and hear them them. They met with President Andrew Jackson land Secretary of war Lewis Cass who was ready to let them go.

According to Gerald, during the prisoners’ short stay at Fort Monroe, “they spent much of their time sitting and posing for paintings and sketches for various artistes who came visiting them” (121). In June 1833, black Hawk and the other leaders boarded a steamboat that would take them West. “The boat passed through major cities like Baltimore, Maryland, Philadelphia and New York where numerous crowds of people came to meet them. This was however different in Detroit where crowds seemed angry with the prisoners and hanged and burned their dummies” (123). In July, the first lot of prisoners was released in Wisconsin while the others that remained including Black Hawk were held at Fort Armstrong.

Black Hawk’s imprisonment ended when he together with the other remaining prisoners was released to Keokuk in October 1833. Being handed over to Keokuk dealt a major blow to his ego and he never stopped blaming him for the Souk’s fate.





















Work Cited:

Black, Hawk, and J. G. Kennedy. Life of Black Hawk, or Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak. New York: Penguin Books, 2008. Print.

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