Black Hawk or Black Sparrow Hawk (Makataimeshekiakiak) (1767–October 3, 1838) was a leader and warrior of the Sauk Native American tribe in what is now the United States. While he had inherited an important historic medicine bundle, he was not an hereditary civil chief of the Sauk. He was, however, appointed a war chief, and was generally known in English as Chief Black Hawk.
Black Hawk was born in the village of Saukenuk on the Rock River, near present-day Rock Island, Illinois. The Sauk used the town in the summer, for raising corn and burials, while moving across the Mississippi for winter hunts and fur trapping. In the War of 1812 he fought on the side of the British.
Participation in the War of 1812
Black Hawk was present at the battle of Fort Meigs, and the attack on Fort Stephenson. The British, led by Major-General Henry Procter, and Tecumseh leading the Indian Confederacy, were repulsed.The losses to the British were great. Black Hawk despaired over the waste of the lives caused by European attack methods. Soon afterward Black Hawk quit the war and returned home. By the end of the war Black Hawk rejoined the effort and participated alongside the British on campaigns on the Mississippi River along the Illinois Territory. With the conflict over in 1815, the British abandoned all promises of land recovery to Native Americans.
Black Hawk War
After the War of 1812, the non-native population of Illinois increased rapidly, a development that sharpened previous disputes about land ownership, especially in the lead-mining region north of the Rock River, an area claimed by the close allies of the Sauk, the Fox. These disputes culminated in the Black Hawk War in 1832. Black Hawk led a band of Sauk who attempted to hold their previous lands, refusing to migrate west of the Mississippi River. They were aided by some Fox, Winnebago and Kickapoo. Their struggle ended only months later, with Black Hawk in captivity and most of his followers dead.
Tour of the East
Having been taken prisoner, Black Hawk was kept at a series of forts, and visited with President Andrew Jackson before being sent to Fort Monroe for several months. On his release, he and his son were given a tour of the United States, as a means to show him how powerful the U.S. was. He was toured through major cities of the East and on military ships. It was hoped Black Hawk would relate his observations to his fellow Indians, and convince them of the futility of making war on the Americans. Black Hawk became quite popular as a result of his tour and crowds came to see him, although in Western cities, less influenced by the myth of the noble savage and more by the myth of the savage Indian, the crowds were less friendly.
After that tour, Black Hawk was transferred back to his nation, and he lived along the Iowa River near to them in what is now southeast Iowa. He died in 1838, but not before he narrated an account of his life, in which he saw the continued expansion of American settlement west of the Mississippi River as a continued threat to the Sauk and other indigenous people. The Autobiography of Black Hawk, incorporating his own accounts and comments from others, was published in 1833.
- A Black Hawk sculpture by Lorado Taft overlooks the Rock River in Oregon, Illinois.
Black Hawk was popular among the Easterners who settled the Midwest and the number of commemorations is tremendous.
- Black Hawk County, Iowa
- The Black Hawk Bridge over the Mississippi River, near the Battle of Bad Axe.
- The Chicago Blackhawks, a National Hockey League team
- Four U.S. Navy ships named USS Black Hawk
- The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter
- Blackhawk Technical College, a vocational college in Rock County, Wisconsin
- Black Hawk College, a community college in Moline, Illinois
- You know the cause of our making war. It is known to all white men. They ought to be ashamed of it. (ca. 1832)
- I have fought the Big Knives and will continue to fight them till they are off our lands.
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