The Saga of Black Hawk,
Near where I grew up in
Sac County, Iowa,
(called after the Sac or Sauk Indians) there's a
named for their famed leader,
A statue of him stands near to the northern
shore. This long narrative poem
and the tragedy that befell him and his people.
He wore a reddish crest,
A tuft atop his head;
He resisted movement west,
But sadly, be it said,
His stance, to tragedy led!
Of him did history write
And scribe his native stand:
He stood against the white,
Uprooting from the land...
In Saukenuk, he dwelt;
Its houses hided of bark;
Where venison hung and pelt,
And fires illumed the dark...
Detail of a map from Plate XC, dated 1832,
year of the
war. Copy from reproduction of original in National Archives. See the map larger but somewhat cropped, at the end of this
poetry, along with other cartography.
His village was nigh to where,
Two rivers met and mingled:
The Mississippi and Rock,
Together, their waters singled...
From inside the banks of one, unpent,
The flow of water, to the other went.
In this land of his abode
terrain with rivered road ―
A prairie lay parallel to
The Mighty water running through.
And in the soil of fertile land,
The women did hack and hoe and hew;
With a stony blade and stick in hand,
They tilled the crop of maize they grew.
Joined by the Indian Fox,
They met and toiled in tillage;
They worked to grow their crops,
They sweat for each their village.
In the country around
Were abundant berries to pick;
Apples and plums did abound,
And nuts were found, there thick.
Above the prairie, rose a bluff
Where gushed spring water clear;
They drank to slake their thirst,
And saw the track of deer
print of cloven toe,
buck and doe.
They hunted the antlered one,
The denizen of the woods,
They hunted, both father and son,
For venison, hide and goods.
Where the rapids rushed and swished,
With weir and spear they fished.
In the shadowy deep, they dropped a hook
And by the bank, they turtle took,
Where it slid o'er mud or clay,
Before it swam in shell away.
The native who stood was Sauk,
But called himself "a Sac"
In English known as Black Hawk...
Was a name to which he clung,
His name in native tongue...
He stood not large of size,
Dark hazel were his eyes;
From his ears and neck were hung
Strings of wampum strung;
Hollow cheeked and bent of nose,
He deerskin wore for clothes.
Aside, he wore a pouch of hawk,
From whence his name in paleface talk...
The Sauk resided once in Michigan,
In the region of Saginaw Bay,
But westward came this native clan,
They came Wisconsin way...
They also were known as Saukie
And by the longer, Asakiwaki...
Among what meanings or origins say:
"The outlet," or people of "yellow earth,"
Created in myth of yellow clay
―Their heritage spoken of their birth.
Confederated with the Sauk,
Were the Indians called the Fox,
Like separate feet together,
In a pair of Indian moccs...
but yet apart, alone,
These native tribes did locate;
They dwelt in villages of their own,
Along and near the river great...
Mis-treaty of 1804?
In the year of 1803,
For pennies an acre paid,
The French, they did agree,
To a Purchase, America made:
The nation, Louisiana bought,
A land of great extent:
From the Gulf to Canada north,
And to the Rockies west it went...
And with this land, this great expanse,
She doubled in size from nation France...
The following year, America sought,
A tract of tribal land;
And again, by treaty wrought,
America did expand...
Not only land acquired,
From the Mississippi west,
But land to the east desired,
Land the natives possessed...
Land from the river Wisconsin,
South to the Gasconade,
And east to the Illinois,
She gained by pact she made...
But for the Fox and Sauk,
It the Indian cost;
Among them were Black Hawk
―A lot of
land they lost!
These questions we may pose
And ask the past to disclose:
Whether those who signed, put quill,
Went beyond the tribal will;
Whether a few were pressed to cede,
More than the many would've agreed...
Whether the mind of Quashquame
Was befogged with drink;
Whether he and others, they,
Were too grogged to clearly think...
Removal and Return
In the course of time, America sold
The land the Indian once did hold...
And for the natives, their fortunes sank,
East of the Mississippi bank...
That is to say, no longer were they,
Allow'd to abide upon that side...
Across the river the Hawk was forced,
Across and west to the Ioway...
But after some moons, back he coursed,
Against the Whiten'd way...
Across the current they paddled canoe,
And horses swam the water through...
Black Hawk returned to enjoy
Ancestral land in Illinois...
He did not intend a fray
But thought to defend and stay...
Thus the Indian Sac,
In time, flown by before,
The Indian Hawk flew back,
Flew back the river o'er...
And his talons, they alit,
On land he
He was heartened by Neapope's report,
Of tribal help and British support
And word from one, believed endowed:
the prophet White Cloud...
Up the Rock
They followed the run of the Rock,
Up the river, they singing went;
With drums abeat, this native flock
Was silent not, in its intent...
General Gaines did this assert:
He'd crush them, like a piece of dirt...
And thus revealed in soldier mind,
The thought of force o'er Indiankind...
The Indian came by canoe and horse,
To make their corn and gather force...
But the help foretold, came not to pass,
Not sinew enough nor muscle mass...
The British were coming not,
The Winnebago wouldn't unite,
The Potawatomi had no corn...
Black Hawk decided not to fight...
Black Hawk believed
His trust was shaken,
He'd been mistaken!
If pursuers, on them did close,
And they were overtaken,
Surrender then, he chose...
A White Flag Torn
On a day in May
With militia just miles away...
His hopes did sag,
His hopes were hollowed...
He sent a white flag
To those who followed...
The trucebearers went to talk,
Of council with Black Hawk,
Of where the parties could meet,
Woes discuss, and then retreat:
The Indian flock
Would descend the Rock...
And several Indians, sent to watch,
Were seen, far out upon the prairie...
But events to follow, would rip apart,
The flag of truce the natives did carry...
The sighting flashed through
the militia force,
And some in haste, hastened ahorse;
And from their encamping place,
Toward those afar, they did race!
They galloped o'er the prairie,
Alarming, as on they sped...
The observers stayed not to tarry,
But turned instead...and fled!
But shot! in volley were two,
By those who did pursue!
For the Indian quest, O sadly,
The Whites reacted badly,
Even attacking those in truce
―And battle did they produce!
The White pulled back
The bow that bent,
And nocked the arrow,
The Indian sent...
They came at a gallop
With most of the warriors away...
But Black Hawk with some forty of force,
By bushes there hidden, they sprang in fray...
The Whites, they wheeled about,
In panic fled away, in rout...
In gathering darkness, things were scary:
They fled away to Dixon's Ferry...
And the natives pursued the White
Into the gloom and night...
This Battle of Stillman's Run,
The Indian fought,
And the Indian won.
But the peace besought,
Came to nought,
Moons would pass,
Before the strife begun,
Would be o'er and be done...
Eleven Whites were slain,
And not only did Indian slay,
But they also scalped,
In a very sanguine way...
And limbs did sever,
From the fallen forever...
The band ascended the Rock
To Winnebago praise,
Who offered to lead to safety,
To what's Wisconsin these days...
It should be remembered that
As the Winnebagos go,
Some would be their friend,
Some would be their foe...
Even Keokuk, a chief of Sauk,
Offered to serve against Black Hawk!
In part, for supplies to raise,
Black Hawk unloosed forays...
In an assault at Indian Creek,
Some settlers were suddenly hit,
They were attacked by others, in main,
were Fox and Sac for it...
The attackers cruelties they
And captured girls in number two...
But safely these, they stayed with Sac,
Who'd ransom both of the maidens back...
Between Galena and Dixon's Ferry,
Some, with dispatches to carry,
Were met by a party of war...
And the Winnebago killed four.
Yet Fox and Sac were blamed,
For the weapons others aimed...
And among the slain
Was agent St. Vrain;
And with his life at end,
The Indians lost a friend...
The lost on this occasion,
Was one of peace, and persuasion...
And reporting that he had died,
The St. Louis Beacon cried:
A hundred Indian lives, is too small,
For each of the victims who did fall...
And here the Beacon shone light
Upon its darkness of sight.
On the Pecatonica,
A pursued party of war
Was trapped at a river bend;
The Whites slew them, and more:
They scalped those they brought to end...
Yet even more
was yet in store:
Winnebago and Sioux
They fell on these,
And cruelly cut them too...
On the Apple River,
Black Hawk a fort attacked,
And after a siege,
Left a settlement sacked...
Away from Kishkonong with fish,
And famished for food to eat,
More than roots and bark did wish;
They frailty and death did meet...
As other tribesmen left
Their number was now bereft,...
And with a fear of encircling foe...
West, the chieftain thought to go.
Black Hawk did recommend:
The Wisconsin they descend,
And the Mississippi cross o'er,
Cross to the farther shore...
After a string of setbacks
And signs, anon,
The trail of the Fox and Sacs,
The Whites came upon...
On the 21st of July,
They cast their soldier eye
Upon a native alone,
There grieving for his own,
There buried was his wife...
With shots, they took his life!
And not content with his demise,
His scalp they took it too;
And remember this, and realize,
That this, the White did do!
And more, they came upon, in
And followed in falling rain;
The Indian tried to throw off track,
But the army continued to gain...
in Part II)