Black Hawk Biography

Black Hawk

Sauk leader
Born: 1768
Birthplace: Saukenuk, Ill.

In the late 18th century, the Indians of the upper Mississippi Valley witnessed the replacement of the relatively sympathetic French, Spanish, and British with the aggressive Americans pushing westward. The Sauk warrior, Black Hawk, resisted the pioneers and fought to have Indians retain their lands and traditions. Black Hawk was especially incensed by an 1804 treaty between the Sauk and Fox tribes and the United States that ceded all tribal lands east of the Mississippi. The treaty had never been ratified by the tribe, and Black Hawk repeatedly condemned it as spurious.

Black Hawk and his band of warriors fought on the side of the British during the War of 1812, hoping to halt the American westward expansion. While Black Hawk was fighting the United States, the young Keokuk, who was friendlier towards the Americans, became leader of the Sauk and Fox. By 1814, Black Hawk and his forces defeated the Americans, who were under the command of Gen. Zachary Taylor. Treaties were signed in 1816 and an uneasy peace reigned until 1832 when the Black Hawk War broke out. The Sauk, Fox, and other tribes refused to move westward to accommodate the increasingly large population of American pioneers. President Andrew Jackson sent troops and a massacre at Black Axe River ended the war and resulted in Black Hawk's imprisonment for several months. After Black Hawk's defeat, Keokuk, who had maintained good relations with the U.S. government, was granted a tract of land in Iowa for his people. Black Hawk joined what remained of his tribe in Iowa and died there in 1838.

Died: 1838