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Chief Black Hawk

This warrior of the united Sac and Fox tribes precipitated Illinois' only armed struggle with Native Americans when in 1832 he led a band of his people eastward from their Iowa reservation and toward the lands that they had once farmed in the Rock River valley of northern Illinois. Black Hawk had fought with the British in the War of 1812, hoping to upend Americans' relentless westward expansion into his tribes' lands. By 1832 American officials had removed the Sac and Fox from their tribal lands in northern Illinois and western Wisconsin, citing a treaty signed at St. Louis in 1804. Black Hawk and other Native Americans vigorously disputed the treaty's authenticity, arguing that the Indians who signed were not authorized to do so. When he decided to ignore the treaty and return his band to their original lands, Black Hawk set off war hysteria in Illinois, where the governor called up the state militia and summoned federal troops. Realizing the gravity of his situation, Black Hawk attempted to return to Iowa, but was unable to do so before American troops caught his party on the banks of the Mississippi and slaughtered them in the Battle of Bad Axe. Black Hawk himself was taken prisoner and toured the East with his captors. During his confinement Black Hawk told his life story to a translator, who published it as one of the few extant accounts of the United States' Indian wars told from a Native American perspective.

©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project