Rock Island County, Illinois Genealogy Trails

Black Hawk and
The Sac (Sauk) Indians
Transcribed by ©K. Torp, 2006


Picture of Black Hawk

Site of the Sac Council Lodge site
in 1916, west of the Davis Power Plant.
Larger view

Squaw hills of Indian cornfield
in south Rock Island Township. 1916.
Larger view

Black Hawk, a Chief of the Sac tribe of Indians, reputed to have been born at Kaskaskia in 1767. (It is also claimed that he was born on Rock River, as well as within the present limits of Hancock County.)

Conceiving that his people had been wrongfully despoiled of lands belonging to them, in 1832, he inaugurated what is commonly known as the Black Hawk War.

His Indian name was Ma-ka-tai-mi-she-kia-kiak, signifying Black Sparrow Hawk. He was ambitious, but susceptible to flattery, and while having many of the qualities of leadership, was lacking in moral force. He was always attached to British interests, and unquestionably received British aid of a substantial sort.

After his defeat he was made the ward of Keokuk, another Chief, which humiliation of his pride broke his heart. He died on a reservation set apart for him in Iowa, in 1838, aged 71. His body is said to have been exhumed nine months after death, and his articulated skeleton is alleged to have been preserved in the rooms of the Burlington (Ia.) Historical Society until 1855, when it was destroyed by fire.
(Source: pp. 48-49, Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, 1901)

Going against the Sauk custom of marrying more than one woman, Black Hawk married young and remained loyal to his wife, Asshewaqua (Singing Bird) throughout his life.

Sacs and Foxes, two confederated Indian tribes, who were among the most warlike and powerful of the aborigines of the Illinois Country. The Foxes called themselves the Musk-wah-ha-kee, a name compounded of two words, signifying "those of red earth." The French called them Ou-ta-ga-mies, that being their spelling of the name given them by other tribes, the meaning of which was "Foxes," and which was bestowed upon them because their totem (or armorial device, as it may be called) was a fox. They seem to have been driven westward from the northern shore of Lake Ontario, by way of Niagara and Mackinac, to the region around Green Bay, Wis.

Concerning their allied brethren, the Sacs, less is known. The name is variously spelled in the Indian dialects - Ou-sa-kies, Sauks, etc - and the term Sacs is unquestionably an abbreviated corruption. Black Hawk belonged to this tribe. The Foxes and Sacs formed a confederation according to aboriginal tradition, on what is now known as the Sac River, near Green Bay, but the date of the alliance cannot be determined

The origin of the Sacs is equally uncertain. Black Hawk claimed that his tribe originally dwelt around Quebec, but, as to the authenticity of this claim, historical authorities differ widely. Subsequent to 1670 the history of the allied tribes is tolerably well defined. Their characteristics, location and habits are described at some length by Father Allouez, who visited them in 1666-67. He says that they were numerous and warlike, but depicts them as "penurious, avaricious, thievish, and quarrelsome". That they were cordially detested by their neighbors is certain, and Judge James Hall calls them "the Ishmaelites of the lakes." They were unfriendly to the French, who attached to themselves other tribes, and through the aid of the latter, had well-nigh exterminated them, when the Sacs and Foxes sued for peace, which was granted on terms most humiliating to the vanquished.

By 1718, however, they were virtually in possession of the region around Rock River in Illinois, and four years later, through the aid of the Macoutins and Kickapoos, they had expelled the Illinois, driving the last of that ill-fated tribe across the Illinois River. They abstained from taking part in the border wars that marked the close of the Revolutionary War, and therefore did not participate in the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. At that date, according to Judge Hall, they claimed the country as far west as Council Bluffs, Iowa, and as far north as Prairie du Chien. They offered to cooperate with the United States Government in the War of 1812, but this offer was declined, and a portion of the tribe, under the leadership of Black Hawk, enlisted on the side of the British.

The Black Hawk War proved their political ruin. By the treaty of Rock Island, they ceded vast tracts of land, including a large part of the eastern half of Iowa and a large body of land east of the Mississippi. In 1842 the Government divided the nation into two bands, removing both to reservations in the farther West. One was located on the Osage River and the other on the south side of the Nee-ma-ha River, near the northwest corner of Kansas. From these reservations, there is little doubt, many of them have silently emigrated toward the Rocky Mountains, where the hoe might be laid aside for the rifle, the net and the spear of the hunter. A few years ago a part of these confederated tribes were located in the eastern part of Oklahoma. (Source: p. 463, Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, 1901. Transcribed by Kim Torp)

Chief Black Hawk's Farewell Words

"You have taken me prisoner with all my warriors - I fought hard.

"But your guns were well-aimed. The bullets flew like birds in the air, and whizzed by our ears like the wind through the trees in the winter. My warriors fell around me, it began to look dismal. I saw my evil day at hand.

"The sun rose dim on us in the morning, and at night it sunk in a dark cloud, and looked like a ball of fire. That was the last sun that shone on Black Hawk. His heart is dead, and no longer beats quick in his bosom. He is now a prisoner to the white man; they will do with him as they wish. But he can stand torture, and is not afraid of death. He is no coward!

"Black Hawk is an Indian -- farewell, my nation! Black Hawk tried to save you, and avenge your wrongs.

"He has been taken prisoner, and his plans are stopped. He can do no more. He is near his end. His sun is setting, and he will rise no more"

Rock Island County, Illinois
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