Part 1 out of 4
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EMBRACING THE TRADITIONS OF HIS NATION, VARIOUS WARS
IN WHICH HE HAS BEEN ENGAGED, AND HIS ACCOUNT
OF THE CAUSE AND GENERAL HISTORY OF THE
BLACK HAWK WAR OF 1832,
His Surrender, and Travels Through the United States.
DICTATED BY HIMSELF.
ANTOINE LECLAIR, U. S. INTERPRETER.
J.B. PATTERSON, EDITOR AND AMANUENSIS.
ROCK ISLAND. ILLINOIS, 1833.
LIFE, DEATH AND BURIAL OF THE OLD CHIEF, TOGETHER WITH
A History of the Black Hawk War,
By J.B. PATTERSON, OQUAWKA, ILL, 1882.
Copyrighted by J.B. PATTERSON, 1882.
AS A TOKEN OF HIGH REGARD,
I DEDICATE THIS VOLUME
TO MY FRIEND,
HON. BAILEY DAVENPORT,
OF ROCK ISLAND, ILL.
DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS, SS.
Be it remembered, that on this sixteenth day of November, Anno Domini
eighteen hundred and thirty-three, J.B. Patterson, of said district,
hath deposited in this office the title of a Book, the title of which
is in the words following, to wit:
"Life of Makataimeshekiakiak, or Black Hawk, embracing the Traditions
of his Nation--Indian Wars in which he has been engaged--Cause of
joining the British in their late War with America, and its History--
Description of the Rock River Village--Manners and Customs--
Encroachments by the Whites contrary to Treaty--Removal from his
village in 1831. With an account of the Cause and General History of
the Late War, his Surrender and Confinement at Jefferson Barracks, and
Travels through the United States. Dictated by himself."
J.B. Patterson, of Rock Island, Illinois, Editor and Proprietor.
The right whereof he claims as author, in conformity with an act of
Congress, entitled "An act to amend the several acts respecting
Clerk of the District of Illinois
ROCK ISLAND, October 16, 1833.
I do hereby certify, that Makataimeshekiakiak, or Black Hawk, did call
upon me, on his return to his people in August last, and expressed a
great desire to have a History of his Life written and published, in
order (as he said) "that the people of the United States, (among whom
he had been traveling, and by whom he had been treated with great
respect, friendship and hospitality,) might know the _cause_ that had
impelled him to acts as he had done, and the _principles_ by which he
In accordance with his request, I acted as Interpreter; and was
particularly cautious to understand distinctly the narrative of Black
Hawk throughout--and have examined the work carefully since its
completion, and have no hesitation in pronouncing it strictly correct,
in all its particulars.
Given under my hand, at the Sac and Fox agency, the day and date above
ANTOINE LE CLAIR,
U.S. Interpreter for the Sacs and Foxes.
MA-NE-SO-NO OKE-MAUT WAP-PI MAK-QUAI.
Ai nan-ni ta co-si-ya-quai, na-katch ai she-ke she-he-nack, hai-me-ka-
ti ya-quai ke-she-he-nack, ken-e-chawe-he-ke kai-pec-kien a-cob, ai-
we-ne-she we-he-yen; ne-wai-ta-sa-mak ke-kosh-pe kai-a-poi qui-wat.
No-ta-wach-pai pai-ke se-na-mon nan-ni-yoo, ai-ke-kai na-o-pen. Ni-me-
to sai-ne-ni-wen, ne-ta-to-ta ken ai mo-he-man ta-ta-que, ne-me-to-
Nin-a-kai-ka poi-pon-ni chi-cha-yen, kai-ka-ya ha-ma-we pa-she-to-he-
yen. Kai-na-ya kai-nen-ne-naip, he-nok ki-nok ke-cha-kai-ya pai-no-
yen ne-ket-te-sim-mak o-ke-te-wak ke-o-che, me-ka ti-ya-quois na-kach
mai-quoi, a-que-qui pa-che-qui ke-kan-ni ta-men-nin. Ke-to-ta we-yen,
a-que-ka-ni-co-te she-tai-hai-hai yen, nen, chai-cha-me-co kai-ke-me-
se ai we-ke ken-na-ta-mo-wat ken-ne-wa-ha-o ma-quo-qua-yeai-quoi.
Ken-wen-na ak-che-man wen-ni-ta-hai ke-men-ne to-ta-we-yeu, ke-kog-hai
ke-ta-shi ke-kai na-we-yen, he-na-cha wai-che-we to-mo-nan, ai pe-che-
qua-chi mo-pen ma-me-co, ma-che-we-ta na-mo-nan, ne-ya-we-nan qui-a-
ha-wa pe-ta-kek, a que-year tak-pa-she-qui a-to-ta-mo-wat, chi-ye-tuk
he-ne cha-wai-chi he-ni-nan ke-o-chi-ta mow-ta-swee-pai che-qua-que.
He-ni-cha-hai poi-kai-nen na-no-so-si-yen, ai o-sa-ke-we-yen, ke-pe-
me-kai-mi-kat hai-nen hac-yai, na-na-co-si-peu, nen-a-kai-ne co-ten
ne-co-ten ne-ka chi-a-quoi ne-me-cok me-to-sai ne-ne wak-kai ne-we-
yen-nen, kai-shai ma-ni-to-ke ka-to-me-nak ke-wa-sai he-co-wai mi-a-me
ka-chi pai-ko-tai-hear-pe kai-cee wa-wa-kia he-pe ha-pe-nach-he-cha,
na-na-ke-na-way ni-taain ai we-pa-he-wea to-to-na ca, ke-to-ta-we-
yeak, he-nok, mia-ni ai she-ke-ta ma-ke-si-yen, nen-a-kai na-co-ten
ne-ka-he-nen e-ta-quois, wa toi-na-ka che-ma-ke-keu na-ta-che tai-hai-
ken ai mo-co-man ye-we-yeu ke-to-towe. E-nok ma-ni-hai she-ka-ta-ma
ka-si-yen, wen-e-cha-hai nai-ne-mak, mai-ko-ten ke ka-cha ma-men-na-
tuk we-yowe, keu-ke-nok ai she-me ma-na-ni ta-men-ke-yowe.
Ma-taus-we Ki-sis, 1833.
To Brigadier General H. Atkinson:
SIR--The changes of fortune and vicissitudes of war made you my
conqueror. When my last resources were exhausted, my warriors worn
down with long and toilsome marches, we yielded, and I became your
The story of my life is told in the following pages: it is intimately
connected, and in some measure, identified, with a part of the history
of your own: I have, therefore, dedicated it to you.
The changes of many summers have brought old age upon me, and I can
not expect to survive many moons. Before I set out on my journey to
the land of my fathers, I have determined to give my motives and
reasons for my former hostilities to the whites, and to vindicate my
character from misrepresentation. The kindness I received from you
whilst a prisoner of war assures me that you will vouch for the facts
contained in my narrative, so far as they came under your observation.
I am now an obscure member of a nation that formerly honored and
respected my opinions. The pathway to glory is rough, and many gloomy
hours obscure it. May the Great Spirit shed light on yours, and that
you may never experience the humility that the power of the American
government has reduced me to, is the wish of him, who, in his native
forests, was once as proud and bold as yourself.
10th Moon, 1833.
It is presumed that no apology will be required for presenting to the
public the life of a Hero who has lately taken such high rank among
the distinguished individuals of America. In the following pages he
will be seen in the character of a Warrior, a Patriot and a State
prisoner; in every situation he is still the chief of his Band,
asserting their rights with dignity, firmness and courage. Several
accounts of the late war having been published, in which he thinks
justice is not done to himself or nation, he determined to make known
to the world the injuries his people have received from the whites,
the causes which brought on the war on the part of his nation, and a
general history of it throughout the campaign. In his opinion this is
the only method now left him to rescue his little Band, the remnant of
those who fought bravely with him, from the effects of the statements
that have already gone forth.
The facts which he states, respecting the Treaty of 1804, in virtue of
the provisions of which the government claimed the country in dispute
and enforced its arguments with the sword, are worthy of attention.
It purported to cede tot he United States all of the country,
including the village and corn-fields of Black Hawk and his band, on
the east side of the Mississippi. Four individuals of the tribe, who
were on a visit to St. Louis to obtain the liberation of on of their
people from prison, were prevailed upon, says Black Hawk, to make this
important treaty, without the knowledge or authority of the tribes, or
In treating with the Indians for their country, it has always been
customary to assemble the whole nation; because, as has been truly
suggested by the Secretary of War, the nature of the authority of the
chiefs of the tribe is such, that it is not often that they dare make
a treaty of much consequence, and we might add, never, when involving
so much magnitude as the one under consideration, without the presence
of their young men. A rule so reasonable and just ought never to be
violated, and the Indians might well question the right of the
Government to dispossess them, when such violation was made the basis
of its right.
The Editor has written this work according to the dictation of Black
Hawk, through the United States Interpreter, at the Sac and Fox Agency
of Rock Island. He does not, therefore, consider himself responsible
for any of the facts, or views, contained in it, and leaves the Old
Chief and his story with the public, whilst he neither asks, nor
expects, any fame for his services as an amanuensis.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BLACK HAWK.
I was born at the Sac village, on Rock river, in the year 1767, and am
now in my 67th year. My great grandfather, Nanamakee, or Thunder,
according to the tradition given me by my father, Pyesa, was born in
the vicinity of Montreal, Canada, where the Great Spirit first placed
the Sac nation, and inspired him with a belief that, at the end of
four years he should see a _white man_, who would be to him a father.
Consequently he blacked his face, and eat but once a day, just as the
sun was going down, for three years, and continued dreaming,
throughout all this time whenever he slept. When the Great Spirit
again appeared to him, and told him that, at the end of one year more,
he should meet his father, and directed him to start seven days before
its expiration, and take with him his two brothers, Namah, or
Sturgeon, and Paukahummawa, or Sunfish, and travel in a direction to
the left of sun-rising. After pursuing this course for five days, he
sent out his two brothers to listen if they could hear a noise, and if
so, to fasten some grass to the end of a pole, erect it, pointing in
the direction of the sound, and then return to him.
Early next morning they returned, and reported that they had heard
sounds which appeared near at hand, and that they had fulfilled his
order. They all then started for the place where the pole had been
erected; when, on reaching it, Nanamakee left his party and went alone
to the place from whence the sounds proceeded, and found, that the
white man had arrived and pitched his tent. When he came in sight,
his father came out to meet him. He took him by the hand and welcomed
him into his tent. He told him that he was the son of the King of
France; that he had been dreaming for four years; that the Great
Spirit had directed him to come here, where he should meet a nation of
people who had never yet seen a white man; that they should be his
children and he should be their father; that he had communicated these
things to the King, his father, who laughed at him and called him
Mashena, but he insisted on coming here to meet his children where the
Great Spirit had directed him. The king had told him that he would
find neither land nor people; that this was an uninhabited region of
lakes and mountains, but, finding that he would have no peace without
it, he fitted out a napequa, manned it, and gave him charge of it,
when he immediately loaded it, set sail and had now landed on the very
day that the Great Spirit had told him in his dreams he should meet
his children. He had now met the man who should, in future, have
charge of all the nation.
He then presented him with a medal which he hung round his neck.
Nanamakee informed him of his dreaming, and told him that his two
brothers remained a little way behind. His father gave him a shirt, a
blanket and a handkerchief besides a variety of other presents, and
told him to go and bring his brethren. Having laid aside his buffalo
robe and dressed himself in his new dress, he started to meet his
brothers. When they met he explained to them his meeting with the
white man and exhibited to their view the presents that he had made
him. He then took off his medal and placed it on his elder brother
Namah, and requested them both to go with him to his father.
They proceeded thither, were where ushered into the tent, and after
some brief ceremony his father opened a chest and took presents
therefrom for the new comers. He discovered that Nanamakee had given
his medal to his elder brother Namah. He told him that he had done
wrong; that he should wear that medal himself, as he had others for
his brothers. That which he had given him was typical of the rank he
should hold in the nation; that his brothers could only rank as _civil
chiefs_, and that their duties should consist of taking care of the
village and attending to its civil concerns, whilst his rank, from his
superior knowledge, placed him over all. If the nation should get
into any difficulty with another, then his puccohawama, or sovereign
decree, must be obeyed. If he declared war he must lead them on to
battle; that the Great Spirit had made him a great and brave general,
and had sent him here to give him that medal and make presents to him
for his people.
His father remained four days, during which time he gave him guns,
powder and lead, spears and lances, and taught him their use, so that
in war he might be able to chastise his enemies, and in peace they
could kill buffalo, deer and other game necessary for the comforts and
luxuries of life. He then presented the others with various kinds of
cooking utensils and taught them their uses. After having given them
large quantities of goods as presents, and everything necessary for
their comfort, he set sail for France, promising to meet them again,
at the same place, after the 12th moon.
The three newly made chiefs returned to their village and explained to
Mukataquet, their father, who was the principal chief of the nation,
what had been said and done.
The old chief had some dogs killed and made a feast preparatory to
resigning his scepter, to which all the nation were invited. Great
anxiety prevailed among them to know what the three brothers had seen
and heard. . When the old chief arose and related to them the sayings
and doings of his three sons, and concluded by saying that the Great
Spirit had directed that these, his three sons, should take the rank
and power that had once been his, and that he yielded these honors and
duties willingly to them, because it was the wish of the Great Spirit,
and he could never consent to make him angry.
He now presented the great medicine bag to Nanamakee, and told him
that he "cheerfully resigned it to him, it is the soul of our nation,
it has never yet been disgraced and I will expect you to keep it
Some dissensions arose among them, in consequence of so much power
being given to Nanamakee, he being so young a man. To quiet them,
Nanamakee, during a violent thunder storm, told them that he had
caused it, and that it was an exemplification of the name the Great
Spirit had given him. During the storm the lightning struck, and set
fire to a tree near by, a sight they had never witnessed before. He
went to it and brought away some of its burning branches, made a fire
in the lodge and seated his brothers around it opposite to one
another, while he stood up and addressed his people as follows:
"I am yet young, but the Great Spirit has called me to the rank I hold
among you. I have never sought to be more than my birth entitled me
to. I have not been ambitious, nor was it ever my wish while my
father was yet among the living to take his place, nor have I now
usurped his powers. The Great Spirit caused me to dream for four
years. He told me where to go and meet the white man who would be a
kind father to us all. I obeyed. I went, and have seen and know our
"You have all heard what was said and done. The Great Spirit directed
him to come and meet me, and it is his order that places me at the
head of my nation, the place which my father has willingly resigned.
"You have all witnessed the power that has been given me by the Great
Spirit, in making that fire, and all that I now ask is that these, my
two chiefs, may never let it go out. That they may preserve peace
among you and administer to the wants of the needy. And should an
enemy invade our country, I will then, and not until then, assume
command, and go forth with my band of brave warriors and endeavor to
At the conclusion of this speech every voice cried out for Nanamakee.
All were satisfied when they found that the Great Spirit had done what
they had suspected was the work of Nanamakee, he being a very shrewd
The next spring according to promise their French father returned,
with his napequa richly laden with goods, which were distributed among
them. He continued for a long time to keep up a regular trade with
them, they giving him in exchange for his goods furs and peltries.
After a long time the British overpowered the French, the two nations
being at War, and drove them away from Quebec, taking possession of it
themselves. The different tribes of Indians around our nation,
envying our people, united their forces against them and by their
combined strength succeeded in driving them to Montreal, and from
thence to Mackinac. Here our people first met our British father, who
furnished them with goods. Their enemies still wantonly pursued them
and drove them to different places along the lake. At last they made
a village near Green Bay, on what is now called Sac river, having
derived its name from this circumstance. Here they held a council
with the Foxes, and a national treaty of friendship and alliance was
agreed upon. The Foxes abandoned their village and joined the Sacs.
This arrangement, being mutually obligatory upon both parties, as
neither were sufficiently strong to meet their enemies with any hope
of success, they soon became as one band or nation of people. They
were driven, however, by the combined forces of their enemies to the
Wisconsin. They remained here for some time, until a party of their
young men, who descended Rock river to its mouth, had returned and
made a favorable report of the country. They all descended Rock
river, drove the Kaskaskias from the country and commenced the
erection of their village, determined never to leave it.
At this village I was born, being a lineal descendant of the first
chief, Nanamakee, or Thunder. Few, if any events of note transpired
within my recollection until about my fifteenth year. I was not
allowed to paint or wear feathers, but distinguished myself at an
early age by wounding an enemy; consequently I was placed in the ranks
of the Braves.
Soon after this a leading chief of the Muscow nation came to our
village for recruits to go to war against the Osages, our common
I volunteered my services to go, as my father had joined him, and was
proud to have an opportunity to prove to him that I was not an
unworthy son, and that I had courage and bravery. It was not long
before we met the enemy and a battle immediately ensued. Standing by
my father's side, I saw him kill his antagonist and tear the scalp
from off his head. Fired with valor and ambition, I rushed furiously
upon another and smote him to the earth with my tomahawk. I then ran
my lance through his body, took off his scalp and returned in triumph
to my father. He said nothing but looked well pleased. This was the
first man I killed. The enemy's loss in this engagement having been
very great, they immediately retreated, which put an end to the war
for the time being. Our party then returned to the village and danced
over the scalps we had taken. This was the first time I was permitted
to join in a scalp dance.
After a few moons had passed, being acquired considerable reputation
as a brave, I led a party of seven and attacked one hundred Osages! I
killed one man and left him for my comrades to scalp while I was
taking observations of the strength and preparations of the enemy.
Finding that they were equally well armed with ourselves, I ordered a
retreat and came off without the loss of a man. This excursion gained
for me great applause, and enabled me, before a great while, to raise
a party of one hundred and eighty to march against the Osages. We
left our village in high spirits and marched over a rugged country,
until we reached the land of the Osages, on the borders of the
We followed their trail until we arrived at the village, which we
approached with exceeding caution, thinking that they were all here,
but found, to our sorrow, that they had deserted it. The party became
dissatisfied in consequence of this disappointment, and all, with the
exception of five noble braves, dispensed and went home. I then
placed myself at the head of this brave little band, and thanked the
Great Spirit that so _many_ had remained. We took to the trail of our
enemies, with a full determination never to return without some trophy
of victory. We followed cautiously on for several days, killed one
man and a boy, and returned home with their scalps.
In consequence of this mutiny in camp, I was not again able to raise a
sufficient force to go against the Osages until about my Nineteenth
year. During this interim they committed many outrages on our nation;
hence I succeeded in recruiting two hundred efficient warriors, and
early one morning took up the line of march. In a few days we were in
the enemy's country, and we had not gone far before we met a force
equal to our own with which to contend. A general battle immediately
commenced, although my warriors were considerably fatigued by forced
marches. Each party fought desperately. The enemy seemed unwilling
to yield the ground and we were determined to conquer or die. A great
number of Osages were killed and many wounded before they commenced a
retreat. A band of wariors more brave, skillful and efficient than
mine could not be found. In this engagement I killed five men and one
squaw, and had the good fortune to take the scalps of all I struck
with one exception--that of the squaw, who was accidentally killed.
The enemy's loss in this engagement was about one hundred braves.
Ours nineteen. We then returned to our village well pleased with our
success, and danced over the scalps which we had taken.
The Osages, in consequence of their great loss in this battle, became
satisfied to remain on their own lands. This stopped for a while
their depredations on our nation. Our attention was now directed
towards an ancient enemy who had decoyed and murdered some of our
helpless women and children. I started with my father, who took
command of a small party, and proceeded against the enemy to chastise
them for the wrongs they had heaped upon us. We met near the Merimac
and an action ensued; the Cherokees having a great advantage in point
of numbers. Early in this engagement my father was wounded in the
thigh, but succeeded in killing his enemy before he fell. Seeing that
he had fallen, I assumed command, and fought desperately until the
enemy commenced retreating before the well directed blows of our
braves. I returned to my father to administer to his necessities, but
nothing could be done for him. The medicine man said the wound was
mortal, from which he soon after died. In this battle I killed three
men and wounded several. The enemy's loss was twenty-eight and ours
I now fell heir to the great medicine bag of my forefathers, which had
belonged to my father. I took it, buried our dead, and returned with
my party, sad and sorrowful, to our village, in consequence of the
loss of my father.
Owing to this misfortune I blacked my face, fasted and prayed to the
Great Spirit for five years, during which time I remained in a civil
capacity, hunting and fishing.
The Osages having again commenced aggressions on our people, and the
Great Spirit having taken pity on me, I took a small party and went
against them. I could only find six of them, and their forces being
so weak, I thought it would be cowardly to kill them, but took them
prisoners and carried them to our Spanish father at St. Louis, gave
them up to him and then returned to our village.
Determined on the final and complete extermination of the dastardly
Osages, in punishment for the injuries our people had received from
them, I commenced recruiting a strong force, immediately on my return,
and stated in the third moon, with five hundred Sacs and Foxes, and
one hundred Iowas, and marched against the enemy. We continued our
march for many days before we came upon their trail, which was
discovered late in the day. We encamped for the night, made an early
start next morning, and before sundown we fell upon forty lodges,
killed all the inhabitants except two squaws, whom I took as
prisoners. Doing this engagement I killed seven men and two boys with my
own hands. In this battle many of the bravest warriors among the
Osages were killed, which caused those who yet remained of their
nation to keep within the boundaries of their own land and cease their
aggressions upon our hunting grounds.
The loss of my father, by the Cherokees, made me anxious to avenge his
death by the utter annihilation, if possible, of the last remnant of
their tribe. I accordingly commenced collecting another party to go
against them. Having succeeded in this, I started with my braves and
went into their country, but I found only five of their people, whom I
took prisoners. I afterwards released four of them, the other, a
young squaw, we brought home. Great as was my hatred of these people,
I could not kill so small a party.
About the close of the ninth moon, I led a large party against the
Chippewas, Kaskaskias and Osages. This was the commencement of a long
and arduous campaign, which terminated in my thirty-fifth year, after
having had seven regular engagements and numerous small skirmishes.
During this campaign several hundred of the enemy were slain. I
killed thirteen of their bravest warriors with my own hands.
Our enemies having now been driven from our hunting grounds, with so
great a loss as they sustained, we returned in peace to our village.
After the seasons of mourning and burying our dead braves and of
feasting and dancing had passed, we commenced preparations for our
winter's hunt. When all was ready we started on the chase and
returned richly laden with the fruits of the hunter's toil.
We usually paid a visit to St. Louis every summer, but in consequence
of the long protracted war in which we had been engaged, I had not
been there for some years.
Our difficulties all having been settled, I concluded to take a small
party and go down to see our Spanish father during the summer. We
went, and on our arrival put up our lodges where the market house now
stands. After painting and dressing we called to see our Spanish
father and were kindly received. He gave us a great variety of
presents and an abundance of provisions. We danced through the town
as usual, and the inhabitants all seemed well pleased. They seemed to
us like brothers, and always gave us good advice. On my next and last
visit to our Spanish father, I discovered on landing, that all was not
right. Every countenance seemed sad and gloomy. I inquired the cause
and was informed that the Americans were coming to take possession of
the town and country, and that we were to lose our Spanish father.
This news made me and my band exceedingly sad, because we had always
heard bad accounts of the Americans from the Indians who had lived
near them. We were very sorry to lose our Spanish father, who had
always treated us 'with great friendship.
A few days afterwards the Americans arrived. I, in company with my
band, went to take leave for the last time of our father. The
Americans came to see him also. Seeing their approach, we passed out
at one door as they came in at another. We immediately embarked in
our canoes for our village on Rock river, not liking the change any
more than our friends at St. Louis appeared to.
On arriving at our village we gave out the news that a strange people
had taken possession of St. Louis and that we should never see our
generous Spanish father again. This information cast a deep gloom
over our people.
Sometime afterwards a boat came up the river with a young American
chief, at that time Lieutenant, and afterwards General Pike, and a
small party of soldiers aboard. The boat at length arrived at Rock
river and the young chief came on shore with his interpreter. He made
us a speech and gave us some presents, in return for which we gave him
meat and such other provisions as we could spare.
We were well pleased with the speech of the young chief. He gave us
good advice and said our American father would treat us well. He
presented us an American flag which we hoisted. He then requested us
to lower the _British colors_, which were waving in the air, and to
give him our British medals, promising to send others on his return to
St: Louis. This we declined to do as we wished to have two fathers.
When the young chief started we sent runners to the village of the
Foxes, some miles distant, to direct them to treat him well as he
passed, which they did. He went to the head of the Mississippi and
then returned to St. Louis. We did not see any Americans again for
some time, being supplied with goods by British traders.
We were fortunate in not giving up our medals, for we learned
afterwards, from our traders, that the chiefs high up the Mississippi,
who gave theirs, never received any in exchange for them. But the
fault was not with the young American chief. He was a good man, a
great brave, and I have since learned, died in his country's service.
Some moons after this young chief had descended the Mississippi, one
of our people killed an American, was taken prisoner and was confined
in the prison at St. Louis for the offence. We held a council at our
village to see what could be done for him, and determined that
Quashquame, Pashepaho, Ouchequaka and Hashequarhiqua should go down to
St. Louis, see our American father and do all they could to have our
friend released by paying for the person killed, thus covering the
blood and satisfying the relations of the murdered man. This being
the only means with us for saving a person who had killed another, and
we then thought it was the same way with the whites.
The party started with the good wishes of the whole nation, who had
high hopes that the emissaries would accomplish the object of their
mission. The relations of the prisoner blacked their faces and
fasted, hoping the Great Spirit would take pity on them and return
husband and father to his sorrowing wife and weeping children.
Quashquame and party remained a long time absent. They at length
returned and encamped near the village, a short distance below it, and
did not come up that day, nor did any one approach their camp. They
appeared to be dressed in fine coats and had medals. From these
circumstances we were in hopes that they had brought good news. Early
the next morning the Council Lodge was crowded, Quashquame and party
came up and gave us the following account of their mission:
On our arrival at St. Louis we met our American father and explained
to him our business, urging the release of our friend. The American
chief told us he wanted land. We agreed to give him some on the west
side of the Mississippi, likewise more on the Illinois side opposite
Jeffreon. When the business was all arranged we expected to have our
friend released to come home with us. About the time we were ready to
start our brother was let out of the prison. He started and ran a
short distance when he was SHOT DEAD!
This was all they could remember of what had been said and done. It
subsequently appeared that they had been drunk the greater part of the
time while at St. Louis.
This was all myself and nation knew of the treaty of 1804. It has
since been explained to me. I found by that treaty, that all of the
country east of the Mississippi, and south of Jeffreon was ceded to
the United States for one thousand dollars a year. I will leave it to
the people of the United States to say whether our nation was properly
represented in this treaty? Or whether we received a fair
compensation for the extent of country ceded by these four
I could say much more respecting this treaty, but I will not at this
time. It has been the origin of all our serious difficulties with the
Sometime after this treaty was made, a war chief with a party of
soldiers came up in keel boats, encamped a short distance above the
head of the Des Moines rapids, and commenced cutting timber and
building houses. The news of their arrival was soon carried to all
our villages, to confer upon which many councils were held. We could
not understand the intention, or comprehend the reason why the
Americans wanted to build homes at that place. We were told that they
were a party of soldiers, who had brought great guns with them, and
looked like a war party of whites.
A number of people immediately went down to see what was going on,
myself among them. On our arrival we found that they were building a
fort. The soldiers were busily engaged in cutting timber, and I
observed that they took their arms with them when they went to the
woods. The whole party acted as they would do in an enemy's country.
The chiefs held a council with the officers, or head men of the party,
which I did not attend, but understood from them that the war chief
had said that they were building homes for a trader who was coming
there to live, and would sell us goods very cheap, and that the
soldiers were to remain to keep him company. We were pleased at this
information ad hoped that it was all true, but we were not so
credulous as to believe that all these buildings were intended merely
for the accommodation of a trader. Being distrustful of their
intentions, we were anxious for them to leave off building and go back
down the river.
By this time a considerable number of Indians had arrived to see what
was doing. I discovered that the whites were alarmed. Some of our
young men watched a party of soldiers, who went out to work, carrying
their arms, which were laid aside before they commenced. Having
stolen quietly to the spot they seized the guns and gave a wild yell!
The party threw down their axes and ran for their arms, but found them
gone, and themselves surrounded. Our young men laughed at them and
returned their weapons.
When this party came to the fort they reported what had been done, and
the war chief made a serious affair of it. He called our chiefs to
council inside his fort. This created considerable excitement in our
camp, every one wanting to know what was going to be done. The
picketing which had been put up, being low, every Indian crowded
around the fort, got upon blocks of wood and old barrels that they
might see what was going on inside. Some were armed with guns and
others with bows and arrows. We used this precaution, seeing that the
soldiers had their guns loaded and having seen them load their big
guns in the morning.
A party of our braves commenced dancing and proceeded up to the gate
with the intention of, going in, but were stopped. The council
immediately broke up, the soldiers with their guns in hands rushed out
from the rooms where they had been concealed. The cannon were hauled
to the gateway, and a soldier came running with fire in his hand,
ready to apply the match. Our braves gave way and retired to the
camp. There was no preconcerted plan to attack the whites at that
time, but I am of the opinion now that had our braves got into the
fort all of the whites would have been killed, as were the British
soldiers at Mackinac many years before.
We broke up our camp and returned to Rock river. A short time
afterward the party at the fort received reinforcements, among whom we
observed some of our old friends from St. Louis.
Soon after our return from Fort Madison runners came to our village
from the Shawnee Prophet. Others were despatched by him to the
village of the Winnebagoes, with invitations for us to meet him on the
Wabash. Accordingly a party went from each village.
All of our party returned, among whom came a prophet, who explained to
us the bad treatment the different nations of Indians had received
from the Americans, by giving them a few presents and taking their
land from them.
I remember well his saying: "If you do not join your friends on the
Wabash, the Americans will take this very village from you!" I little
thought then that his words would come true, supposing that he used
these arguments merely to encourage us to join him, which we concluded
not to do. He then returned to the Wabash, where a party Of
Winnebagoes had preceded him, and preparations were making for war. A
battle soon ensued in which several Winnebagoes were killed. As soon
as their nation heard of this battle, and that some of their people
had been killed, they sent several war parties in different
directions. One to the mining county, one to Prairie du Chien, and
another to Fort Madison. The latter returned by our village and
exhibited several scalps which they had taken. Their success induced
several parties to go against the fort. Myself and several of my band
joined the last party, and were determined to take the fort. We
arrived in the vicinity during the night. The spies that we had sent
out several days before to watch the movements of those at the
garrison, and ascertain their numbers, came to us and gave the
following information: "A keel arrived from below this evening with
seventeen men. There are about fifty men in the fort and they march
out every morning to exercise." It was immediately determined that we
should conceal ourselves in a position as near as practicable to where
the soldiers should come out, and when the signal was given each one
was to fire on them and rush into the fort. With my knife I dug a
hole in the ground deep enough that by placing a few weeds around it,
succeeded in concealing myself. I was so near the fort that I could
hear the sentinels walking on their beats. By day break I had
finished my work and was anxiously awaiting the rising of the sun.
The morning drum beat. I examined the priming of my gun, and eagerly
watched for the gate to open. It did open, but instead of the troops,
a young man came out alone and the gate closed after him. He passed
so close to me that I could have killed him with my knife, but I let
him pass unharmed. He kept the path toward the river, and had he gone
one step from it, he must have come upon us and would have been
killed. He returned immediately and entered the gate. I would now
have rushed for the gate and entered it with him, but I feared that
our party was not prepared to follow me.
The gate opened again when four men emerged and went down to the river
for wood. While they were gone another man came out, walked toward
the river, was fired on and killed by a Winnebago. The others started
and ran rapidly towards the fort, but two of them were shot down dead.
We then took shelter under the river's bank out of reach of the firing
from the fort.
The firing now commenced from both parties and was kept up without
cessation all day. I advised our party to set fire to the fort, and
commenced preparing arrows for that purpose. At night we made the
attempt, and succeeded in firing the buildings several times, but
without effect, as the fire was always instantly extinguished.
The next day I took my rifle and shot in two the cord by which they
hoisted their flag, and prevented them from raising it again. We
continued firing until our ammunition was expended. Finding that we
could not take the fort, we returned home, having one Winnebago killed
and one wounded during the siege.
I have since learned that the trader who lived in the fort, wounded
the Winnebago while he was scalping the first man that was killed.
The Winnebago recovered, and is now living, and is very friendly
disposed towards the trader, believing him to be a great brave.
Soon after our return home, news reached us that a war was going to
take place between the British and the Americans.
Runners continued to arrive from different tribes, all confirming the
reports of the expected war. The British agent, Colonel Dixon, was
holding talks with, and making presents to the different tribes. I
had not made up my mind whether to join the British or remain neutral.
I had not discovered yet one good trait in the character of the
Americans who had come to the country. They made fair promises but
never fulfilled them, while the British made but few, and we could
always rely implicitly on their word.
One of our people having killed a Frenchman at Prairie du Chien, the
British took him prisoner and said they would shoot him next day. His
family were encamped a short distance below the mouth of the
Wisconsin. He begged for permission to go and see them that night, as
he was to die the next day. They permitted him to go after he had
promised them to return by sunrise the next morning.
He visited his family, which consisted of his wife and six children.
I can not describe their meeting and parting so as to be understood by
the whites, as it appears that their feelings are acted upon by
certain rules laid down by their preachers, while ours are governed by
the monitor within us. He bade his loved ones the last sad farewell
and hurried across the prairie to the fort and arrived in time. The
soldiers were ready and immediately marched out and shot him down. I
visited the stricken family, and by hunting and fishing provided for
them until they reached their relations.
Why did the Great Spirit ever send the whites to this island to drive
us from our homes and introduce among us poisonous liquors, disease
and death? They should have remained in the land the Great Spirit
allotted them. But I will proceed with my story. My memory, however,
is not very good since my late visit to the white people. I have
still a buzzing noise in my ear from the noise and bustle incident to
travel. I may give some parts of my story out of place, but will make
my best endeavors to be correct.
Several of our chiefs were called upon to go to Washington to see our
Great Father. They started and during their absence I went to Peoria,
on the Illinois river, to see an old friend and get his advice. He
was a man who always told u the truth, sad knew everything that was
going on. When I arrived at Peoria he had gone to Chicago, and was
not at home. I visited the Pottawattomie villages and then returned
to Rock river. Soon after which our friends returned from their visit
to the Great Father and reported what had been said and done. Their
Great Father told them that in the event of a war taking place with
England, not to interfere on either side, but remain neutral. He did
not want our help, but wished us to hunt and supply our families, and
remain in peace. He said that British traders would not be allowed to
come on the Mississippi to furnish us with goods, but that we would be
well supplied by an American trader. Our chiefs then told him that
the British traders always gave us credit in the fall for guns, powder
and goods, to enable us to hunt and clothe our families. He replied
that the trader at Fort Madison would have plenty of goods, and if we
should go there in the autumn of the year, he would supply us on
credit, as the British traders had done. The party gave a good
account of what they had seen and the kind treatment they had
received. This information pleased us all very much. We all agreed
to follow our Great Father's advice and not interfere in the war. Our
women were much pleased at the good news. Everything went on
cheerfully in our village. We resumed our pastimes of playing ball,
horse-racing and dancing, which had been laid aside when this great
war was first talked about. We had fine crops of corn which were now
ripe, and our women were busily engaged in gathering it and making
caches to contain it.
In a short time we were ready to start to Fort Madison to get our
supply of goods, that we might proceed to our hunting grounds. We
passed merrily down the river, all in high spirits. I had determined
to spend the winter at my old favorite hunting ground on Skunk river.
I left part of my corn and mats at its mouth to take up as we returned
and many others did the same.
The next morning we arrived at the fort and made our encampment.
Myself and principal men paid a visit to the war chief at the fort.
He received us kindly and gave us some tobacco, pipes and provisions.
The trader came in and we all shook hands with him, for on him all our
dependence was placed, to enable us to hunt and thereby support our
families. We waited a long time, expecting the trader would tell us
that he had orders from our Great Father to supply us with goods, but
he said nothing on the subject. I got up and told him in a short
speech what we had come for, and hoped he had plenty of goods to
supply us. I told him that he should be well paid in the spring, and
concluded by informing him that we had decided to follow our Great
Father's advice and not go to war.
He said that he was happy to hear that we had concluded to remain in
peace. That he had a large quantity of goods, and that if we had made
a good hunt we should be well supplied, but he remarked that he had
received no instructions to furnish us anything on credit, nor could
he give us any without receiving the pay for them on the spot!
We informed him what our Great Father had told our chiefs at
Washington, and contended that he could supply us if he would,
believing that our Great Father always spoke the truth. The war chief
said the trader could not furnish us on credit, and that he had
received no instructions from our Great Father at Washington. We left
the fort dissatisfied and went to camp. What was now to be done we
knew not. We questioned the party that brought us the news from our
Great Father, that we could get credit for our winter supplies at this
place. They still told the same story and insisted on its truth. Few
of us slept that night. All was gloom and discontent.
In the morning a canoe was seen descending the river, bearing an
express, who brought intelligence that La Gutrie, a British trader,
had landed at Rock Island with two boat loads of goods. He requested
us to come up immediately as he had good news for us, and a variety of
presents. The express presented us with tobacco, pipes and wampum.
The news ran through our camp like fire through dry grass on the
prairie. Our lodges were soon taken down and we all started for Rock
Island. Here ended all hopes of our remaining at peace, having been
forced into war by being deceived.
Our party were not long in getting to Rock Island. When we came in
sight and saw tents pitched, we yelled, fired our guns and beat our
drums. Guns were immediately fired at the island, returning our
salute, and a British flag hoisted. We loaded, were cordially
received by La Gutrie, and then smoked the pipe with him. After which
he made a speech to us, saying that he had been sent by Col. Dixon.
He gave us a number of handsome presents, among them a large silk flag
and a keg of rum. He then told us to retire, take some refreshments
and rest ourselves, as he would have more to say to us next day.
We accordingly retired to our lodges, which in the meantime had been
put up, and spent the night. The next morning we called upon him and
told him we wanted his two boat loads of goods to divide among our
people, for which he should be well paid in the spring in furs and
peltries. He consented for us to take them and do as we pleased with
them. While our people were dividing the goods, he took me aside and
informed me that Colonel Dixon was at Green Bay with twelve boats
loaded with goods, guns and ammunition. He wished to raise a party
immediately and go to him. He said our friend, the trader at Peoria,
was collecting the Pottawattomies and would be there before us. I
communicated this information to my braves, and a party of two hundred
warriors were soon collected and ready to depart. I paid a visit to
the lodge of an old friend, who had been the comrade of my youth, and
had been in many war parties with me, but was now crippled and no
longer able to travel. He had a son that I had adopted as my own, and
who had hunted with me the two winters preceding. I wished my old
friend to let him go with me. He objected, saying he could not get
his support if he did attend me, and that I, who had always provided
for him since his misfortune, would be gone, therefore he could not
spare him as he had no other dependence. I offered to leave my son in
his stead but he refused to give his consent. He said that he did not
like the war, as he had been down the river and had been well treated
by the Americans and could not fight against them. He had promised to
winter near a white settler above Salt river, and must take his son
with him. We parted and I soon concluded my arrangements and started
with my party for Green Bay. On our arrival there we found a large
encampment; were well received by Colonel Dixon and the war chiefs who
were with him. He gave us plenty of provisions, tobacco and pipes,
saying that he would hold a council with us the next day. In the
encampment I found a great number of Kickapoos, Ottawas and
Winnebagoes. I visited all their camps and found them in high
spirits. They had all received new guns, ammunition and a variety of
In the evening a messenger came to visit Colonel Dixon. I went to his
tent, in which them were two other war chiefs and an interpreter. He
received me with a hearty shake of the hand; presented me to the other
chiefs, who treated me cordially, expressing themselves as being much.
Pleased to meet me. After I was seated Colonel Dixon said: "General
Black Hawk, I sent for you to explain to you what we are going to do
and give you the reasons for our coming here. Our friend, La Gutrie,
informs us in the letter you brought from him, of what has lately
taken place. You will now have to hold us fast by the hand. Your
English Father has found out that the Americans want to take your
country from you and has sent me and my braves to drive them back to
their own country. He has, likewise, sent a large quantity of arms
and ammunition, and we want all your warriors to join us."
He then placed a medal around my neck and gave me a paper, which I
lost in the late war, and a silk flag, saying: "You are to command all
the braves that will leave here the day after to-morrow, to join our
braves at Detroit."
I told him I was very much disappointed, as I wanted to descend the
Mississippi and make war upon the settlements. He said he had been
ordered to lay in waste the country around St. Louis. But having been
a trader on the Mississippi for many years himself, and always having
been treated kindly by the people there, he could not send brave men
to murder helpless women and innocent children. There were no
soldiers there for us to fight, and where he was going to send us
there were a great many of them. If we defeated them the Mississippi
country should be ours. I was much pleased with this speech, as it
was spoken by a brave.
I inquired about my old friend, the trader at Peoria, and observed,
"that I had expected that he would have been here before me." He
shook his head and said, "I have sent express after express for him,
and have offered him great sums of money to come and bring the
Pottawatomies and Kickapoos with him." He refused, saying, "Your
British father has not enough money to induce me to join you. I have
now laid a trap for him. I have sent Gomo and a party of Indians to
take him prisoner and bring him here alive. I expect him in a few
The next day arms and ammunition, knives, tomahawks and clothing were
given to my band. We had a great feast in the evening, and the
morning following I started with about five hundred braves to join the
British army. We passed Chicago and observed that the fort had been
evacuated by the Americans, and their soldiers had gone to Fort Wayne.
They were attacked a short distance from the fort and defeated. They
had a considerable quantity of powder in the fort at Chicago, which
they had promised to the Indians, but the night before they marched
away they destroyed it by throwing it into a well. If they had
fulfilled their word to the Indians, they doubtless would have gone to
Fort Wayne without molestation. On our arrival, I found that the
Indians had several prisoners, and I advised them to treat them well.
We continued our march, joining the British below Detroit, soon after
which we had a battle. The Americans fought well, and drove us back
with considerable loss. I was greatly surprised at this, as I had
been told that the Americans would not fight.
Our next movement was against a fortified place. I was stationed with
my braves to prevent any person going to, or coming from the fort. I
found two men taking care of cattle and took them prisoners. I would
not kill them, but delivered them to the British war chief. Soon
after, several boats came down the river fail of American soldiers.
They landed on the opposite side, took the British batteries, and
pursued the soldiers that had left them. They went too far without
knowing the strength of the British and were defeated. I hurried
across the river, anxious for an opportunity to show the courage of my
braves, but before we reached the scene of battle all was over.
The British had taken many prisoners and the Indians were killing
them. I immediately put a stop to it, as I never thought it brave,
but base and cowardly to kill in unarmed and helpless foe. We
remained here for some time. I can not detail what took place, as I
was stationed with my braves in the woods. It appeared, however, that
the British could not take this fort, for we marched to another, some
distance off. When we approached it, I found a small stockade, and
concluded that there were not many men in it. The British war chief
sent a flag of truce. Colonel Dixon carried it, but soon returned,
reporting that the young war chief in command would not give up the
fort without fighting. Colonel Dixon came to me and said, "you will
see to-morrow, how easily we will take that fort." I was of the same
opinion, but when the morning came I was disappointed. The British
advanced and commenced the attack, fighting like true braves, but were
defeated by the braves in the fort, and a great number of our men were
killed. The British army was making preparations to retreat. I was
now tired of being with them, our success being bad, and having got no
plunder. I determined on leaving them and returning to Rock river, to
see what had become of my wife and children, as I had not heard from
them since I left home. That night I took about twenty of my braves,
and left the British camp for home. On our journey we met no one
until we came to the Illinois river. Here we found two lodges of
Pottawattomies. They received us in a very friendly manner, and gave
us something to eat. I inquired about their friends who were with the
British. They said there had been some fighting on the Illinois
river, and that my friend, the Peoria trader, had been taken prisoner.
"By Gomo and his party?" I immediately inquired. They replied, "no,
but by the Americans, who came up with boats. They took him and the
French settlers prisoners, and they burned the village of Peoria."
They could give us no information regarding our friends on Rock river.
In three days more we were in the vicinity of our village, and were
soon after surprised to find that a party of Americans had followed us
from the British camp. One of them, more daring than his comrades,
had made his way through the thicket on foot, and was just in the act
of shooting me when I discovered him. I then ordered him to
surrender, marched him into camp, and turned him over to a number of
our young men with this injunction: "Treat him as a brother, as I have
concluded to adopt him in our tribe."
A little while before this occurrence I had directed my party to
proceed to the village, as I had discovered a smoke ascending from a
hollow in the bluff, and wished to go alone to the place from whence
the smoke proceeded, to see who was there. I approached the spot, and
when I came in view of the fire, I saw an old man sitting in sorrow
beneath a mat which he had stretched over him. At any other time I
would have turned away without disturbing him, knowing that he came
here to be alone, to humble himself before the Great Spirit, that he
might take pity on him. I approached and seated myself beside him.
He gave one look at me and then fixed his eyes on the ground. It was
my old friend. I anxiously inquired for his son, my adopted child,
and what had befallen our people. My old comrade seemed scarcely
alive. He must have fasted a long time. I lighted my pipe and put it
into his mouth. He eagerly drew a few puffs, cast up his eyes which
met mine, and recognized me. His eyes were glassy and he would again
have fallen into forgetfulness, had I not given him some water, which
revived him. I again inquired, "what has befallen our people, and
what has become of our son?"
In a feeble voice he said, "Soon after your departure to join the
British, I descended the river with a small party, to winter at the
place I told you the white man had asked me to come to. When we
arrived I found that a fort had been built, and the white family that
had invited me to come and hunt near them had removed to it. I then
paid a visit to the fort to tell the white people that my little band
were friendly, and that we wished to hunt in the vicinity of the fort.
The war chief who commanded there, told me that we might hunt on the
Illinois side of the Mississippi, and no person would trouble us.
That the horsemen only ranged on the Missouri side, and he had
directed them not to cross the river. I was pleased with this
assurance of safety, and immediately crossed over and made my winter's
camp. Game was plenty. We lived happy, and often talked of you. My
boy regretted your absence and the hardships you would have to
undergo. We had been here about two moons, when my boy went out as
usual to hunt. Night came on and he did not return. I was alarmed
for his safety and passed a sleepless night. In the morning my old
woman went to the other lodges and gave the alarm and all turned out
to hunt for the missing one. There being snow upon the ground they
soon came upon his track, and after pursuing it for some distance,
found he was on the trail of a deer, which led toward the river. They
soon came to the place where he had stood and fired, and near by,
hanging on the branch of a tree, found the deer, which he had killed
and skinned. But here were also found the tracks of white men. They
had taken my boy prisoner. Their tracks led across the river and then
down towards the fort. My friends followed on the trail, and soon
found my boy lying dead. He had been most cruelly murdered. His face
was shot to pieces, his body stabbed in several places and his head
scalped. His arms were pinioned behind him."
The old man paused for some time, and then told me that his wife had
died on their way up the Mississippi. I took the hand of my old
friend in mine and pledged myself to avenge the death of his son. It
was now dark, and a terrible storm was raging. The rain was descending
in heavy torrents, the thunder was rolling in the heavens, and the
lightning flashed athwart the sky. I had taken my blanket off and
wrapped it around the feeble old man. When the storm abated I kindled
a fire and took hold of my old friend to remove him nearer to it. He
was dead! I remained with him during the night. Some of my party
came early in the morning to look for me, and assisted me in burying
him on the peak of the bluff. I then returned to the village with my
friends. I visited the grave of my old friend as I ascended Rock
river the last time.
On my arrival at the village I was met by the chiefs and braves and
conducted to the lodge which was prepared for me. After eating, I gave
a fall account of all that I had seen and done. I explained to my
people the manner in which the British and Americans fought. Instead
of stealing upon each other and taking every advantage to kill the
enemy and save their own people as we do, which, with us is considered
good policy in a war chief, they march out in open daylight and fight
regardless of the number of warriors they may lose. After the battle
is over they retire to feast and drink wine as if nothing had
happened. After which they make a statement in writing of what they
have done, each party claiming the victory, and neither giving an
account of half the number that have been killed on their own side
They all fought like braves, but would not do to lead a party with us.
Our maxim is: "Kill the enemy and save our own men." Those chiefs will
do to paddle a canoe but not to steer it. The Americans shot better
than the British, but their soldiers were not so well clothed, nor so
well provided for.
The village chief informed me that after I started with my braves and
the parties who followed, the nation was reduced to a small party of
fighting men; that they would have been unable to defend themselves if
the Americans had attacked them. That all the children and old men and
women belonging to the warriors who had joined the British were left
with them to provide for. A council had been called which agreed that
Quashquame, the Lance, and other chiefs, with the old men, women and
children, and such others as chose to accompany them, should descend
the Mississippi to St. Louis, and place themselves under the American
chief stationed there. They accordingly went down to St. Louis, were
received as the friendly band of our nation, were sent up the Missouri
and provided for, while their friends were assisting the British!
Keokuk was then introduced to me as the war chief of the braves then
in the village. I inquired how he had become chief? They said that a
large armed force was seen by their spies going toward Peoria. Fears
were entertained that they would come up and attack the village and a
council had been called to decide as to the best course to be adopted,
which concluded upon leaving the village and going to the west side of
the Mississippi to get out of the way. Keokuk, during the sitting of
the council, had been standing at the door of the lodge, not being
allowed to enter, as he had never killed an enemy, where he remained
until old Wacome came out. He then told him that he heard what they
had decided upon, and was anxious to be permitted to speak before the
council adjourned. Wacome returned and asked leave for Keokuk to come
in and make a speech. His request was granted. Keokuk entered and
addressed the chiefs. He said: "I have heard with sorrow that you
have determined to leave our village and cross the Mississippi, merely
because you have been told that the Americans were coming in this
direction. Would you leave our village, desert our homes and fly
before an enemy approaches? Would you leave all, even the graves of
our fathers, to the mercy of an enemy without trying to defend them?
Give me charge of your warriors and I'll defend the village while you
sleep in safety."
The council consented that Keokuk should be war chief. He marshalled
his braves, sent out his spies and advanced with a party himself on
the trail leading to Peoria. They returned without seeing an enemy.
The Ameicans did not come by our village. All were satisfied with the
appointment of Keokuk. He used every precaution that our people
should not be surprised. This is the manner in which and the cause of
his receiving the appointment.
I was satisfied, and then started to visit my wife and children. I
found them well, and my boys were growing finely. It is not customary
for us to say much about our women, as they generally perform their
part cheerfully and never interfere with business belonging to the
men. This is the only wife I ever had or ever will have. She is a
good woman, and teaches my boys to be brave. Here I would have rested
myself and enjoyed the comforts of my lodge, but I could not. I had
promised to avenge the death of my adopted son.
I immediately collected a party of thirty braves, and explained to
them the object of my making this war party, it being to avenge the
death of my adopted son, who had been cruelly and wantonly murdered by
the whites. I explained to them the pledge I had made to his father,
and told them that they were the last words that he had heard spoken.
All were willing to go with me to fulfill my word. We started in
canoes, and descended the Mississippi, until we arrived ear the place
where Fort Madison had stood. It had been abandoned and burned by the
whites, and nothing remained but the chimneys. We were pleased to see
that the white people had retired from the country. We proceeded down
the river again. I landed with one brave near Cape Gray, the
remainder of the party went to the mouth of the Quiver. I hurried
across to the tail that led from the mouth of the Quiver to a fort,
and soon after heard firing at the mouth of the creek. Myself and
brave concealed ourselves on the side of the road. We had not
remained here long before two men, riding one horse, came at full
speed from the direction of the sound of the firing. When they came
sufficiently near we fired; the horse jumped and both men fell. We
rushed toward them and one rose and ran. I followed him and was
gaining on him, when he ran over a pile of rails that had lately been
made, seized a stick and struck at me. I now had an opportunity to
see his face, and I knew him. He had been at Qaashquame's village to
teach his people how to plow. We looked upon him as a good man. I
did not wish to kill him, and pursued him no further. I returned and
met my brave. He said he had killed the other man and had his scalp
in his hand. We had not proceeded far before we met the man supposed
to be killed, coming up the road, staggering like a drunken man, and
covered all over with blood. This was the most terrible sight I had
ever seen. I told my comrade to kill him to put him out of his
misery. I could not look at him. I passed on and heard a rustling in
the bushes. I distinctly saw two little boys concealing themselves in
the undergrowth, thought of my own children, and passed on without
noticing them. My comrade here joined me, and in a little while we
met the other detachment of our party. I told them that we would be
pursued, and directed them to follow me. We crossed the creek and
formed ourselves in the timber. We had not been here long, when a
party of mounted men rushed at full speed upon us. I took deliberate
aim and shot the leader of the party. He fell lifeless from his
horse. All my people fired, but without effect. The nemy rushed upon
us without giving us time to reload. They surrounded us and forced us
into a deep sink-hole, at the bottom of which there were some bushes.
We loaded our gum and awaited the approach of the enemy. They rushed
to the edge of the hole, fired on us and killed one of our men. We
instantly returned their fire, killing one of their party. We
reloaded and commenced digging holes in the side of the bank to
protect ourselves, while a party watched the enemy, expecting their
whole force would be upon us immediately. Some of my warriors
commenced singing their death songs. I heard the whites talking, and
called to them to come out and fight. I did not like my situation and
wished the matter settled. I soon heard chopping and knocking. I
could not imagine what they were doing. Soon after they ran up a
battery on wheels and fired without hurting any of us. I called to
them again, and told them if they were brave men to come out and fight
us. They gave up the siege and returned to their fort about dusk.
There were eighteen in this trap with me. We came out unharmed, with
the exception of the brave who was killed by the enemy's fist fire,
after we were entrapped. We found one white man dead at the edge of
the sink-hole, whom they did not remove for fear of our fire, and
scalped him, placing our dead brave upon him, thinking we could not
leave him in a better situation than on the prostrate form of a fallen
We had now effected our purpose and concluded to go back by land,
thinking it unsafe to use our canoes. I found my wife and children,
and the greater part of our people, at the mouth of the Iowa river. I
now determined to remain with my family and hunt for them, and to
humble myself before the Great Spirit, returning thanks to him for
preserving me through the war. I made my hunting camp on English
river, which is a branch of the Iowa. During the winter a party of
Pottawattomies came from the Illinois to pay me a visit, among them
was Washeown, an old man who had formerly lived in our village. He
informed as that in the fall the Americans had built a fort at Peoria
and had prevented them from going down the Sangamon to hunt. He said
they were very much distressed. Gomo had returned from the British
army, and brought news of their defeat near Malden. He told us that
he went to the American chief with a flag, gave up fighting, and told
him he desired to make peace for his nation. The American chief gave
him a paper to the war chief at Peoria, and I visited that fort with
Gomo. It was then agreed that there should be no more hostilities
between the Americans and the Pottawattomies. Two of the white
chiefs, with eight Pottawattomie braves, and five others, Americans,
had gone down to St. Louis to have the treaty of peace confirmed.
This, said Washeown, is good news; for we can now go to our hunting
grounds, and, for my part, I never had anything to do with this war.
The Americans never killed any of our people before the war, nor
interfered with our hunting grounds, and I resolved to do nothing
against them. I made no reply to these remarks as the speaker was old
and talked like a child.
We gave the Pottawattomies a great feast. I presented Washeown with a
good horse. My braves gave one to each of his party, and, at parting,
said they wished us to make peace, which we did not promise, but told
them that we would not send out war parties against the settlements.
A short time after the Pottawattomies had gone, a party of thirty
braves belonging to our nation, from the peace camp on the Missouri,
paid us a visit. They exhibited five scalps which they had taken on
the Missouri, and wished us to join in a dance over them, which we
willingly did. They related the manner in which they had taken these
scalps. Myself and braves showed them the two we had taken near the
Quiver, and told them the cause that induced us to go out with the war
party, as well as the manner in which we took these scalps, and the
difficulty we had in obtaining them.
They recounted to us all that had taken place, the number that had
been slain by the peace party, as they were called and recognized to
be, which far surpassed what our warriors, who had joined the British,
had done. This party came for the purpose of joining the British, but
I advised them to return to the peace party, and told them the news
which the Pottawattomies had brought. They returned to the Missouri,
accompanied by some of my braves whose families were there.
After "sugar-making" was over in the spring, I visited the Fox village
at the lead mines. They had nothing to do with the war, and
consequently were not in mourning. I remained there some days,
spending my time very pleasantly with them in dancing and feasting. I
then paid a visit to the Pottawattomie village on the Illinois river,
and learned that Sanatuwa and Tatapuckey had been to St. Louis. Gomo
told me that "peace had been made between his people and the
Americans, and that seven of his band remained with the war chief to
make the peace stronger." He then told me: "Washeown is dead! He had
gone to the fort to carry some wild fowl to exchange for tobacco,
pipes and other articles. He had secured some tobacco and a little
flour, and left the fort before sunset, but had not proceeded far when
he was _shot dead_ by a white war chief, who had concealed himself
near the path for that purpose. He then dragged him to the lake and
threw him in, where I afterwards found him. I have since given two
homes and a rifle to his relatives, not to break the peace, to which
they have agreed."
I remained for some time at the village of Gomo, and went with him to
the fort to pay a visit to the war chief. I spoke the Pottawattomie
tongue well, and was taken for one of their people by him. He treated
us friendly, and said he was very much displeased about the murder of'
Washeown. He promised us he would find out and punish the person who
killed him. He made some inquiries about the Sacs, which I answered.
On my return to Rock river, I was informed that a party of soldiers
had gone up the Mississippi to build a fort at Prairie du Chien. They
stopped near our village, appearing very friendly, and were treated
kindly by our people.
We commenced repairing our lodges, putting our village in order, and
clearing our cornfields. We divided the fields belonging to the party
on the Missouri among those who wanted them, on condition that they
should be relinquished to their owners on their return from the peace
establishment. We were again happy in our village. Our women went
cheerfully to work and all moved on harmoniously.
Some time afterward, five or six boats arrived loaded with soldiers on
their way to Prairie du Chien to reinforce the garrison at that place.
They appeared friendly and were well received, and we held a council
with the war chief. We had no intention of hurting him or any of his
party, for we could easily have defeated them. They remained with us
all day and gave oar people plenty of whisky. Doing the night a party
arrived, by way of Rock river, who brought us six kegs of powder.
They told us that the British had gone to Prairie du Chien and taken
the fort. They wished us to again join them in the war, which we
agreed to do. I collected my warriors and determined to pursue the
boats, which had sailed with a fair wind. If we had known the day
before, we could easily have taken them all, as the war chief used no
precaution to prevent it.
I started immediately with my party, by land, in pursuit, thinking
that some of their boats might get aground, or that the Great Spirit
would put them in our power, if he wished them taken and their people
killed. About half way up the rapids I had a full view of the boats
all sailing with a strong wind. I discovered that one boat was badly
managed, and was suffered to be drawn ashore by the wind. They landed
by running hard aground and lowered their sail. The others passed on.
This boat the Great Spirit gave to us. All that could, hurried
aboard, but they were unable to push off, being fast aground. We
advanced to the river's bank undercover, and commenced firing on the
boat. I encouraged my braves to continue firing. Several guns were
fired from the boat, but without effect. I prepared my bow and arrows
to throw fire to the sail, which was lying on the boat. After two or
three attempts, I succeeded in setting it on fire. The boat was soon
in flames. About this time, one of the boats that had passed
returned, dropped anchor and swung in close to one which was on fire,
taking off all the people except those who were killed or badly
wounded. We could distinctly see them passing from one boat to the
other, and fired on them with good effect. We wounded the war chief
in this way. Another boat now came down, dropped her anchor, which
did not take hold, and drifted whore. The other boat cut her cable
and drifted down the river, leaving their comrades without attempting
to assist them. We then commenced an attack upon this boat, firing
several rounds, which was not returned. We thought they were afraid
or only had a few aboard. I therefore ordered a rush toward the boat,
but when we got near enough they fired, killing two of our braves--
these being all we lost in the engagement. Some of their men jumped
out and shoved the boat off, and thus got away without losing a man.
I had a good opinion of this war chief, as he managed so much better
than the others. It would give me pleasure to shake him by the hand.
We now put out the fire on the captured boat to save the cargo, when a
skiff was seen coming down the river. Some of our people cried out,
"Here comes an express from Prairie du Chien." We hoisted the British
flag, but they would not land. They turned their little boat around,
and rowed up the river. We directed a few shots at them, but they
were so far off that we could not hurt them. I found several barrels
of whisky on the captured boat, knocked in the heads and emptied the
bad medicine late the river. I next found a box full of small bottles
and packages, which appeared to be bad medicine also, such as the
medicine men kill the white people with when they are sick. This I
threw into the river. Continuing my search for plunder, I found
several guns, some large barrels filled with clothing, and a number of
cloth lodges, all of which I distributed among my warriors. We now
disposed of the dead, and returned to the Fox village opposite the
lower end of Rock Island, where we put up our new lodges, and hoisted
the British flag. A great many of our braves were dressed in the
uniform clothing which we had taken from the Americans, which gave our
encampment the appearance of a regular camp of soldiers. We placed
out sentinels and commenced dancing over the scalps we had taken.
Soon after several boats passed down, among them a very large one
carrying big guns. Our young men followed them some distance, but
could do them no damage more than scare them. We were now certain
that the fort at Prairie du Chien had been taken, as this large boat
went up with the first party who built the fort.
In the course of the day some of the British came down in a small
boat. They had followed the large one, thinking it would get fast in
the rapids, in which case they were sure of taking her. They had
summoned her on her way down to surrender, but she refused to do so,
and now, that she had passed the rapids in safety, all hope of taking
her had vanished. The British landed a big gun and gave us three
soldiers to manage it. They complimented us for our bravery in taking
the boat, and told us what they had done at Prairie do Chien. They
gave us, a keg of rum, and joined with us in our dancing and feasting.
We gave them some things which we had taken from the boat,
particularly books and papers. They started the next morning,
promising to return in a few days with a large body of soldiers.
We went to work under the direction of the men left with us, and dug
up the ground in two places to put the big gun in, that the men might
remain in with it and be safe. We then sent spies down the river to
reconnoitre, who sent word by a runner that several boats were coming
up filled with men. I marshalled my forces and was soon ready for
their arrival. I resolved to fight, as we had not yet had a fair
fight with the Americans during the war. The boats arrived in the
evening, stopping at a small willow island, nearly opposite to us.
During the night we removed our big gun further down, and at daylight
next morning commenced firing. We were pleased to see that almost
every shot took effect. The British being good gunners, rarely
missed. They pushed off as quickly as possible, although I had
expected they would land and give us battle. I was fully prepared to
meet them but was sadly disappointed by the boats all sailing down the
river. A party of braves followed to watch where they landed, but
they did not stop until they got below the Des Moines rapids, where
they came ashore and commenced building a fort. I did not want a fort
in our country, as we wished to go down to the Two River country in
the fall and hunt, it being our choice hunting ground, and we
concluded that if this fort was built, it would prevent us from going
there. We arrived in the vicinity in the evening, and encamped on a
high bluff for the night. We made no fire, for fear of being
observed, and our young men kept watch by turns while others slept. I
was very tired, and was soon asleep. The Great Spirit, during my
slumber, told me to go down the bluff to a creek, that I would there
find a hollow tree cut down, and by looking in at the top of it, I
would see a large snake with head erect--to observe the direction he
was looking, and I would see the enemy close by and unarmed. In the
morning I communicated to my braves what the Great Spirit had said to
me, took one of them and went down a ravine that led to the creek. I
soon came in sight of the place where they were building the fort,
which was on a hill at the opposite side of the creek. I saw a great
many men. We crawled cautiously on our hands and knees until we got
to the bottom land, then through the grass and weeds until we reached
the bank of the creek. Here I found a tree that had been cut down; I
looked in at the top of it and saw a large snake, with his head
raised, looking across the creek. I raised myself cautiously, and
discovered nearly opposite to me, two war chiefs walking arm in arm,
without guns. They turned and walked back toward the place where the
men were working at the fort. In a little while they returned,
walking directly towards the spot where we lay concealed, but did not
come so near as before. If they had they would have been killed, for
each of us had a good rifle. We crossed the creek and crawled to a
cluster of bushes. I again raised myself a little to see if they were
coming; but they went into the fort, and by this they saved their
We recrossed the creek and I returned alone, going up the same ravine
I came down. My brave went down the creek, and I, on raising the brow
of a hill to the left of the one we came down, could plainly see the
men at work. I saw a sentinel walking in the bottom near the mouth of
the creek. I watched him attentively, to see if he perceived my
companion, who had gone toward him. The sentinel stopped for some
time and looked toward where my brave was concealed. He walked first
one way and then the other.
I observed my brave creeping towards him, at last he lay still for a
while, not even moving the grass, and as the sentinel turned to walk
away, my brave fired and he fell. I looked towards the fort, and saw
the whites were in great confusion, running wildly in every direction,
some down the steep bank toward a boat. My comrade joined me, we
returned to the rest of the party and all hurried back to Rock river,
where we arrived in safety at our village. I hung up my medicine bag,
put away my rifle and spear, feeling as if I should want them no more,
as I had no desire to raise other war parties against the whites
unless they gave me provocation. Nothing happened worthy of note
until spring, except that the fort below the rapids had been abandoned
and burned by the Americans.
Soon after I returned from my wintering ground we received information
that peace had been made between the British and Americans, and that
we were required to make peace also, and were invited to go down to
Portage des Sioux, for that purpose. Some advised that we should go
down, others that we should not. Nomite, our principal civil chief,
said he would go, as soon as the Foxes came down from the mines.
They came and we all started from Rock river, but we had not gone far
before our chief was taken sick and we stopped with him at the village
on Henderson river. The Foxes went on and we were to follow as soon
as our chief got better, but he rapidly became worse and soon died.
His brother now became the principal chief. He refused to go down,
saying, that if he started, he would be taken sick and die as his
brother had done. This seemed to be reasonable, so we concluded that
none of us would go at this time. The Foxes returned. They said, "we
have smoked the pipe of peace with our enemies, and expect that the
Americans will send a war party against you if you do not go down."
This I did not believe, as the Americans had always lost by their
armies that were sent against us. La Gutrie and other British traders
arrived at our village in the fall. La Gutrie told us that we must go
down and make peace, as this was the wish of our English father. He
said he wished us to go down to the Two River country to winter, where
game was plenty, as there had been no hunting there for several years.
Having heard the principal war chief had come up with a number of
troops, and commenced the erection of a fort near the Rapids des
Moines, we consented to go down with the traders to visit the American
chief, and tell him the reason why we had not been down sooner. When
we arrived at the head of the rapids, the traders left their goods,
and all of their boats with one exception, in which they accompanied
us to see the Americans. We visited the war chief on board his boat,
telling him what we had to say, and explaining why we had not been
down sooner. He appeared angry and talked to La Gutrie for some time.
I inquired of him what the war chief said. He told me that he was
threatening to hang him up to the yard arm of his boat. "But" said
he, "I am not afraid of what he says. He dare not put his threats
into execution. I have done no more than I had a right to do a. a
I then addressed the chief, asking permission for ourselves and some
Menomonees, to go down to the Two River country for the purpose of
hunting. He said we might go down but must return before the ice
came, as he did not intend that we should winter below the fort.
"But," he inquired, "what do you want the Menomonee. to go with you
I did not know at first what reply to make, but told him that they had
a great many pretty squaws with them, and we wished them to go with us
on that account. He consented. We all went down the river and
remained all winter, as we had no intention of returning before spring
when we asked leave to go. We made a good hunt. Having loaded our
trader's boats with furs and peltries, they started to Mackinac, and
we returned to our village.
There is one circumstance that I did not relate at the proper place.
It has no reference to myself or people, but to my friend Gomo, the
Pottawattomie chief. He came to Rock river to pay me a visit, and
during his stay he related to me the following story:
"The war chief at Peoria is a very good man. He always speaks the
truth and treats our people well. He sent for me one day, told me he
was nearly out of provisions, and wished me to send my young men
hunting to supply his fort. I promised to do so, immediately returned
to my camp and told my young men the wishes and wants of the war
chief. They readily agreed to go and hurt for our friend and returned
with plenty of deer. They carried them to the fort, laid them down at
the gate and returned to our camp. A few days afterward I went again
to the fort to see if they wanted any more meat. The chief gave me
powder and lead and said he wanted, me to send my hunters out again.
When I returned to camp, I told my young men that the chief wanted
more meat. Matatah, one of my principal braves, said he would take a
party and go across the Illinois, about one day's travel, where game
was plenty, and make a good hunt for our friend the war chief. He
took eight hunters with him, and his wife and several other squaws
went with them. They had travelled about half the day in the prairie
when they discovered a party of white men coming towards them with a
drove of cattle. Our hunters apprehended no danger or they would have
kept out of the way of the whites, who had not yet perceived them.
Matatah changed his course, as he wished to meet and speak to the
whites. As soon n the whites saw our party, some of them put off at
full speed, and came up to our hunters. Matatah gave up his gun to
them, and endeavored to explain to them that he was friendly and was
hunting for the war chief. They were not satisfied with this but
fired at and wounded him. He got into the branches of a tree that had
blown down, to keep the horses from running over him. He was again
fired on several times and badly wounded. He, finding that he would
be murdered, and, mortally wounded already, sprang at the man nearest
him, seized his gun and shot him from his horse. He then fell,
covered with blood from his wounds, and immediately expired. The
other hunters being in the rear of Matatah attempted to escape, after
seeing their leader so basely murdered by the whites. They were
pursued and nearly all of the party killed. My youngest brother
brought me the news in the night, he having been with the party and
was slightly wounded. He said the whites had abandoned their cattle
and gone back towards the settlement. The rest of the night we spent
in mourning for our friends. At daylight I blacked my face and
started for the fort to see the chief. I met him at the gate and told
him what had happened. His countenance changed and I could see sorrow
depicted in it for the death of my people. He tied to persuade me
that I was mistaken, as he could not believe that the whites would act
so cruelly. But when I convinced him, he said to me, 'those cowards
who murdered your people shall be punished.' I told him that my
people would have revenge, that they would not trouble any of his
people at the fort, as we did not blame him or any of his soldiers,
but that a party of my braves would go towards the Wabash to avenge
the death of their friends and relations. The next day I took a party
of hunters, killed several deer, and left them at the fort gate as I
Here Gomo ended his story. I could relate many similar ones that have
come within my own knowledge and observation, but I dislike to look
back and bring on sorrow afresh. I will resume my narrative.
The great chief at St. Louis having sent word for us to come down and
confirm the treaty, we did not hesitate, but started immediately that
we might smoke the peace pipe with him. On our arrival we met the
great chiefs in council. They explained to us the words of our Great
Father at Washington, accusing us of heinous crimes and many
misdemeanors, particularly in not coming down when first invited. We
knew very well that our Great Father had deceived us and thereby
forced us to join the British, and could not believe that he had put
this speech into the mouths of those chiefs to deliver to us. I was
not a civil chief and consequently made no reply, but our civil chiefs
told the commissioner that, "What you say is a lie. Our Great Father
sent us no such speech, he knew that the situation in which we had
been placed was caused by him." The white chiefs appeared very angry
at this reply and said, "We will break off the treaty and make war
against you, as you have grossly insulted us."
Our chiefs had no intention of insulting them and told them so,
saying, "we merely wish to explain that you have told us a lie,
without any desire to make you angry, in the same manner that you
whites do when you do not believe what is told you." The council then
proceeded and the pipe of peace was smoked.
Here for the first time, I touched the goose quill to the treaty not
knowing, however, that, by the act I consented to give away my
village. Had that been explained to me I should have opposed it and
never would have signed their treaty, as my recent conduct will
What do we know of the manners, the laws, and the customs of the white
people? They might buy our bodies for dissection, and we would touch
the goose quill to confirm it and not know what we were doing. This
was the case with me and my people in touching the goose quill for the
We can only judge of what is proper and right by our standard of what
is right and wrong, which differs widely from the whites, if I have
been correctly informed. The whites may do wrong all their lives, and
then if they are sorry for it when about to die, all is well, but with
us it is different. We must continue to do good throughout our lives.
If we have corn and meat, and know of a family that have none, we
divide with them. If we have more blankets than we absolutely need,
and others have not enough, we must give to those who are in want.
But I will presently explain our customs and the manner in which we
We were treated friendly by the whites and started on our return to
our village on Rock river. When we arrived we found that the troops
had come to build a fort on Rock Island. This, in our opinion, was a
contradiction to what we had done--"to prepare for war in time of
peace." We did not object, however, to their building their fort on
the island, but were very sorry, as this was the best one on the
Mississippi, and had long been the resort of our young people during
the summer. It was our garden, like the white people have near their
big villages, which supplied us with strawberries, blackberries,
gooseberries, plums, apples and nuts of different kinds. Being
situated at the foot of the rapids its waters supplied us with the
finest fish. In my early life I spent many happy days on this island.
A good spirit had charge of it, which lived in a cave in the rocks
immediately under the place where the fort now stands. This guardian
spirit has often been seen by our people. It was white, with large
wings like a swan's, but ten times larger. We were particular not to
make much noise in that part of the island which it inhabited, for
fear of disturbing it. But the noise at the fort has since driven it
away, and no doubt a bad spirit has taken its place.
Our village was situated on the north side of Rock river, at the foot
of the rapids, on the point of land between Rock river and the
In front a prairie extended to the Mississippi, and in the rear a
continued bluff gently ascended from the prairie.
BLACK HAWK'S TOWER.
On its highest peak our Watch Tower was situated, from which we had a
fine view for many miles up and down Rock river, and in every
direction. On the side of this bluff we had our corn fields,
extending about two miles up parallel with the larger river, where
they adjoined those of the Foxes, whose village was on the same
stream, opposite the lower end of Rock Island, and three miles distant
from ours. We had eight hundred acres in cultivation including what
we had on the islands in Rock river. The land around our village
which remained unbroken, was covered with blue-grass which furnished
excellent pasture for our horses. Several fine springs poured out of
the bluff near by, from which we were well supplied with good water.
The rapids of Rock river furnished us with an abundance of excellent
fish, and the land being very fertile, never failed to produce good
crops of corn, beans, pumpkins and squashes. We always had plenty;
our children never cried from hunger, neither were our people in want.
Here our village had stood for more than a hundred years, during all
of which time we were the undisputed possessors of the Mississippi
valley, from the Wisconsin to the Portage des Sioux, near the mouth of
the Missouri, being about seven hundred miles in length.
At this time we had very little intercourse with the whites except
those who were traders. Our village was healthy, and there was no
place in the country possessing such advantages, nor hunting grounds
better than those we had in possession. If a prophet had come to our
village in those days and told us that the things were to take place
which have since come to pass, none of our people would have believed
him. What! to be driven from our village, and our hunting grounds,
and not even to be permitted to visit the graves of our forefathers
and relatives and our friends?
This hardship is not known to the whites. With us it is a custom to
visit the graves of our friends and keep them in repair for many
years. The mother will go alone to weep over the grave of her child.
The brave, with pleasure, visits the grave of his father, after he has
been successful in war, and repaints the post that marks where he
lies. There is no place like that where the bones of our forefathers
lie to go to when in grief. Here prostrate by the tombs of our
fathers will the Great Spirit take pity on us.
But how different is our situation now from what it was in those happy
days. Then were we as happy as the buffalo on the plains, but now, we
are as miserable as the hungry wolf on the prairie. But I am
digressing from my story. Bitter reflections crowd upon my mind and
must find utterance.
When we returned to our village in the spring, from our wintering
grounds, we would finish bartering with our traders, who always
followed us to our village. We purposely kept some of our fine furs
for this trade, and, as there was great opposition among them, who
should get these furs, we always got our goods cheap. After this
trade was met, the traders would give us a few kegs of rum, which were
generally promised in the fall, to encourage us to make a good hunt
and not go to war. They would then start with their furs and
peltries, for their homes, and our old men would take a frolic. At
this time our young men never drank. When this was ended, the next
thing to be done was to bury our dead; such as had died during the
year. This is a great medicine feast. The relations of those who
have died, give all the goods they have purchased, as presents to
their friends, thereby reducing themselves to poverty, to show the
Great Spirit that they are humble, so that he will take pity on them.
We would next open the caches, take out the corn and other provisions
which had been put up in the fall. We would then commence repairing
our lodges. As soon as this was accomplished, we repair the fences
around our corn fields and clean them off ready for planting. This
work was done by the women. The men during this time are feasting on
dried venison, bear's meat, wild fowl and corn prepared in different
ways, while recounting to one another what took place during the
Our women plant the corn, and as soon as they are done we make a
feast, at which we dance the crane dance in which they join us,
dressed in their most gaudy attire, and decorated with feathers. At
this feast the young men select the women they wish to have for wives.
He then informs his mother, who calls on the mother of the girl, when
the necessary arrangements are made and the time appointed for him to
come. He goes to the lodge when all are asleep, or pretend to be, and
with his flint and steel strikes a light and soon finds where his
intended sleeps. He then awakens her, holds the light close to his
face that she may know him, after which he places the light close to
her. If she blows it out the ceremony is ended and he appears in the
lodge next morning as one of the family. If she does not blow out the
light, but leaves it burning he retires from the lodge. The next day
he places himself in full view of it and plays his flute. The young
women go out one by one to see who he is playing for. The tune
changes to let them know he is not playing for them. When his intended
makes her appearance at the door, he continues his courting tune until
she returns to the lodge. He then quits playing and makes another
trial at night which mostly turns out favorable. During the first
year they ascertain whether they can agree with each other and be
happy, if not they separate and each looks for another companion. If
we were to live together and disagree, we would be as foolish as the
whites. No indiscretion can banish a woman from her parental lodge;
no difference how many children she may bring home she is always
welcome--the kettle is over the fire to feed them.
The crane dance often lasts two or three days. When this is over, we
feast again and have our national dance. The large square in the
village is swept and prepared for the purpose. The chiefs and old
warriors take seats on mats, which have been spread on the upper end
of the square, next come the drummers and singers, the braves and
women form the sides, leaving a large space in the middle. The drums
beat and the singing commences. A warrior enters the square keeping
time with the music. He shows the manner he started on a war party,
how he approached the enemy, he strikes and shows how he killed him.
All join in the applause, and he then leaves the square and another
takes his place. Such of our young men have not been out in war
parties and killed in enemy stand back ashamed, not being allowed to
enter the square. I remember that I was ashamed to look where our
young men stood, before I could take my stand in the ring as a
What pleasure it is to an old warrior, to see his son come forward and
relate his exploits. It makes him feel young, induces him to enter
the square and "fight his battles o'er again."
This national dance makes our warriors. When I was travelling last
summer on a steamboat on the river, going from New York to Albany, I
was shown the place where the Americans dance the war-dance, (West
Point), where the old warriors recount to their young men what they
have done to stimulate them to go and do likewise. This surprised me,
as I did not think the whites understood our way of making braves.
When our national dance is over, our cornfields hoed, every weed dug
up and our corn about knee high, all our young men start in a
direction toward sundown, to hunt deer and buffalo and to kill Sioux
if any are found on our hunting grounds. A part of our old men and
women go to the lead mines to make lead, and the remainder of our
people start to fish and get meat stuff. Every one leaves the village
and remains away about forty days. They then return, the hunting
party bringing in dried buffalo and deer meat, and sometimes Sioux
scalps, when they are found trespassing on our hunting grounds. At
other times they are met by a party of Sioux too strong for them and
are driven in. If the Sioux have killed the Sacs last, they expect to
be retaliated upon and will fly before them, and so with us. Each
party knows that the other has a right to retaliate, which induces
those who have killed last to give way before their enemy, as neither
wishes to strike, except to avenge the death of relatives. All our
wars are instigated by the relations of those killed, or by
aggressions on our hunting grounds. The party from the lead mines
brings lead, and the others dried fish, and mats for our lodges.
Presents are now made by each party, the first giving to the others
dried buffalo and deer, and they in return presenting them lead, dried
fish and mats. This is a happy season of the year, having plenty of
provisions, such as beans, squashes and other produce; with our dried
meat and fish, we continue to make feasts and visit each other until
our corn is ripe. Some lodge in the village a feast daily to the
Great Spirit. I cannot explain this so that the white people will
understand me, as we have no regular standard among us.
Every one makes his feast as he thinks best, to please the Great
Spirit, who has the care of all beings created. Others believe in two
Spirits, one good and one bad, and make feasts for the Bad Spirit, to
keep him quiet. They think that if they can make peace with him, the
Good Spirit will not hurt them. For my part I am of the opinion, that
so far as we have reason, we have a right to use it in determining
what is right or wrong, and we should always pursue that path which we
believe to be right, believing that "whatsoever is, is right." If the
Great and Good Spirit wished us to believe and do as the whites, he
could easily change our opinions, so that we could see, and think, and
act as they do. We are nothing compared to his power, and we feel and
know it. We have men among us, like the whites, who pretend to know
the right path, but will not consent to show it without pay. I have
no faith in their paths, but believe that every man must make his own
When our corn is getting ripe, our young people watch with anxiety for
the signal to pull roasting ears, as none dare touch them until the
proper time. When the corn is fit for use another great ceremony
takes place, with feasting and returning thanks to the Great Spirit
for giving us Corn.
I will has relate the manner in which corn first came. According to
tradition handed down to our people, a beautiful woman was seen to
descend from the clouds, and alight upon the earth, by two of our
ancestors who had killed a deer, and were sitting by a fire roasting a
part of it to eat. They were astonished at seeing her, and concluded
that she was hungry and had smelt the meat. They immediately went to
her, taking with them a piece of the roasted venison. They presented
it to her, she ate it, telling them to return to the spot where she
was sitting at the end of one year, and they would find a reward for
their kindness and generosity. She then ascended to the clouds and
disappeared. The men returned to their village, and explained to the
tribe what they had seen, done ad heard, but were laughed at by their
people. When the period had arrived for them to visit this
consecrated ground, where they were to find a reward for their
attention to the beautiful woman of the clouds, they went with a large
party, and found where her right hand had rested on the ground corn
growing, where the left hand had rested beans, and immediately where
she had been seated, tobacco.
The two first have ever since been cultivated by our people as our
principal provisions, and the last is used for smoking. The white
people have since found out the latter, and seem to it relish it as
much as we do, as they use it in different ways: Smoking, snuffing
We thank the Great Spirit for all the good he has conferred upon us.
For myself, I never take a drink of water from a spring without being
mindful of his goodness.
We next have our great ball play, from three to five hundred on a side
play this game. We play for guns, lead, homes and blankets, or any
other kind of property we may have. The successful party takes the
stakes, and all return to our lodges with peace and friendship. We
next commence horse racing, and continue on, sport and feasting until
the corn is secured. We then prepare to leave our village for our
The traders arrive and give us credit for guns, flints, powder, shot
and lead, and such articles as we want to clothe our, families with
and enable us to hunt. We first, however, hold a council with them,
to ascertain the price they will give for our skins, and then they
will charge us for the goods. We inform them where we intend hunting,
and tell them where to build their houses. At this place we deposit a
part of our corn, and leave our old people. The traders have always
been kind to them and relieved them when in want, and consequently
were always much respected by our people, and never since we were it
nation, has one of them been killed by our people.
We then disperse in small parties to make our hunt, and as soon as it
is over, we return to our trader's establishment, with our skins, and
remain feasting, playing cards and at other pastimes until the close f
the winter. Our young men then start on the beaver hunt, others to
hunt raccoons and muskrats; the remainder of our people go to the
sugar camps to make sugar. All leave our encampment and appoint a
place to meet on the Mississippi, so that we may return together to
our village in the spring. We always spend our time pleasantly at the
sugar camp. It being the season for wild fowl, we lived well and
always had plenty, when the hunters came in that we might make a feast
for them. After this is over we return to our village, accompanied
sometimes by our traders. In this way the time rolled round happily.
But these are times that were.
While on the subject of our manners and customs, it might be well to
relate an instance that occurred near our village just five years
before we left it for the last time.
In 1827, a young Sioux Indian got lost on the prairie, in a snow
storm, and found his way into a camp of the Sacs. According to Indian
customs, although he was an enemy, he was safe while accepting their
hospitality. He remained there for some time on account of the
severity of the storm. Becoming well acquainted he fell in love with
the daughter of the Sac at whose village he had been entertained, and
before leaving for his own country, promised to come to the Sac
village for her at a certain time during the approaching summer. In
July he made his way to the Rock river village, secreting himself in
the woods until he met the object of his love, who came out to the
field with her mother to assist her in hoeing corn. Late in the
afternoon her mother left her and went to the village. No sooner had
she got out of hearing, than he gave a loud whistle which assured the
maiden that he had returned. She continued hoeing leisurely to the
end of the row, when her lover came to meet her, and she promised to
come to him as soon as she could go to the lodge and get her blanket,
and together they would flee to his country. But unfortunately for
the lovers the girl's two brothers had seen the meeting, and after
procuring their guns started in pursuit of them. A heavy thunderstorm
was coming on at the time. The lovers hastened to, and took shelter
under a cliff of rocks, at Black Hawk's watchtower. Soon after a loud
peal of thunder was heard, the cliff of rocks was shattered in a
thousand pieces, and the lovers buried beneath, while in full view of
her pursuing brothers. This, their unexpected tomb, still remains
This tower to which my name had been applied, was a favorite resort
and was frequently visited by me alone, when I could sit and smoke my
pipe, and look with wonder and pleasure, at the grand scenes that were
presented by the sun's rays, even across the mighty water. On one
occasion a Frenchman, who had been making his home in our village,
brought his violin with him to the tower, to play and dance for the
amusement of a number of our people, who had assembled there, and
while dancing with his back to the cliff accidentally fell over it and
was killed by the fall. The Indians say that always at the same time
of the year, soft strains of the violin can be heard near that spot.
On returning in the spring from oar hunting grounds, I had the
pleasure of meeting our old friend, the trader of Peoria, at Rock
Island. He came up in a boat from St. Louis, not as a trader, but as
our Agent. We were well pleased to see him. He told us that he
narrowly escaped falling into the hands of Dixon. He remained with us
a short time, gave us good advice, and then returned to St. Louis.
The Sioux having committed depredations on our people, we sent out war
parties that summer, who succeeded in killing fourteen.
I paid several visits to Fort Armstrong, at Rock Island, during the
summer, and was always well received by the gentlemanly officers
stationed there, who were distinguished for their bravery, and they
never trampled upon an enemy's rights. Colonel George Davenport
resided near the garrison, and being in connection with the American
Fur Company, furnished us the greater portion of our goods. We were
not as happy then, in our village, as formerly. Our people got more
liquor from the small traders than customary. I used all my influence
to prevent drunkenness, but without effect. As the settlements
progressed towards us, we became worse off and more unhappy.
Many of our people, instead of going to the old hunting grounds, when
game was plenty, would go near the settlements to hunt, and, instead
of saving their skins, to pay the trader for goods furnished them in
the fall, would sell them to the settlement for whisky, and return in
the spring with their families almost naked, and without the means of
getting anything for them.
About this time my eldest son was taken sick and died. He had always
been a dutiful child and had just grown to manhood. Soon after, my
youngest daughter, an interesting and affectionate child, died also.
This was a hard stroke, because I loved my children. In my distress I
left the noise of the village and built my lodge on a mound in the
corn-field, and enclosed it with a fence, around which I planted corn
and beans. Here I was with my family alone. I gave everything I had
away, and reduced myself to poverty. The only covering I retained was
a piece of buffalo robe. I blacked my face and resolved on fasting
for twenty-four moons, for the loss of my two children--drinking only
of water during the day, and eating sparingly of boiled corn at
sunset. I fulfilled my promise, hoping that the Great Spirit would
take pity on me.
My nation had now some difficulty with the Iowas. Our young men had
repeatedly killed some of them, and the breaches had always been made
up by giving presents to the relations of those killed. But the last
council we had with them, we promised that in case any more of their
people were killed ours, instead of presents, we would give up the
person or persons, who had done the injury. We made this
determination known to our people, but notwithstanding this, one of
our young men killed an Iowa the following winter.
A party of our people were about starting for the Iowa village to give
the young man up, and I agreed to accompany them. When we were ready
to start, I called at the lodge for the young man to go with us. He
was sick, but willing to go, but his brother, however, prevented him
and insisted on going to die in his place, as he was unable to travel.
We started, and on the seventh day arrived in sight of the Iowa
village, and within a short distance of it we halted ad dismounted.
We all bid farewell to our young brave, who entered the village
singing his death song, and sat down on the square in the middle of
the village. One of the Iowa chiefs came out to us. We told him that
we had fulfilled our promise, that we had brought the brother of the
young man who had killed one of his people--that he had volunteered to
come in his place, in consequence of his brother being unable to
travel from sickness. We had no further conversation but mounted our
horses and rode off. As we started I cast my eye toward the village,