As was often the case with texts authored by people of color in the 19th century, the title page of Black Hawk’s autobiography relates several details geared at “authenticating” the narrative. Today, we see these conventions as ridiculous, yet they were expected during a time when (white) audiences would be skeptical about the abilities of authors of color. The supporting details included in Black Hawk’s autobiography include affidavits from the Illinois Clerk of the Court and Antoine LeClaire, Black Hawk’s translator. The title page also indicates that the narrative is “dictated by himself,” a point that is further emphasized in the following testimony by his editor, J.B. Patterson, who Black Hawk dictated the narrative to. Patterson writes:
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.
Patterson’s words immediately precede these, which Black Hawk offers in his dedication:
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. […] 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.
In his own words, Black Hawk explains that he will offer his own testimony about the Black Hawk Wars and how they began. Further, he intends to “vindicate” himself from the ways that others would “misrepresent” him. Like so many other texts in this section, and like so many other texts authored by people of color, Black Hawk’s Autobiography serves multiple functions. It is not only a history of himself, but it is also a history of his people and an effort to correct and broaden our understanding of what transpired between him, his tribe, and the U.S. government.
- Compare Black Hawk’s dedication with Patterson’s editorial note. In what way(s) are Patterson’s editorial note and Black Hawk’s dedication the same? How are they different?
- Consider how Black Hawk positions himself in the narrative. How does he present himself to his audience? Why or how might this positioning be significant? How does he address any misrepresentations?
- Issues of language, literacy, and translations occur at several points in Black Hawk’s narrative. Why do you think he emphasizes these elements? What do you think his larger point is?
- Consider Black Hawk’s discussion of the difference between oral and written agreements. Why might this distinction be important for him to emphasize?
- How might Black Hawk’s autobiography engaging in a larger discussion with writers like William Apess or David Cusick?
MA-NE-SO-NO OKE-MAUT WAP-PI MAK-QUAI. WA-TA-SAI WE-YEU,
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-sai-ne-ne-wen.
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-KA-TAI-ME-SHE-KIA-KIAK 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 prisoner.
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 nation.
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 unsullied.”
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 new father.
“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 chastise them.”
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 young man.
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 enemy.
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 Missouri.
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 warriors 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 seven.
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 individuals?
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 whites.
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 clothing.
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 days.”
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 Americans 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 enemy 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 foe.
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 lives.
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 British subject.”
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 for?”
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 as 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 tried 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 passed.”
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 clearly prove.
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 first time.
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 live.
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 Mississippi.
In front a prairie extended to the Mississippi, and in the rear a continued bluff gently ascended from the prairie.
Autobiography of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, or Black Hawk, by Black Hawk produced by Project Gutenberg is released under a public domain license.