Gateway to the Classics: Chief Black Hawk by Frank Lee beals
Chief Black Hawk by  Frank Lee beals


Following the Osage Trail

E ARLY in the morning on which the hunt began Pyesa, Black Hawk, Watasa, and twenty braves put their canoes into the water. They paddled down the Rock River to the great Mississippi and headed downstream. They did not stop to hunt the first day. At night they made camp and at dawn were again on their way.

On the second night Pyesa ordered a halt and the party made camp on the west bank of the Mississippi.

"Where is Black Hawk?" Pyesa called to a brave.

"He and Watasa landed upstream this afternoon," answered the brave. "Black Hawk said that they would find your camp tonight."

When the night had grown late and the campfire was burning low Watasa, breathless, ran into camp. "Pyesa! Pyesa!" he called.

"What is it? Where is Black Hawk?" the chief demanded.

"He sent me to tell you that he has found a trail left by the Osages. He is following it. If he finds that it leads toward Saukenuk he will hasten to warn our people."

"Break camp at once!" Pyesa commanded his braves. "We must return to Saukenuk."

Two days later Pyesa and his braves reached Saukenuk.

"Has Black Hawk returned?" Pyesa asked the peace chief.

"He left with you."

"Yes, he did. But he discovered that the Osages are again on our land," explained Pyesa. "Black Hawk followed their trail."

"Look!" shouted an Indian brave. "Look!" and he pointed to a high hill in the distance. "A signal! A signal!"

Puffs of smoke were rising in the clear, blue sky. "Black Hawk is signaling to us!" Pyesa shouted. "Osages, he warns. Osages! Two hundred! Tomorrow at dawn!"

Pyesa ordered double guards to be posted at the gates of the village. He commanded the people, "Go about your usual tasks. Act as though you know nothing about an attack. Tomorrow all squaws and children remain in their lodges. Just before dawn all braves report to me. The Osages plan to surprise us. But we will give them a surprise."

When the night was late a call came to the guards on duty at the north gate. "Friend! Friend!"

"Who is it?" demanded a guard. Six other guards ran forward. They held their tomahawks ready to strike.

"Black Hawk," came the answer.

"A double guard!" Black Hawk cried as he reached the gate. "You saw my signal. You are ready for the attack!"

"We are ready," said a guard. "Pyesa has returned."

Just before dawn Pyesa gave the final orders and the braves moved quietly to their posts of duty. Black Hawk and Watasa stood with the guard at the south gate. Silently the braves of Saukenuk awaited the attack.

They did not have long to wait. There was a flash of fire; a flaming torch sailed over the wall and fell upon a small bark lodge. The lodge burst into flames. Osage arrows rained into the square.

Pyesa signaled to his braves. The waiting Sauks released their arrows. The Osages were taken by surprise. They retreated.

"They will be back," called Pyesa. "Braves, remain at your posts!"

Black Hawk and Watasa remained at the south gate. Black Hawk held his bow and arrow ready. The tip of a feather appeared over the wall. Black Hawk motioned to Watasa and then toward the gate. Silently Watasa opened the gate. Black Hawk took aim and let an arrow fly at the Osage who was trying to climb over the wall. The Osage Indian screamed and fell back. He lay still.


"Black Hawk!" warned Watasa. "Drop to the ground!" Black Hawk obeyed at once. A tomahawk just missed him and was buried deep in a tree. An arrow flew by! A scream came from outside the wall. An arrow from Watasa's bow killed another Osage warrior.

The new attack did not last long. The Osages gave way. Pyesa and his braves waited for another attack. Pyesa sent out a scouting party. When the scouts returned they reported to Pyesa that the Osages had fled. When the fight was over the young braves went outside the wall and scalped the dead Osages.

"Watasa," said Black Hawk, "we have killed and scalped our first enemies."

To a Sauk brave it was very important to scalp an enemy that he had killed. It was a part of his religion. He believed by scalping his dead enemy he kept that enemy from going to the Spirit Land or Happy Hunting Ground. If he did not scalp the dead enemy, then the enemy would be waiting for him and would scalp him as soon as he entered the Happy Hunting Ground. The Sauks like many other Indian tribes believed that all dead braves went to the Happy Hunting Ground unless they had been scalped.

"Yes, and now we can wear eagle feathers," said Watasa. "And because of our bravery we have the right to change our names. I wish to be known as Red Eagle."

"Red Eagle is a good name for you," agreed Black Hawk. "You are as swift and as brave as the eagle. However, I shall not change my name. I shall always be known as Black Hawk."

1. When could young Sauk braves wear feathers?

2. When could a young brave wear the feathers of an eagle?

3. How did Black Hawk get his name?

4. What was the duty of a Sauk war chief?

5. Who was Black Hawk's best friend?

6. Where was Saukenuk?

7. Tell how Sauk lodges were built.

8. What did Black Hawk promise his father?

9. How did Black Hawk warn Saukenuk of danger?

10. Why did a Sauk scalp an enemy that he had killed?

11. What name did Watasa choose when he had killed his first enemy?

12. What was the Sauk council?

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