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


Quashquamme and his Treaty

T ECUMSEH had told the truth. France had sold a great tract of land to the United States. A new governor was to manage all affairs in the new territory. Indian agents were appointed to take care of the Indian affairs. White settlers were already moving to the new territory.

Black Hawk told the Sauk chiefs of Tecumseh's plan to unite all of the Indian tribes. Some of the chiefs wanted to follow Tecumseh, but Black Hawk said, "The Sauk people must remain at peace!"

During the summer of 1804 a detachment of United States soldiers marched to the gates of Saukenuk. The young commanding officer asked to see Black Hawk.

"One of your braves killed a white man, Chief Black Hawk," said the young officer. "You are to turn him over to me."

"If one of my braves killed a white man," answered Black Hawk without hesitation, "he shall return with you. Who sent you?"

"My orders are from General Harrison, the new governor of this territory," explained the officer. "The Sauk brave is to return with me to St. Louis. He killed a white man and he must stand trial in our courts."

"I will bring my brave to you," promised Black Hawk.

The officer and his soldiers waited near the south gate. Black Hawk and a young brave joined them. "Here is my brave," said Black Hawk. "He is ready to go with you. He has given me his word that he will not try to escape."

Black Hawk turned to the brave and said, "No matter what happens, you are to tell the truth. Remember, you are a Sauk, and a Sauk never lies."

Black Hawk watched the soldiers and his brave march away. "Tecumseh may be right," he said to himself, "there may be trouble ahead for my people."

That night the chiefs of the village met in the council house. Black Hawk told them why he had turned the brave over to the United States soldiers. "Our brave has to stand trial in the white man's court," he said.

"But if he is not guilty," said Quashquamme, one of the chiefs, "he will be sent back to us."

"Just before our brave left he told me that he had killed the white man," answered Black Hawk.

"Then there is only one thing we can do," announced Quashquamme. "Some of us must go to St. Louis. We can pay the white man's family."

"Yes, that is the way we settle our affairs," nodded Black Hawk. "When an Indian, not on the warpath, kills another Indian he has to give the dead Indian's family many furs and other supplies. I am sure that the white men do the same thing."

The council decided that if the brave did not return in a few weeks Quashquamme and three other chiefs would go to St. Louis. They would pay for the brave's life if necessary.

The brave did not return. Black Hawk ordered the four chiefs to leave for St. Louis. The family of the brave prayed and fasted.

Quashquamme and the three chiefs were gone for several months. When they returned they did not come directly to the village. They made camp nearby.

The scouts reported to Black Hawk. "The chiefs are dressed in new coats and they are wearing medals."

"They must bring good news," said Black Hawk. "Tell them I shall expect them tomorrow. They must tell the people about their trip."

Early in the morning the people met in the square. The members of the young brave's family were the first to arrive. Black Hawk and the other chiefs were in the place of honor. As Quashquamme and the three chiefs came into the square, the people gave a loud cheer.

Black Hawk rose from his mat. He raised his hand to quiet the people. He ordered, "Quashquamme, tell us what happened in St. Louis."

Quashquamme stepped forward. "Sauks," he said, "we met the American White Chief in St. Louis. We told him that we had come to save our brave. The white chief said that he wanted us to sell some of our land. We had to sign a paper. The white chief said it was a treaty."

"Why did you sign the paper?" demanded Black Hawk. "You know that if any of our lands are sold, not the chiefs but the people must decide to sell them."

"We were forced to sign, Black Hawk," answered Quashquamme. "There was no other way to save our brave."

"Where is our brave?" asked Black Hawk. "Why didn't he return with you?"

"He was shot after he was released."

"Shot!" exclaimed Black Hawk. "Why?"

"I don't know. We were not told."

The mother of the young brave cried out. Her family crowded around her. Slowly they walked from the square and back to their lodge.

Black Hawk was angry. His voice was harsh as he called to the people. "Your chiefs have failed you. They were sent to St. Louis to bring our brave back to us. Instead they sold a part of our lands. They had no right to do this. When any of our lands are to be sold a meeting of the people must be held. You are the ones to decide.

"What are the terms of the treaty?" Black Hawk demanded of Quashquamme.

"I don't remember."

"You don't remember!" shouted Black Hawk. "You sign a paper and you don't remember!"

Black Hawk turned and questioned the three other chiefs. They, too, could not remember the terms of the paper that they had signed.

Black Hawk faced his people. "You did not decide to sell your lands. The chiefs had no right to sell our lands. The treaty means nothing!"

The treaty that Quashquamme and the three chiefs signed became known as the "Quashquamme Treaty." In the treaty a part of the Sauk lands were sold. The Indians were to receive supplies amounting to a thousand dollars a year. These supplies were food, clothing, domestic animals, tools for farming, or any other supplies that the Indians needed. Another provision was that as long as the United States held this land, the Sauks were to have the right to live there.

A few weeks later the Sauks left for their winter hunting grounds in Missouri. In the busy, happy days that followed the treaty was forgotten.

In the spring the long journey back up the Mississippi River to Saukenuk was a pleasant one. Black Hawk and thirty braves marched ahead of the people. They were to place the camp pole for the night. They passed the rapids of the Des Moines River.

"Look!" called Black Hawk. "White soldiers! They are building a fort."

On the Iowa side of the Mississippi a group of soldiers were at work. Some were chopping down trees. Others were working on a log building. Several log cabins had been completed.

"Red Eagle," said Black Hawk quietly, "go back to our people. Tell them to make camp where you find them. Then come back to me."

Black Hawk turned to Mehaska. "You are to go with Red Eagle. But you are to stay with my people. You are to lead them on to Saukenuk. Break camp early in the morning. Do not stop here but lead the people to their villages. You will be responsible for their reaching home safely."

Red Eagle and Mehaska left at once. "We will make camp here, but no fires!" Black Hawk commanded his braves. "Guards will keep watch all night. In the morning I will see the chief of the white soldiers."

In the early morning the first canoes of the Sauks passed Black Hawk's camp. The warriors marched on the bank of the river. As Mehaska marched by he waved an open blanket gently. "That is the signal that there is no danger ahead," said Black Hawk.

When the last canoe paddled out of sight, Black Hawk turned to his braves and said, "Wait here. Red Eagle, come with me."

They walked toward the new log buildings. On their way they passed the white soldiers who were chopping down trees.

"Black Hawk, do you see the guns?"

"Yes," answered Black Hawk.

A guard stopped them as they neared the largest log building.

"Tell your white chief that the Sauk war chief, Black Hawk, is here."

In a few minutes the young commanding officer appeared. He greeted Black Hawk and Red Eagle.

"What are you building?" asked Black Hawk. "Is it a fort?"

"No," answered the officer. "My soldiers are building a trading post."

"You have many buildings. Will they be used by the trader?" questioned Black Hawk.

"The trader will use some of the buildings and the people who work for him will use some of them," answered the officer.

"And the others?" asked Black Hawk.

"Oh, those will be used by the soldiers."

"This is a fort!" exclaimed Black Hawk as he turned to Red Eagle. "And a trading post," he added speaking to the officer.

A Sauk war whoop rang out. Black Hawk and Red Eagle ran to the place where they had seen the soldiers. The officer followed close behind.

Black Hawk's braves were dancing around the soldiers. The braves were laughing and shouting. Each brave held high a soldier's gun.

"What is the meaning of this?" demanded Black Hawk.

A young brave stopped in front of Black Hawk. "We saw the guns and we wanted to play a joke on the soldiers," he said. "An Indian would never leave his gun so far away."

"Give the soldiers their guns," Black Hawk ordered his braves.

Turning to the officer Black Hawk said, "My braves meant no harm. If they had meant to harm your soldiers they would not have returned the guns. They did it for a joke."

But the officer was very angry.

Black Hawk ordered his braves to return to the trail. Saying good-by to the officer and his soldiers, Black Hawk and Red Eagle joined the braves. They marched on to Saukenuk.

Black Hawk was quiet and his face was grave. Over and over he repeated to himself, "That fort means trouble for my people. Trouble! Trouble!"

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