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


White Men in Saukenuk

B LACK HAWK and his followers started for thei] hunting grounds. There was neither laughter nor song on the long journey. The first night'; camp was made near the rapids of the Mississippi

That night Black Hawk said to Singing Bird "Many years ago we were married here. Do you remember the joy of our people? Now, all sadness."

"I remember," she answered softly. "We will be happy again, Black Hawk."

But each day brought new sorrows and hard ships instead of happiness.

The braves found the hunting and trapping ver, poor. Less than half of their usual number of furs were piled up. Many of the children becam sick and died.

During the winter one of Black Hawk's scout returned to camp. "Black Hawk," he said, "I have important news for you. Three white families are living in Saukenuk. One family is living in your lodge."

"I leave at once for Saukenuk!"

Loud Thunder, Red Eagle, and Mehaska went with Black Hawk and the scout. The trip was a difficult one. It took them ten days to reach Saukenuk. It was cold and the river was frozen. Part of the way they skated. When the ice was thin they put on their snowshoes and hurried on.

The three families were in Saukenuk. They did not pay any attention to Black Hawk when he asked them to leave. They laughed at him.

Black Hawk went to Fort Armstrong to talk to the Indian agent. The agent was not there. His assistant gave Black Hawk a paper to take back to the white people in the village. "The paper tells the white people to leave," said the assistant as he handed Black Hawk the paper.

Black Hawk hurried back to his village. He gave the paper to the man who was living in his lodge. "The Indian agent gave me this," he said. "It says that you must leave."

The white man threw back his head and laughed.

That night Black Hawk visited George Davenport, the trader.

"It will be better if you do not return to Saukenuk in the spring," said Davenport. "Go to Keokuk and make new homes for your people."

"You cannot mean that, my friend," cried Black Hawk in a surprised voice.

"I do mean it, Black Hawk," answered Davenport. "Take your people. Do not return. It will mean trouble. You have been ordered to leave. The white soldiers will make war on you."

"I will not desert the lands of my fathers."

With the dawn Black Hawk and his braves were on their way back to their winter camp. "When we return in the spring," said Black Hawk as they traveled over the snow-covered trail, "the white people will be gone. All will be well."

A few weeks after Black Hawk had returned to his winter camp a Sauk runner arrived. He asked to be taken to Black Hawk.

"Black Hawk," he said when he entered the teepee, "Saukenuk and our lands have been sold.

The white trader, Davenport, bought our village and a thousand acres of Sauk land."

"Now I can understand why Davenport wanted me to join Keokuk," shouted Black Hawk. "He is not the brave I have always thought him to be."

Black Hawk called a meeting of his chiefs.

"There must be more to this," said Red Eagle. "Our white friend would not mistreat us. Wait until we return and we shall ask him."

"We will ask him if he bought our lands to get rid of us," cried Neapope. "If he did, it will cost him his life."

"Do not tell our people," warned Black Hawk. "We will wait."

In the spring Black Hawk and his followers returned to Saukenuk. The three white families were still in the village and seven other families had joined them. Many of the bark lodges had been destroyed. Quietly the Indians started to build new lodges.

Black Hawk went to see Davenport.

"I had hoped that you and your people would not return," said Davenport.

"Is that why you bought our village and a thousand acres of our land?" demanded Black Hawk.

"I bought your lands to help you. You will not be allowed to stay in your village," answered Davenport. "I hope the United States government will exchange the land I bought for land west of the Mississippi for your people."

"Then you are a friend," cried Black Hawk. "I believed that you bought our lands so that you could have them for yourself."

The ten white families had taken over most of the three thousand acres of fertile land near Saukenuk. They had built fences around the old Sauk cornfields and the Indians could not use them. The squaws planted their corn where the land was not fenced. When the corn which the squaws planted was high the white men plowed most of it under. The squaws who protested were beaten. Several young braves were beaten to death when they tried to help their squaws.

Davenport sent a runner to St. Louis. "Ask the Indian agent to give the followers of Black Hawk six thousand dollars," said Davenport. "The land in Iowa will not grow crops until next year. The Indians need the money to buy food until they can grow their own crops."

The Indian agent refused. His only answer was that the Indians were to be removed and at once. If necessary, soldiers would be sent to remove them.

Black Hawk called a meeting of his people.

"The Indian agent at St. Louis says that we must leave our village," he said. "The new lands will not grow crops this year. We have no money to buy food and supplies. If we go we will starve. Those of you who want to join Keokuk may go. I will stay here."

"We will not go," answered his people. "We will stay with you."

"Then listen carefully," Black Hawk said to his people. "I expect you to obey me. The soldiers will come, but we will not fight. We are Sauks and we will stay in Saukenuk, but we will not fight the white soldiers."

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