Keokuk Barters our Rights

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The chiefs and head men, amounting to nine, started for the place designated, taking with them one woman, and were met by the Menominee and Sioux, near the Wisconsin and killed, all except one man. Having understood that the whole matter was published shortly after it occurred, and is known to the white people, I will say no more about it.

I would here remark, that our pastimes and sports had been laid aside for two years. We were a divided people, forming two parties. Keokuk being at the head of one, willing to barter our rights merely for the good opinion of the whites, and cowardly enough to desert our village to them. I was at the head of the other division, and was determined to hold on to my village, although I had been ordered to leave it. But, I considered, as myself and band had no agency in selling our county, and that, as provision had been made in the treaty, for us all to remain on it as long as it belonged to the United States, that we could not be forced away. I refused therefore to quit my village. It was here that I was born, and here lie the bones of many friends and relations. For this spot I felt a sacred reverence, and never could consent to leave it without being forced there from.

When I called to mind the scenes of my youth and those of later days, when I reflected that the theatre on which these were acted, had been so long the home of my fathers, who now slept on the hills around it, I could not bring my mind to consent to leave this country to the whites for any earthly consideration.

The winter passed off in gloom. We made a bad hunt for want of guns, traps and other necessaries which the whites had taken from our people for whisky. The prospect before me was a bad one. I fasted and called upon the Great Spirit to direct my steps to the right path. I was in great sorrow because all the whites with whom I was acquainted and had been on terms of intimacy, advised me contrary to my wishes, that I began to doubt whether I had a friend among them.

Keokuk, who has a smooth tongue, and is a great speaker, was busy in persuading my band that I was wrong, and thereby making many of them dissatisfied with me. I had one consolation, for all the women were on my side on account of their cornfields.

On my arrival again at my village, with my band increased, I found it worse than before. I visited Rock Island and the agent again ordered me to quit my village. He said that if we did not, troops would be sent to drive us off. He reasoned with me and told me it would be better for us to be with the rest of our people, so that we might avoid difficulty and live in peace. The interpreter joined him and gave me so many good reasons that I almost wished I had not undertaken the difficult task I had pledged myself to my brave band to perform. In this mood I called upon the trader, who is fond of talking, and had long been my friend, but now amongst those who advised me to give up my village. He received me very friendly and went on to defend Keokuk in what he had done, endeavoring to show me that I was bringing distress on our women and children. He inquired if some terms could not be made that would be honorable to me and satisfactory to my braves, for us to remove to the west side of the Mississippi. I replied that if our Great Father could do us justice and make the proposition, I could then give up honorably. He asked me “if the great chief at St. Louis would give us six thousand dollars to purchase provisions and other articles, if I would give up peaceably and remove to the west side of the Mississippi?” After thinking some time I agreed that I could honorably give up, being paid for it, according to our customs, but told him that I could not make the proposal myself, even if I wished, because it would be dishonorable in me to do so. He said that he would do it by sending word to the great chief at St. Louis that he could remove us peaceably for the amount stated, to the west side of the Mississippi. A steamboat arrived at the island during my stay. After its departure the trader told me that he had requested a war chief, who was stationed at Galena, and was on board the steamboat, to make the offer to the great chief at St. Louis, and that he would soon be back and bring his answer. I did not let my people know what had taken place for fear they would be displeased. I did not much like what had been done myself, and tried to banish it from my mind.

After a few days had passed the war chief returned and brought an answer that “the great chief at St. Louis would give us nothing, and that if we did not remove immediately we would be driven off.”

I was not much displeased with the answer they brought me, because I would rather have laid my bones with those of my forefathers than remove for any consideration. Yet if a friendly offer had been made as I expected, I would, for the sake of our women and children have removed peaceably.

I now resolved to remain in my village, and make no resistance if the military came, but submit to my fate. I impressed the importance of this course on all my band, and directed them in case the military came not to raise an arm against them.

About this time our agent was put out of office, for what reason I could never ascertain. I then thought it was for wanting to make us leave our village and if so it was right, because I was tired of hearing him talk about it. The interpreter, who had been equally as bad in trying to persuade us to leave our village was retained in office, and the young man who took the place of our agent, told the same old story over about removing us. I was then satisfied that this could not have been the cause.

Our women had planted a few patches of corn which was growing finely, and promised a subsistence for our children, but the white people again commenced ploughing it up. I now determined to put a stop to it by clearing our county of the intruders. I went to their principal men and told them that they should and must leave our country, giving them until the middle of the next day to remove. The worst left within the time appointed, but the one who remained, represented that his family, which was large, would be in a starving condition, if he went and left his crop. He promised to behave well, if I would consent to let him remain until fall, in order to secure his crop. He spoke reasonably and I consented.

We now resumed some of our games and pastimes, having been assured by the prophet that we would not be removed. But in a little while it was ascertained that a great war chief, General Gaines, was on his way to Rock river with a great number of soldiers. I again called upon the prophet, who requested a little time to see into the matter. Early next morning he came to me and said he had been dreaming; that he saw nothing bad in this great war chief, General Gaines, who was now near Rock river. That his object was merely to frighten us from our village, that the white people might get our land for nothing. He assured us that this great war chief dare not, and would not, hurt any of us. That the Americans were at peace with the British, and when they made peace, the British required, and the Americans agreed to it, that they should never interrupt any nation of Indians that was at peace, and that all we had to do to retain our village was to refuse any and every offer that might be made by this war chief.




MLA Source Citation:

Patterson, J. B.Black Hawk Indian WarExtracted from an Autobiography of Black Hawk or Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak, Self Published, 1882. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 23 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/keokuk-barters-our-rights.htm - Last updated on Oct 4th, 2013


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