Black Hawk’s Last Visit
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To Yellow Banks was in the fall of 1836, after the town of Oquawka had been laid out, and when told that the town had taken the Indian name, instead of its English interpretation, he was very much gratified, as he had known it as Oquawka ever since his earliest recollection and had always made it a stopping place when going out to their winter camps. He said the Skunk river country was dotted over with Cabins all the way down to the Des Moines river, and was filling up very fast by white people. A new village had been started at Shokokon (Flint Hills) by the whites, and some of its people have already built good houses, but the greater number are still living in log cabins. They should have retained its Indian name, Shokokon, as our people have spent many happy days in this village. Here too, we had our council house in which the braves of the Sac nation have many times assembled to listen to my words of counsel. It was situated in a secluded but romantic spot in the midst of the bluffs, not far from the river, and on frequent occasions, when it became necessary to send out parties to make war on the Sioux to redress our grievances, I have assembled my braves here to give them counsel before starting on he war-path. And here, too, we have often met when starting out in the fall for our fall and winter’s hunt, to counsel in regard to our several locations for the winter. In those days the Fur Company had a trading house here and their only neighbors were the resident Indians of Tama’s town, located a few miles above on the river.
The Burlington Hawk-Eye, of a late date, in reference to this council house, says:
“A little distance above the water works, and further around the turn of the bluff is a natural amphitheater, formed by the action of the little stream that for ages has dripped and gurgled down its deep and narrow channel to the river. It is a straight, clear cut opening in the hill side, slightly rising till at a distance of seventy-five or one hundred yards from the face of the bluff it terminates as suddenly and sharply as do the steeply sloping sides.
“Well back in this grassy retreat, upon a little projection of earth that elevates it above the surrounding surface, lies a huge granite boulder. In connection with the surroundings it gives to the place the appearance of a work of man, everything is so admirably arranged for a council chamber. Here, it is rumored by tradition, the dusky warriors of the Sacs gathered to listen in attentive silence to the words of their leader, Black Hawk, who from his rocky rostrum addressed the motionless groups that strewed the hill sides; motionless under his addresses and by them aroused to deeds of darkness and crafty daring that made the name of their chief a synonym with all things terrible.
“Whatever of truth this story may contain we cannot say, and it may be no one knows. Certain it is, however, that Black Hawk’s early history is intimately linked and interwoven with that of our city, and in justice to a brave man and a soldier, as well as a ‘first settler’ and a citizen, his name and his last resting place should be rescued from the oblivion that will soon enshroud them.”
Another village has been commenced by the whites on the Mississippi river, at Fort Madison, which is being built up very rapidly. The country, too, is fast settling up by farmers, and as the Sacs have made a settlement on the frontier farther west, on our old hunting grounds, he said he would have to move farther back so as to be near his people; and on bidding us farewell, said it might be the last time, as he was growing old, and the distance would be too great from the point at which he intended to build a house and open a little farm to make a visit on horseback, and as the Des Moines river is always low in the fall of the year he could not come in his canoe.
At the close of the summer of 1837 the President of the United States invited deputations from several tribes of Indians residing on the Upper Mississippi to visit him at Washington. Among those who responded to his invitation were deputations from the Sacs and Foxes and Sioux, who had been at enmity, and between whom hostilities had been renewed, growing out of their inhuman treatment of many of the women and children of the Sacs, after they had made their escape from the battle of Bad Axe, at the close of the war.
Keokuk, principal chief of the Sacs and Foxes, (by the advice of his friend, Sagenash, Col. George Davenport, of Rock Island) invited Black Hawk to join his delegation, which invitation he readily accepted, and made one of the party; whilst the Sioux were represented by several of their crafty chiefs. Several counsels were held, the object of which was to establish peace between the Sacs and Foxes and Sioux, and in order to perpetuate it, make a purchase of a portion of the country of the Sioux, which territory should be declared neutral, and on which neither party should intrude for any purpose; but the Sioux, whose domain extends far and wide, would not consent to sell any of their land; hence nothing was accomplished.
Before returning to their county the Sac and Fox delegation visited the large cities in the East, in all of which Black Hawk attracted great attention; but more particularly in Boston, as he did not visit it during his former tour. The delegation embraced Keokuk, his wife and little son, four chiefs of the nation, Black Hawk and son, and several warriors. Here they were received and welcomed by the mayor of the city, and afterwards by Governor Everett as the representative of the State. On the part of the city, after a public reception, the doors of Faneuil Hall were opened to their visitors to hold a levee for the visits of the ladies, and in a very short time the “old cradle of liberty” was jammed full.
After dinner the delegation was escorted to the State House by a military company, and on their arrival were conspicuously seated in front of the Speakers’ desk, the house being filled with ladies, members of the legislature, and dignitaries of the city council.
Governor Everett then addressed the audience, giving a brief history of the Sac and Fox tribe, whose principal chiefs (including the great war chief) were then present, and then turning to them hi said: “Chiefs and warriors of the united Sacs and Foxes, you are welcome to our hall of council. Brothers, you have come a long way from your home to visit your white brethren; we rejoice to take you by the hand. Brothers, we have heard the names of your chiefs and warriors. Our brethren who have traveled in the West have told us a great deal about the Sacs and Foxes. We rejoice to see you with our own eyes.
“Brothers, we are called the Massachusetts. This is the name of the red men who once lived here. Their wigwams were scattered on yonder fields, and their council fire was kindled on this spot. They were of the same great race as the Sacs and Foxes.
“Brothers, when our fathers came over the great water they were a small band. The red man stood upon the rock by the seaside and saw our fathers. He might have pushed them into the water and drowned them; but he stretched out his hand to them and said: ‘Welcome, white man.’ Our fathers were hungry, and the red man gave them corn and venison. They were cold, and the red man wrapped them in his blanket. We are now numerous and powerful, but we remember the kindness of the red men to our fathers. Brothers, you are welcome; we are glad to see you.
“Brothers, our faces are pale, and your faces are dark, but our hearts are alike. The Great Spirit has made His children of different colors, but He loves them all.
“Brothers, you dwell between the Mississippi and Missouri. They are mighty rivers. They have one branch far East in the Alleghenies and another far West in the Rocky Mountains, but they flow together at last into one great stream and ran down into the sea. In like manner the red man dwells in the West and the white man in the East, by the great water; but they are all one band, one family. It has many branches; but one head.
“Brothers, as you entered our council house, you beheld the image of our great father, Washington. It is a cold stone; it cannot speak to you, but he was the friend of the red man, and bade his children live in friendship with their red brethren. He is gone to the world of spirits, but his words have made a very deep print in our hearts, like the step of a strong buffalo on the soft clay of the prairie.
“Brother, (addressing Keokuk) I perceive your little son between your knees. May the Great Spirit preserve his life, my, brother. He grows up before you, like the tender sapling by the side of the great oak. May they flourish for a long time together; and when the mighty oak is fallen on the ground may the young tree fill its place in the forest, and spread out its branches over the tribe.
“Brothers, I make you a short talk and again bid you welcome to our council hall.”
Keokuk rose and made an eloquent address. Several of the other chiefs spoke, and after them the old war chief, Black Hawk, on whom the large crowd were looking with intense interest, arose and delivered a short but dignified address.
Presents were then distributed to them by the Governor. Keokuk received a splendid sword and a brace of pistols, his son a nice little rifle, the other chiefs long swords, and Black Hawk a sword and brace of pistols.
After the close of ceremonies in the Capitol, the Indians gave a exhibition of the war dance, in the common in front of the Capitol, in presence of thirty thousand spectators, and then returned to their quarters.