Life of Black Hawk

Black Hawk's narrative

Na-nà-ma-kee's vision


The Great Spirit inspires Black Hawk’s great-grandfather Na-nà-ma-kee “with a belief that, at the end of four years, he should see a white man, who would be to him a father” (according to J. Gerald Kennedy’s note, possibly the French explorer Samuel de Champlain). Na-nà-ma-kee begins to black his face and eat once a day, at dusk.

Na-nà-ma-kee's second vision

1613 - 1614

The Great Spirit appears to Na-nà-ma-kee once more and tells him that he will meet his white father in one year and provides more specific instructions.

Na-nà-ma-kee meets his white father


Na-nà-ma-kee sets out with his brothers Nà-mah and Pau-ka-hum-ma-wa to meet their white father. The white man (probably Champlain) explains that he is the son of the King of France and the father of the Sauk nation. He gives Na-nà-ma-kee a medal and other presents, proclaiming him chief of the nation and his brothers subordinate civil chiefs. He leaves, promising to return after twelve moons.

Na-nà-ma-kee becomes Sauk chief


Muk-a-tà-quet presents his son Na-nà-ma-kee with the medicine bag, making him Sauk chief. Na-nà-ma-kee solidifies this rank in the eyes of the Sauks by taking responsibility for a thunderstorm.

Sauk relocation

1629 - 1630

Surrounding tribes drive the Sauk from Montreal to Mackinac, and eventually to an area near Green Bay on the Fox River.

Sauk-Fox alliance


Sauk-Fox migration

1730 - 1767

Dates are approximate. 767Combined enemy tribes drive the allied Sauk and Fox to the Wisconsin River. They soon relocate to Saukenuk on Rock River.

Pontiac's Uprising


Black Hawk makes reference to the killing of British soldiers by Indians at Mackinac in his recollection of the near-conflict at Fort Madison.

Birth of Black Hawk


Black Hawk is born in Saukenuk on Rock River.

Black Hawk's first scalp-dance


Black Hawk kills his first man in a war with the Osages and participates in his first scalp-dance.

Black Hawk's first war party

October 1782

Black Hawk leads seven warriors against 100 Osages, killing a man and retreating unscathed.

First expedition against Osages


Having raised a force of 180, Black Hawk leads an expedition against the Osages. Finding their village deserted, all but five return home.

Osage outrages

1783 - 1786

The Osages “commited many outrages on our nation and people” (14).

Osage defeat


Black Hawk recruits 200 warriors to fight the Osages, meeting an equal force in a large battle. 100 Osages are killed (six by Black Hawk alone) and 19 Sauks die before the Osages retreat.

Mourning period

1790 - 1795

Dates are approximate. Mourning the death of his father, Black Hawk blacks his face, fasts, and prays for this five year period. He remains in a civil capacity during this time.

Black Hawk inherits medicine bag


Following the death of his father Py-e-sa, Black Hawk inherits the Sauk medicine bag.

Death of Py-e-sa


With his father, Black Hawk leads a small party against the Cherokees near Merimack. The Cherokees lose 28, the Sauks seven. Black Hawk’s father is mortally wounded and soon dies.

Destruction of Osage lodges

March 1801

Black Hawk leads 500 Sauks and Foxes and 100 Ioways intending to exterminate the Osages. They find forty lodges and kill all but two inhabitants.

Campaign against the Chippewas, Kaskaskias and Osages

September 30, 1801 - 1802

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk wages "a long and arduous campaign" against the Chippewas, Kaskaskias and Osages.

Last visit to Spanish father in St. Louis

July 1803

The Sauks traditionally visit their Spanish father in St. Louis every summer. On this visit, the Spanish inform them of the impending transfer of authority to the Americans. [Dates are approximate; Black Hawk's narrative may contradict the historical record]

Pike descends the Mississippi


Black Hawk recalls that Pike's expedition descended the Mississippi prior to the 1804 treaty in St. Louis, though this contradicts the historical record.

Meeting with Zebulon Pike


The Sauks encounter Zebulon Pike's exploratory party on Rock River. He gives them presents and an American flag, asking them to remove all signs of British allegiance. Black Hawk declines, as he wants to have two fathers. [Black Hawk's narrative contradicts the historical record]

Treaty of 1804 signed

March 1804

Dates are approximate. Quàsh-quà-me and others sign over "all our country, east of the Mississippi, and south of the Jeffreon" for $1000 a year, though the party did not have tribal consent to do so. This treaty, as Black Hawk puts it, "has been the origin of all our difficulties."

Sauk imprisoned for murder of an American

March 1804

Dates are approximate. A Sauk is accused of killing an American and is imprisoned in St. Louis. Quàsh-quà-me, Pà-she-pa-ho, Oú-che-quà-ka and Hà-she-quar-hí-qua are sent to St. Louis intending to pay blood money to cover the life lost.

Sauk men seize American guns


Dates are approximate. A group of young Sauk men sneak up on a crew working on Fort Madison and steal their guns, laughing and then quickly returning them.

Construction of Fort Madison


Following the cession of Sauk land to the Americans in the 1804 Treaty of St. Louis, the U.S. constructs a fort on the Mississippi at the head of the Des Moines rapids. Soldiers tell the Sauks they are building houses for a trader.

Council at Fort Madison


Dates are approximate. Following the young Sauk men's prank on the American soldiers, the American war chief (Governor Harrison) calls for a council with the Sauk chiefs to discuss the matter. The Sauks crowd around the fort to watch. Some approach the gate, prompting a near-conflict with the American soldiers stationed in the fort.

Meeting on the Wabash


Dates are approximate. Sauk representatives travel to meet a Shawnee prophet (Tenskwatawa) on the Wabash River. He asks them to join the gathering Indian force on the Wabash, but the Sauks decline.

Attack on Fort Madison

December 1811

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk joins a party of Sauks and Winnebagoes determined to seize Fort Madison. There are a few casualties on each side, but the Indians are unsuccessful.

Col. Dixon courts tribes


British trader Col. Robert Dixon sends presents to various native tribes in an attempt to earn their allegiance in the coming war. Black Hawk prefers the British to the Americans because they are more trustworthy.

Sauk chiefs called to Washington


The Great Father, president James Madison, calls Sauk chiefs to Washington, where he asks that they remain neutral in the event of a war with Britain. In exchange, he promises to continue the British trader's practice of supplying the Sauks for their winter hunt on credit.

Visit to trader at Fort Madison

January 1, 1812

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk and other Sauks travel to Fort Madison to receive supplies for the winter as part of their agreement with the Great Father. However, the trader does not hold up his end of the bargain; he claims that the war chief (Gov. Harrison) would not permit him to supply them on credit and had heard no instructions otherwise from Washington.

La Gutrie arrives at Rock Island

January 2, 1812

Dates are approximate. La Gutrie, a representative of Col. Dixon, supplies the Sauks and in so doing secures their support for the British.

Sauk council and divide

September 1812

Dates are approximate. With Black Hawk and most of the Sauk braves gone to fight for the British, the remaining Sauk nation is defenseless. A council decides that Quash-qua-me and others should lead a party down to St. Louis to receive American protection. At this same council, Keokuk secures himself a position as war chief of a different Sauk faction set on defending the village. Black Hawk does not learn any of this until his return from battle.

Black Hawk marches to Detroit

September 1812 - January 1813

On Col. Dixon's orders, Black Hawk and five hundred braves, along with a British war chief, march from Green Bay to Chicago and from there to Detroit to fight in the War of 1812.

Battle of Frenchtown

January 22, 1813

Indian fighters, including Black Hawk, surround and kill or capture 400 Americans in Michigan.

Journey back to Rock River

August 1813 - December 1813

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk leaves the fighting in Ohio to return to Saukenuk. On the way, he encounters his old friend, whose son has been murdered by Americans. Black Hawk swears revenge.

Battle of the Sink Hole

December 1813

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk makes a war party of thirty braves and sets off to avenge his adopted son. They descend the Mississippi to Fort Howard on the Quiver near Capo Gray. They kill a few white men but end up besieged in a sink-hole before the white men return to the fort. [Black Hawk contradicts the historical record]

Hunting camp on English river

January 1814

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk and his family make their hunting camp on the English River. Pottowatomies from Illinois come to visit and tell Black Hawk of a British surrender at Malden. When Sauk warriors from a peace camp on the Missouri visit, Black Hawk forwards this information.

Attack on boats

July 1814

Black Hawk and others attack two American boats bound for Prairie du Chien. A British vessel comes down the river and arms the Sauks with a "big gun" with which to fire on future American boats.

Abandoned trip to Portage des Sioux

March 1815

Dates are approximate. En route to Portage des Sioux to sign a peace treaty with the Americans, the Sauk civil chief takes sick and dies. His brother assumes power and decides not to continue the journey, for fear that the same fate will befall him. The Sauks do not sign the treaty.

Trip to Rapids des Moines

October 1815

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk and other chiefs travel to Rapids des Moines to see the American war chief, explain their absence at Portage des Sioux, and ask for permission to hunt in the Two-River Country.

Peace treaty signed at St. Louis

November 1815

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk and other chiefs travel to St. Louis to confirm a peace treaty which contains deceptive language reaffirming the cession of contested land in 1804. The civil chiefs accuse the Great Father in Washington of lying.

Good spirit is driven away from village at Rock River

May 10, 1816

The noise from Fort Armstrong drives away the good spirit who has presided over Saukenuk.

Mourning period

August 1816 - August 1818

Dates are approximate. Following the death from illness of both his eldest son and youngest daughter, Black Hawk secludes himself and his family, blacks his face and fasts.

Visit to Malden

October 1818

Black Hawk visits Malden and receives presents from his British Father.

Attacked while hunting

January 1819

While hunting on the Two-Rivers, Black Hawk is falsely accused by three white men of killing their hogs; he denies it but is badly beaten anyway.

Agent comes to Rock Island

June 1819

Dates are approximate. The Sauk Indian agent comes to live at Rock Island and provides advice, specifically that the Sauk should begin searching for a new place to build a village west of the Mississippi.

Schism among the Sauk

August 1819

Dates are approximate. Having been told to leave their village, some of the Sauk, led by Keokuk, acquiesce to their Great Father's orders. Another group, led by Black Hawk, determines to stay put.

White settlement in the village

January 1820

Dates are approximate. Three white families seize land in Saukenuk and divide it up amongst themselves. Unable to communicate with them, Black Hawk travels to Rock Island to get documents in English from the interpreter that will explain the situation to the white families. He shows them the documents, but they do not move. More white families come. Keokuk returns to the village but does not help Black Hawk repel the white settlers.

Council at Rock Island

July 1820

Black Hawk meets with two chiefs to explain the grievances of the Sauks, who are being displaced and mistreated by white settlers. He reiterates the invalidity of Quash-qua-me's treaty in 1804, but they cannot do anything to help him.

Sauk land sold

December 1820

The Sauk land is divided up and sold, some to individuals and a large portion to the trader at Rock Island. Councils among the remaining Sauk decide to kill all those responsible, including Ke-o-kuk.

Treaty at Prairie du Chien

August 1821

Dates are approximate. The U.S. agrees to give the Pottowatomies $16,000 a year forever in exchange for a strip of land much smaller than that taken from the Sauks for $1,000 a year; Black Hawk is angered by the Americans' inconsistent behavior.

Black Hawk's offer

May 1822

Black Hawk offers to remove west of the Mississippi in exchange for $6000, but the great chief at St. Louis refuses, threatening to drive them off the land if they do not remove immediately.

Council with General Gaines

June 1831

General Gaines arrives and convenes a council with Ke-o-kuk and Black Hawk, among others. Gaines asks Black Hawk to remove west, but he refuses and denies the validity of the 1804 treaty. Gaines gives him two days to remove peacefully before he will use force.

Deputation to the Sauk agent

June 1831

Black Hawk sends a deputation to the Sauk agent to ask for permission to stay in the village until the corn harvest, at which point they would remove across the Mississippi. This deputation is refused. Black Hawk gives an order for passive resistance.

Militia sent to remove Sauks

June 3, 1831

Dates are approximate. The Illinois militia arrive to remove the Sauks.

Black Hawk crosses the Mississippi

June 4, 1831

Overnight, Black Hawk and his band cross the Mississippi, fearing the ruthlessness of the Illinois militia.

Second council with Gaines

June 5, 1831

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk signs a peace treaty in exchange for corn to replace that which was abandoned in the village. The Sauks do not receive adequate corn.

Fox retaliation against Menomonees

July 1831

Dates are approximate. A party of Foxes kills 28 Menomonees to avenge the earlier killing of Foxes, an attack which is considered lawful by these nations. The whites demand that the Foxes be tried for these actions.

Petition to Great Father unanswered

October 1831

Ke-o-kuk appeals to the Great Father in Washington for a council so that he and Black Hawk may explain their cause; this request goes unanswered, and Black Hawk resolves to take action.

Black Hawk crosses the Mississippi into Illinois

April 5, 1832 - April 6, 1832

Black Hawk and his party re-cross the Mississippi toward Saukenuk, having been promised British support by Ne-a-pope and pan-Indian support by Waboshiek.

Black Hawk refuses White Beaver's order

April 10, 1832

Dates are approximate. The White Beaver (Gen. Atkinson) orders Black Hawk to remove across the Mississippi again, but he refuses.

Council with Mr. Gratiot

April 25, 1832

Dates are approximate. Mr Gratiot, the Winnebago sub-agent, arrives with Winnebago chiefs to reinforce the White Beaver's order. He is threatened by the Sauks, but Black Hawk ensures his safety. The Winnebagoes promise to act as spies for Black Hawk. Gratiot returns to Rock Island.

Deception revealed

April 27, 1832

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk finds out that Ne-a-pope's promises were false, and reveals this to his chiefs.

Stillman's Run

May 14, 1832

During a feast with Pottowatomie chiefs, 3-400 white men on horseback are spotted some miles off. Initial search parties are killed or driven off. Then, with limited forces (about 40), Black Hawk attacks. the white men. They unexpectedly retreat.

Flag bearers attacked

May 14, 1832

Black Hawk sends a white flag to the American chief to indicate that he wants to hold a council. In the confusion surrounding Stillman's Run, the flag-bearers are attacked and the council refused.

Prairie Battle near Dixon's ferry

May 20, 1832

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk's forces engage with several hundred Americans at their encampment near Dixon's ferry. Again, the Americans retreat.

Winnebagoes join

May 30, 1832

Dates are approximate. Rounding the head of the Kish-wa-co-kee, Black Hawk's forces are joined by a party of Winnebagoes. He sends out war parties in several directions. Some Winnebagoes return with scalps, including that of Ke-o-kuck's father, the agent Felix St. Vrain.

Attack on Apple River Fort

June 24, 1832

Black Hawk's forces attack a fort at Mos-co-ho-co-y-nak, killing some whites and taking supplies.

Kellogg's Grove

June 25, 1832

The Sauk forces fight two groups of white militia men (one regrouping from the first battle). Major John Dement's bravery impresses Black Hawk.

Encampment at Four Lakes

June 26, 1832 - July 15, 1832

Dates are approximate. Black Hawk's party encamps at Four Lakes, but limited food supply causes some old people to die of hunger. Black Hawk resolves to remove women and children back west across the Mississippi to join the other Sauks.

Encounter with William Davis farm party

June 26, 1832

Dates are approximate. A party of Pottowatomies and Sauks arrive with two white girls, the lone survivors of a massacre perpetrated by the same group at the William Davis farm. The girls were to be given to the Winnebagoes, who would then return them to the whites. [Black Hawk contradicts the historical record]

Battle of Wisconsin Heights

July 21, 1832

The Illinois militia under General Henry Dodge attacks Black Hawk's band while the women and children are crossing the Ouisconsin. Black Hawk is mostly successful in holding them off with 50 braves.

Steamboat attack

July 30, 1832

Black Hawk's band is attacked by cannon on a steamboat, despite flying a white flag.

Black Hawk holes up in a thicket

July 30, 1832 - August 4, 1832

Black Hawk and some of his men hole up in a thicket. Meanwhile, many Sauks are killed at the Battle of Bad Axe.

Black Hawk surrenders

August 27, 1832

Black Hawk surrenders to the Winnebago agent Joseph Street at Prairie du Chien. He is taken to Fort Crawford, then in a steam boat down to Jefferson Barracks, where he is put in chains.

Confinement at Jefferson Barracks

September 1832 - April 1833

Black Hawk is confined in Jefferson Barracks through the winter. In the spring, he is visited by a number of people, including his wife and daughter and Ke-o-kuck, who petitions the Great Father for Black Hawk's release. Instead, the Great Father sends for Black Hawk to come to Washington.

Tour of the east

April 1833 - June 1833

Black Hawk is taken east to Washington by steamboat, coach, and rail, through many major cities. In Washington, he meets the Great Father (Andrew Jackson) and is impressed.

Trip home

June 1833 - October 1833

Black Hawk is taken on a circuitous route home, toured through the major eastern cities including Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Albany, and Detroit.

Council at Fort Armstrong

October 1833

Dates are approximate. The American war chief convenes a council and orders Black Hawk to follow Ke-o-kuck.

Historical Record

Samuel de Champlain arrives in Quebec

March 15, 1603

Over the next seven years he explores the North American coast and the interior of New France.

Champlain founds Quebec City

July 3, 1608

Quebec falls to the British

1629 - 1632

Champlain surrenders Quebec to British forces during the Anglo-French War.

Quebec returns to New France


The Treaty of Saint-Germaine-en-Laye returns Quebec to New France.

French and Indian War

1754 - 1763

Treaty of Fountainebleau

November 13, 1762

France secretly cedes the Louisiana territory to Spain.

Treaty of Paris signed

February 10, 1763

The Treaty of Paris is signed, ending the Seven Years/French and Indian War. Great Britain gains Canada and the eastern part of French Louisiana.

Life of Black Hawk

1767 - October 3, 1838

Life of Andrew Jackson

March 15, 1767 - June 8, 1845

Revolutionary War

April 19, 1775 - September 3, 1783

Delassus's term as lieutenant governor of St. Louis

1799 - 1803

Delassus serves as lieutenant territorial governor in St. Louis and as the Sauk's "Spanish father" until the Louisiana Purchase.

Harrison's term as Governor of the Indiana Territory

January 10, 1801 - December 28, 1812

William Henry Harrison serves as Governor of the Indiana Territory.

Louisiana Purchase Treaty signed

April 30, 1803

The United States purchases the Louisiana Territory from France.

Transfer of St. Louis to the United States

March 10, 1804

Americans take possession of St. Louis following the Louisiana Purchase

Organization of Louisiana Purchase

October 1, 1804

Territory gained in the Louisiana Purchase is divided into the Territory of Orleans and the District of Louisiana.

Pike's exploration up the Mississippi

1805 - 1806

Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike leads an exploratory party on a search for the headwaters of the Mississippi.

Battle of Tippecanoe

November 7, 1811

U.S. Army soldiers led by Governor Harrison defeat a confederacy of Indian forces and destroy Prophetstown. Black Hawk alludes to this event, saying only that "several Winnebagoes were killed".

War of 1812

June 18, 1812 - February 18, 1815

Fort Dearborn massacre

August 15, 1812

Potowatomis attack Americans evacuating Fort Dearborn near Chicago, killing 50 and selling the rest as slaves to the British. Black Hawk alludes to this event in his recollection of the journey to Detroit.

Portage des Sioux treaties signed

March 1815

Dates are approximate. Representatives from over thirty tribes are summoned to Portage des Sioux to sign peace treaties with the United States at the end of the War of 1812; many of these treaties solidify earlier land cession treaties. Black Hawk does not attend.

Battle of the Sink Hole

May 24, 1815

Sauks led by Black Hawk fight white soldiers near Fort Howard.

Construction of Fort Armstrong begins

May 10, 1816

Thomas Forsyth serves as Sauk agent

1819 - 1830

Thomas Forsyth is appointed Indian agent to the Sauk and Fox at Fort Armstrong.

Adams-Onís Treaty signed

February 22, 1819

Boundary between U.S. and Spanish claims officially marked at the Rocky Mountains.

Presidency of Andrew Jackson

March 4, 1829 - March 4, 1837

Black Hawk War

May 15, 1832 - August 9, 1832

Attack on William Davis farm

May 20, 1832

Fifteen whites are killed and mutilated by a party of Pottowatomies and Sacs.

Volunteers disband

June 1832

Following Stillman's Run, many of the Illinois volunteers disband.

Battle of Bad Axe

August 2, 1832

A group of Sauks who separated from Black Hawk after Wisconsin Heights are massacred by white forces while attempting to cross the Mississippi at Bad Axe. Black Hawk is not present.

Dictation to LeClaire

October 16, 1833

Black Hawk dictates his narrative to interpreter Antoine LeClaire at the Sac and Fox Agency at Rock-Island.