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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Who was Black Hawk?

In the first week of April, 1832, the Sauk chief Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, or Black Hawk, crossed the Mississippi into Illinois with more than 1,000 supporters hoping to reclaim their traditional homeland on the Rock River. Their crossing touched off the tragic events culminating four months later in the Bad Ax Massacre near LaCrosse. The Black Hawk War was the last major military resistance by Wisconsin Indians, and the treaties that followed it dispossessed them and threw most of the state open to white setters.

Who was Black Hawk? His portrait is included in our online Museum Painting Collection, and a page explaining the war and linking to books, articles, manuscripts, letters, and paintings is at Turning Points in Wisconsin History. The eyewitness accounts there include descriptions of the war by both white and Indian participants.

Also included in Turning Points is a long series of recollections of Black Hawk by people who knew him after his return to Iowa. In these you can get a sense of who he was as a person, and begin to understand his motives and character.

Over the next few months we'll trace the course of the tragedy that unfolded during the summer of 1832 in Odd Wisconsin, on the anniversaries of the Black Hawk War's major events.

:: Posted in Odd Lives on April 6, 2005
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