“Indian Agents” were individuals who were authorized to interact with various Indian tribes on behalf of the federal government.
Prior to the Black Hawk War, the Indian Agent most prominent in dealings with the Sauk and Fox was William Forsyth. He clashed politically with William Clark, and suddenly resigned. His sympathies had been with the Sauk, and particularly Black Hawk.
Felix St. Vrain was appointed to replace Forsyth in 1830. Hostile Indians killed St. Vrain in a massacre on May 24, 1832. It is unclear exactly who killed him, although Ho-Chunk (a branch of the Sioux) warriors have been suggested as the most likely culprits.
Joseph M. Street was a General during the Black Hawk War. He was involved with treaty negotiations with the Sauk and Meskwaki, and became their “Indian Agent” in 1836.
Joseph Street became a great personal friend to the Meskwaki, especially to Wapello, who eventually was buried beside him.
Perhaps they didn’t know…
He had been an agent to the Sioux, however, and during the Black Hawk War he encouraged the Sioux to fight against Black Hawk’s band, eventually resulting in the Bad Ax massacre, in which 68 women and children were killed by them.
Minutes from a meeting between Mr. Street and some of parties who eventually participated are recorded in the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives:
“Gen. Street: When I first sent to you, I thought you were men, and wanted to revenge your murdered friends. You had complained of the Sacs and Foxes murdering your friends, and being prevented by me from retaliating; and I was willing to give you an opportunity to take your revenge. I gave you liberty to go, and shewed you a man to conduct you. I put arms in your hands, and gave you provisions and ammunition, and you have gone within striking distance, and come back, and say you are on your way home…Your complaints are untrue—they are made to excuse your coming. You have not hearts to look at the Indians who murdered your friends and families. Go home to your squaws, and hoe corn—you are not fit to go to war. You have not courage to revenge your wrongs. Your Great Father knows how to right his wrongs and is able to do it without your help. I gave you an opportunity to revenge yourselves, but you are afraid…
Your Great Father gives you some flour and pork to eat—you have no stomachs for war. Go home to your squaws, and hoe corn, and never again trouble your Great Father with your anxiety to go to war.”