The History of the Butterfly, Part 135: Black Hawk Makes a Speech

By 1838, Black Hawk had settled down. He no longer held any official power among the Sauk or Meskwaki, although he still commanded a great deal of respect. He even mingled with the white settlers and seemed to be respected by them. Still, he was an old man, and physically weak. He lived in a small cabin in the northeast corner of what is now Davis County, on the east side of the Des Moines River. There he lived with his two sons and his wife and daughter. Visitors noted that the house was kept very clean. The two women would even sweep the dirt outside of the structure on a regular basis. Black Hawk was invited to a banquet on the fourth of July 1838 in Fort Madison, Iowa. In response to a toast, he got up and gave a little speech. His words were translated and written down. “It has pleased the Great Spirit that I am here to-day. I have eaten with my white friends. The earth is our mother; we are now on it, with the Great Spirit above us. It is good. I hope we are all friends here. A few summers ago I was fighting against you. I did wrong, perhaps, but that is past. It is buried; let it be forgotten. Rock River was a beautiful country. I loved my towns, my cornfields and the home of my people. I fought for it. It is now yours. Keep it as we did. It will produce you good crops. I thank the Great Spirit that I am now friendly with my white brethren. We are here together. We are friends. It is his wish and mine. I thank you for your friendship. I was once a great warrior. I am now poor. Keokuk has been the cause of my present situation, but do not attach blame to him. I am now old. I have looked upon the Mississippi since I was a child. I love the great river. I have dwelt upon its banks from the time I was an infant. I look upon it now. I shake hands with you, and it is my wish, I hope you are my friends.” As quoted in Stevens, 1903.


About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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