Pre Black Hawk War

Fort Madison Map

Fort Madison Layout

Fort Madison was built in 1808 along the Mississippi River. At the time, Black Hawk and the other Sauk were told it was for a trader to live in, and the soldiers where just there to build the fort and protect the trader.2 Black Hawk was angered by the construction of the fort and the hostility shown by the Americans. He tried to capture the fort several times, failing each time for a variety of reasons including threat of cannon fire and his lack of ammo.5 Following this, the Native American tribes learned of the War of 1812 and most sided with the British, as many tribes on the border with Canada looked to Britain for food and supplies in the winter months. Native Americans with British support captured Michigan, Northern Illinois and Wisconsin.8 Black Hawk joined with British forces and received a silk flag and a medal showing his allegiance to the crown. His group of Sauk and Fox Warriors became known as the 'British Band'. The British and Native Americans held the North West territories and prepared for an attack on New Orleans. This was the battle Andrew Jackson won against the British that caused his rise to power. However, before the Battle of New Orleans, a treaty was signed by the Americans and the British, that established pre-war boarders and ended the conflict. The news of peace had not reached the south before the battle commenced.

Black Hawk did not care that the British had agreed to peace and continued to fight for several months following the official end of the conflict.10 One thing that Americans learned from the War of 1812 was that to control Native Peoples they would need to show force. They did this by constructing forts throughout the territories. The fort that angered Black Hawk most was Fort Armstrong. It was built on Rock Island, on territory used by Native Americans for farming, but had been sold in the Treaty of Saint Louis. Black Hawk never recognized the treaty as legitimate. In May 1816, Black Hawk signed a peace treaty bringing his war against the USA to an end. In this treaty he was tricked, and by signing it he agreed to the land ownership set forth in the Treaty of Saint Louis.8 Over the next few years, white settlers would move to the Sauk Land and begin destroying Native American homes and putting up fences to claim their land. This upset Black Hawk and when talking to the interpreter at Fort Armstrong he was told to cross the Mississippi River and leave his home. After much resistance and threat of forced removal by the US Government, Black Hawk eventually left his home and crossed the Mississippi. Once he moved, he was told by a prophet named White Cloud that he would receive support from the British and the other Native American tribes to push out the Americans and reclaim their homeland.4

Chief Black Hawk continuously resisted the efforts of the US Government to remove him from his land. He was a strong and devoted Native American who tried to do what was best for his people and his culture. Therefore, I believe he is a perfect example of the resistance shown by Native American tribes against the unfair treatment they received. Native Americans where not complicit in the removal from their land and many like Chief Black Hawk chose to fight against it. By fighting for their homeland against the US Government, these leaders put their land and their people at risk, but that risk was worthwhile to save their way of life.