Black Hawk State Historic Site

Black Hawk State Historic Site

The Black Hawk State Historic Site, in Rock Island, Illinois, occupies much of the historic site of the village of Saukenuk, the home of a band of Native Americans of the Sauk nation. It includes the John Hauberg Museum of Native American Life. The state park is located on a 150-foot (45m) bluff overlooking the Rock River in western Illinois. It is most famous for being the birth place of the Sauk warrior Black Hawk. The disputed cession of this area to the U.S. Government was the catalyst for the Black Hawk War.

Under the Sauk

The Sauk nation occupied this site as their principal village, a well-drained area suitable for growing corn, about 1750. The tribe's villagers were successful not only in agriculture but also in catching fur-bearing animals, spending the winters in winter camps down and across the Mississippi collecting furs. The Sauk hunters skinned their catches and sold the peltry to fur traders from the Great Lakes. From 1763 on, these traders were mostly British, and from the 1780s on, most of them were employees or contractors of the Canada-based North West Company. In the spring, the Sauks gathered in sugar camps for maple sugaring before returning to the village (left empty since the fall) to plant crops and bury their dead.

The Saukenuk people's social and economic ties with British Canada not only led to success for its people but kept the hope of British military assistance alive among the Sauk. Some of the Indians would travel each year to British forts on far-away Lake Superior and near Detroit for trading and gift-giving.

By 1826, an estimated 4,800 Sauk lived in and around Saukenuk. It was the largest single settlement in the new U.S. state of Illinois. This is how Black Hawk described Saukenuk:

The Black Hawk War

The defeat of the British Canadians in the War of 1812 and the spread of settlers into Illinois and up the Mississippi River doomed the village. In multiple treaties, many of the Sauk had signed land cessions that sold the land under Saukenuk to the new American nation. Part of the tribe established new villages in Iowa and in Missouri nearer their winter hunting grounds.

Black Hawk's band of Sauk refused to accept the vaildity of the treaty of cession, and approximately 1,500 men, women, and children, called the "British band", recrossed the Mississippi River eastward from Iowa Territory in 1832 possibly to re-occupy the village site (although they may have been headed for a Potawatomi village further north). During the winter, while the village was empty, several American families and itinerant lead miners had occupied the village and begun planting. The Illinoisans considered Black Hawk's movements an aggressive act of war and called out the local militia, thus starting the Black Hawk War.

The campaign of 1832 led to a complete victory for the U.S. Army and the state of Illinois. Many of Black Hawk's followers were killed and the Quad Cities region was completely opened to settlement. However, many white Americans admired Black Hawk's courage in defense of his band's ancestral lands, and the native leader was elevated to the rank of a folk hero.

In the late 1800s, the central portion of the site of Saukenuk was set aside as a park and historic site. A statue of Black Hawk was raised on the site in 1892, and the Civilian Conservation Corps redeveloped and improved the park in 1934-1942.

The village site today

The center of the Sauk village of Saukenuk is now the "Black Hawk State Historical Site" and John Hauberg Museum of Native American Life. However, the village spread out over a much larger area than the boundaries of the current state park. The Rock Island side of the village's site is now partly a large quarry. Many villagers lived south of the Rock River, in what is now Milan, Illinois.

The Hauberg Museum specializes in Sauk cultural objects and artifacts, including Black Hawk's tomahawk, two of his clay tobacco pipes, and a bronze bust fashioned from a plaster life mask.

The historic site is served by Illinois Route 5, which intersects with Interstate 74 in nearby Moline, Illinois at exit #4.


External links

* [ Illinois Historic Preservation Agency]

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