Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

A Black Hawk Belt


Alvin Jock and Edgar Jock holding Black Hawk belt.

Reprinted from Wampum Belts of the Iroquois by Tehanetorens

The Iroquois were not the only Indian people who used wampum belts. This belt was sent by Chief Black Hawk, the famous Sauk leader and patriot of the Indian nations at Traverse Bay, Michigan, with a message that their people should remain neutral during the campaigns and Indian revolts at Michilimackinac. Black Hawk had served under the great Shawnee leader, Tecumseh. The story of the life of this great leader, Black Hawk, is a sad one. He tried in vain to hold on to the little territory that his people had left, but it was sold from under him while he was absent. He said before his death these words:

"My reason teaches me that land cannot be sold. The Great Spirit gave it to his children to live upon. As long as they occupy and cultivate it, they have the right to the soil. Nothing can be sold but such things as can be carried away. The Earth is our Mother. Who among us has the right to sell his Mother? I love my country. I loved my towns and corn fields on the Rock River where I was born and where my Fathers lived before me. It was once a beautiful country and under its earth are the graves of my forefathers. It is sacred to me. I fought the white man that I might keep my country. I lost and now it is theirs. I charge them to respect it, to keep it as the Sauk did. I was once a great warrior, but now I am very poor. I love to look upon the Mississippi. I have looked upon it from childhood. I will always love that beautiful river. My home has always been upon its bank. We told them, the whites, to let us alone and keep away from us. But they followed on and beset our paths and they coiled themselves among us like snakes. They poisoned us by their touch. We are become like them, hypocrites and liars, adulterers and ladrones, all takers and no workers. The white man does not scalp the head (but they did). They do worse, they poison the heart. I have spoken."

Even in death Black Hawk was not allowed to rest. The following year white vandals invaded his sepulcher, cut off his head, took other parts of the skeleton, and attempted to put these grisly remains on exhibition in a tent show. Because of complaints of Black Hawk's sons, they were recovered again, where they were placed in the custody of the collections of the Burlington Geological and Historical Society. They were destroyed in 1855 when the building containing them was burned.


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