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Life of Black Hawk, or…
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Life of Black Hawk, or Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak: Dictated by Himself… (original 1834; edition 2008)

by Black Hawk (Author)

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2991173,668 (3.54)5
A controversial figure in his day, Black Hawk was the leader of the Sauk American Indian tribe in the early 1800s. The son of the tribe's medicine man, Black Hawk's exploits as a warrior aided his rise to the status of tribal war leader. Here, Black Hawk chronicles his life as well as the story of his tribe, who were forced from their lands in Illinois during a series of skirmishes with American settlers in what came to be known as the Black Hawk War.… (more)
Member:CalabH
Title:Life of Black Hawk, or Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak: Dictated by Himself (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Black Hawk (Author)
Info:Penguin Classics (2008), 148 pages
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Autobiography of Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak, or Black Hawk, Embracing the Traditions of his Nation, Various Wars In Which He Has Been Engaged, and His Account of the Cause and General History of the Black Hawk War of 1832, His Surrender, and Travels Through the United States. Also Life, Death and Burial of the Old Chief, Together with a History of the Black Hawk War by Black Hawk (1834)

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
More than anything I've ever read about Native American history, Black Hawk's autobiography gave me a sense of how strange and violent a period the late 18th/early 19th century was in the upper Midwest. What hit me here as revelatory was the utter crowded-ness of this supposed wilderness, where there was an ever-changing confusion of alliances and feuds, and where friends could become enemies overnight, and where English and American and French and Sauk and Cherokee and Osage and Chippewa all met with unexpected frequency, in places far from any familiar sense of community, and where they might be faced at any moment with the choice to either kill one another, or pass on, or something in between.

A fascinating, harrowing window into this confused and tragic part of history. ( )
  poingu | Feb 22, 2020 |
This was interesting to read, especially given that I spent four years on Meskwaki lands, but I definitely need some guidance through it in terms of how to read it (it was accompanied, for this course, with a reading by Mark Rifkin entitled "Documenting Tradition: Territoriality and Textuality in Black Hawk's Narrative," that I found to be a useful guide,) and found it to be fairly confusing at times. I do still think it's a really important read for anyone who lives on those lands, as Black Hawk's experience is so often glossed over or barely talked about. If you're a fan of Chicago hockey, I'd say you doubly need to read this. ( )
  aijmiller | Feb 12, 2018 |
Interesting historical perspective, and I did enjoy that aspect of it. But it's pretty dry reading. Also, this was clearly translated as it was written 100 years ago, since the writing style and language bears no similarity to anything other than English spoken in those days. I suspect this was standard fare for that time and place, so I don't want to be too critical. It's just that the use of a language imparts the real story, and translating the words into "high English" means the heart and soul of what might have been the story of Black Hawk is lost. Still, history weanies like me still enjoy it a bit. ( )
  bicyclewriter | Jan 8, 2016 |
This short book—the full title of which is Autobiography of Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak, or Black Hawk, Embracing the Traditions of his Nation, Various Wars In Which He Has Been Engaged, and His Account of the Cause and General History of the Black Hawk War of 1832, His Surrender, and Travels Through the United States. Also Life, Death and Burial of the Old Chief, Together with a History of the Black Hawk War—was the first autobiography of an American Indian leader published in the United States and therefore something of a phenomenon when it appeared in 1833.
Black Hawk was born in 1767 on the Rock River in Illinois, as a member of the Sauk (Sac) tribe, which at that time populated lands east of the Mississippi River, in Illinois and Wisconsin. His reminiscences were edited by a local newspaper reporter, J. B. Patterson, and recount Black Hawk’s experiences with the French, the British, the American settlers, and other tribes.
What turned him against the Americans was an 1804 treaty, which an unauthorized group of Sauks signed, that unilaterally gave away their lands, providing American settlers the legal right (as if such niceties mattered) to appropriate them, and forcing the Indians to resettle to the west.
I found by that treaty, that all of the country east of the Mississippi, and south of Jeffreon [the Salt River in northern Missouri, a tributary of the Mississippi] was ceded to the United States for one thousand dollars a year. I will leave it to the people of the United States to say whether our nation was properly represented in this treaty? Or whether we received a fair compensation for the extent of country ceded by these four individuals?
Because of this opposition, Black Hawk fought with the British during the War of 1812. Twenty years later, when he was 65 years old and after a trail of broken promises, he led a band of Sauk warriors against settlers in Illinois and Wisconsin in the 1832 Black Hawk War.
Eventually, he was captured and gave up the warrior life. He traveled extensively in the United States on a government-sponsored tour, marveling at the size of the major cities, the railroads, the roads. In his attempts to negotiate with military leaders, provincial governors, and even the Great Father in Washington, he interacted personally with many of the leading politicians and military men of the day. President Andrew Jackson (a major character in Steve Inskeep’s recent book about another betrayal of the Indians) desired that Black Hawk and other chiefs see these sights, in order to convince them of the might of the United States.
Black Hawk provides his point of view quite clearly and compellingly. To no avail, of course. According to the University of Illinois Press, “Perhaps no Indian ever saw so much of American expansion or fought harder to prevent that expansion from driving his people to exile and death.” His prowess as a warrior chief is now honored by the U.S. military, which has named several ships after him, as well as the Black Hawk helicopter. ( )
2 vote Vicki_Weisfeld | Nov 3, 2015 |
“I explained to them the manner the British and Americans fought. Instead of stealing upon each other, and taking every advantage to kill the enemy and save their own people, as we do, (which, with us, is considered good policy in a war chief,) they marched out, in open daylight, and fight, regardless of the number of warriors they may lose! After the battle is over, they retire to feast, and drink wine, as if nothing had happened; after which, they make a statement in writing, of what they have done – each party claiming the victory! and neither giving an account of half the number that have been killed on their own side. They all fought like braves, but would not do to lead a war party with us. Our maxim is, “to kill the enemy and save our own men.” Those chiefs would do to paddle a canoe, but not to steer it.” (page 20)

Firsthand account from Black Hawk. Originally published in 1834.

Shines a light on many weaknesses of that time that still exist today:
Inability to see how actions affect others.
Projecting problems unto others in an unbalanced way.
Making oneself out to be the victim.
Unworthy entitlement to land ownership. ( )
  Michael.Bradham | Jan 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Black Hawkprimary authorall editionscalculated
Patterson, J.B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quaife, Milton MiloEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A controversial figure in his day, Black Hawk was the leader of the Sauk American Indian tribe in the early 1800s. The son of the tribe's medicine man, Black Hawk's exploits as a warrior aided his rise to the status of tribal war leader. Here, Black Hawk chronicles his life as well as the story of his tribe, who were forced from their lands in Illinois during a series of skirmishes with American settlers in what came to be known as the Black Hawk War.

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