Cherokee Phoenix

From the New York Evening Star

Published March, 2, 1834

Page 2 Column 2b

From the New York Evening Star


Life of Ma-ka-lai-me-she-kai-klak or Black Hawk.- Pp155- This long promised narrative, dictated from the mouth of the warrior himself, and authenticated by the affidavit of Antoine Leclair, U. S. interpreter for the Sacs and Foxes, has just issued from the press at Cincinnati. We have seldom read any work of deeper interest, or more absorbing incidents of romantic bravery and thoughts and sentiments, that might do honor to man of whiter skin than the chivalrous subject of these memoirs. He utters his opinions without fear of favor, and paints the story of his wrongs and sufferings, and heroic achievements in the simple and unaffected language of truth, which, tho' lacking doubtless the spirit of the original, must make a lasting, and we hope a salutary impression upon the minds of our countrymen. It is the first well authenticated manifesto probably that ever emanated from so high a source, in behalf of those miserable remnants of a gallant race, whom the time of population, and the rapacity of the white man, are rapidly exterminating from the soil of which they were the rightful owners. Black Hawk has inscribed his work to General Atkinson. The original dedication is a curious specimen of the language. He commences then with his pedigree, which, like that of others of royal lineage, is lost in the obscure legends of antediluvian tradition-till we come down to his great grandfather, Na-na-ma-kee, or thunder, then ruling with consulate ability the warlike tribe of Sacs, who at that time occupied the present city of Montreal. This chief through the device of a supernatural dream, in which he pretended that his destiny, like the 'line of Banquo' was foretold to him by a white spirit, persuaded his father to abdicate in his favor, when the 'great medicine bag,' or sacred emblem of imperial authority was accordingly transferred to him, and he became the head and founder of the nation who spread over the mountains and lakes of the northwest, where they have long flourished. To give them a more exalted conception of his power, he professed, like Jupiter, to hold the bolts of heaven at his command, and on the occasion of a tremendous thunder storm, which set fire to some towering pine trees, he lighted a torch from the burning flame, and said that should be the holy symbol of their tribe,(as in the modern Gebber fire worshipers of Persia) that must never be extinguished. Hence his name of Thunder. And we may remark, on passant, that this tradition, which smacks of oriental, origin, seems to give plausibility to the Mitchillian theory of the Asiatic origin of all our Indian population, as much so as their Kamschatka dog, and Chinese physiognomy, so striking in the Esquimaux, that one of them who met a Chinese sailor at this post, some years since called him his brother. Black Hawk is now 67 years old, born at Rock River. When he was yet a youth of fifteen he boasts of having scalped more of his enemies almost than the redoubtable Falstaff encountered, and this precocious courage it was, he says, and which all their squaws foster and nourish, that raised him so rapidly in the estimation of his people. With seven braves, as he called them, using Napoleon's phraseology, he contended while yet a boy, with 100 Osage warriors. He seems to think that warlike deeds are the highest motive of human ambition-despises civilian pursuits, and professes to have had no other ambition but this single passion, and the elevated and chivalrous sentiments it inspire, of generosity to vanquished-revenge for the injured-succor to the helpless, and the most scrupulous honor in all his transactions.

These virtues being, as he most properly argues, compatible only with a lofty sense of courage. He invites scrutiny into the whole course of his life, denies that he ever scalped a female or child, or did other actions that would tarnish his reputation, which, he several times repeats, is dearer to him than life. His assertions do sometimes seem to savor a little of gasconading, but the romantic celebrity he has long since attained, leaves us no room to suppose that there can be anything of the Munchausen or Major Longbow in his sentiments. We mistake the true character of the Indians. They are governed by strong natural impulses; by their unsophisticated passions and feelings in all their native force; by the social relations of life rather than by any arbitrary and artificial regulations, which grow out of the conventional agreements of civilized society, and which, under the infinite variety of combinations they assume, often completely metamorphose the character. They are gregarious and indeed seem to love to congregate together. By Black Hawk's representations, they are not by any means a wandering race of Bedouin Arabs they worship their homes and their altars. Nothing, next to the battle axe, seemed so dear to him and his nation, as the grave of their forefathers, and the cherished hope of reposing in the same tomb with them. They pray to the Great Spirit, mourn over their dead in solitude and fasting, and nothing can be more touching than the frequent recurrence he makes to the dreaded separation to which he saw they were doomed from the hills where the ashes of their friends and relatives were moldering. Here there posterity for more than a century had lived in the midst of abundance, and in the most uninterrupted happiness; in winter pursuing the chase of the deer upon their hunting grounds; in spring, returning with their venison and rich peltries to the villages; while their squaws and old people were preparing the fields for corn and vegetables; and when autumn came, feasting on its fruits, recounting over their exploits, and mingling to the rude music of the drum and its vocal accompaniments, the athlete sports of the war dance and race. Until, by the nefarious treaty which, without their knowledge or authority, was made in 1804, they found themselves suddenly disfranchised of their beautiful bottom lands, extending for hundreds of miles up the Mississippi. The greedy devouring squatters came and wormed themselves into their very villages; took possession of their fields and wigwams; maltreated their squaws, and claimed the soil as their own purchased property! Well may we exclaim with Black Hawk, if this history be true, at their atrocious and inhuman procedures. Soon disputes and conflicts arose; the pale faces with their long knives and war chiefs came to enforce these cruel aggressions, and then the fatal edict of banishment to the barren prairies west of the Mississippi, was announced. Black Hawk swore he would die on the graves of his fathers. The coward, Ke-o-kuk, as he calls him, and who he says could not boast of a single scalp, assented with his party to this degrading submission. Black Hawk fled to The Prophet, and towards the British territory, to obtain their promised assistance from the Winnebagoes, but he was deceived; pursued, with his few hundred warriors and squaws and children by an army of pale faces ten times his number, and after several desperate encounters, in which he speaks despairingly of our troops, was finally conquered. The squaws, he says, always were his partisans in preference to Ke-o-kuk. He had but one wife, and loved he and his children with all the parental and connubial fondness that we can boast of. Their lead mines and fisheries, and maple sugar, and wild and domestic fruits, were sources of gratification and wealth, to which they must bid adieu. Among their gallapades(sic) was one called the crane dance, when the squaws dressed in the best attire which they had purchased of the traders, and decorated themselves with feathers. He describes, also, the mode of courtship, the lover serenading his mistress with the lute. His military tactics are ambush and stratagem, i.e. kill the enemy and save you own men, not open field fights as the pale faces foolishly do. Such chiefs as recommend this latter system may do to paddle a canoe, he says, but not steer it. He says our New York squaws are very pretty for pale faces. Thought the balloon at Castle Garden went up to the Great Spirit, but declares the ore works were not so splendid as a prairie on fire. The work is full of interesting details, and some of the descriptions highly eloquent.