And Black Hawk mused, The white blade is stroking flesh of all Indian peoples, and Why did the Great Spirit ever send the whites to this island, to drive us from our homes, and introduce among us poisonous liquors, disease and death? They should have remained on the island where the Great Spirit first placed them.
Years later Black Hawk said, In my sixty-seventh year I am prisoner of the whites. Between the spaces of barred metal, my people, my dead people, appear, sullen as judges. So, it appears he was a warrior-poet as well, but a sad one.
Clear streams run in our veins.
Pure air wings our bodies home.
Our sorrow for lost lands
and lost people is the sorrow
of spirits, the sorrow of our fathers,
earth sorrow. Our lives are rising
in wings of smoke from bone
fires on mountainsides into
the shuddering black torch of sky,
into flaming night,
into dreams and song.
Black Hawk was also a-typical for Indian Chiefs because he married only one woman named As-she-wa-qua, Singing Bird, and he wouldn’t drink alcohol and complained incessantly about the evils of alcohol as if he was organizing a local chapter of a Prohibitionist society.
When the four Sac warriors returned from St. Louis in 1804 drunk and having sold-out lands they didn’t have authority to sell, Black Hawk along with the Sac Indians refused to recognize the agreement, and this was too typical of Indians according to the U.S. government. In the ways that mattered to settlers he was no different from any other Indian Chief who would hunt down, kill, scalp and dance around the scalps to celebrate his victory, he had to, it was expected of Chiefs to take proportional revenge.
When he was captured and brought to Washington to meet President Andrew Jackson, Black Hawk said he fought because he had to, not because he Expected to conquer the whites.
They have too many horses, too many men. I took up the hatchet, for my part, to revenge injuries which my people could no longer endure. Black Hawk went on to insist that he had to fight, otherwise his own people would say Black Hawk is a woman; he is too old to be a chief; he is no Sac. So, he had to take revenge or people would question his masculinity, and that’s part of why he was romanticized as a brave symbol of heroic life and leadership, and he swore he never killed a white woman or child, only other Indian women and children.
The War broke out in earnest on May fourteenth, in the evening, near Dixon when forty warriors attached about three hundred militia and they retreated from the Indians. News spread and many from Galena got on steamboats and left the area, but in the Apple River settlement folks met at Labaum and St. Vrain General Store and said they weren’t going anywhere.
They chose a knoll, felled trees, dug a trench, built a stockade, dug those rough posts down and left them reaching a dozen feet above the ground and started to collect supplies and water for the forty-five settlers in case it ever happened that Black Hawk attacked.