Black Hawk was born on the Rock River in the great Sauk village. He was given the Native American name Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, which means "Black Sparrow Hawk"Ã¯Â¿Â½. His tribe traded furs for weapons and supplies from the French and Spanish. He heard news from them, and it was here that he first heard of Americans. He began to dislike them a lot when he found out they bought the Louisiana Purchase.
Black Hawk sided and fought with the British in the War of 1812, because he had come to hate the United States so much. In 1816, he signed his name to a document that confirmed a treaty that he fought against when another chief signed it. He claimed he was not sure of the terms when he had signed it. Until 1829, he was very bitter over the loss of the land east of the Mississippi that the treaty caused for the Native Americans and He tried to get British help for an Indian uprising.
In June of 1831 the Sauk returned to their original village on the Rock River, under the command of Black Hawk. But, soon after, American troops arrived and Black Hawk returned west of the Mississippi to the mouth of the Iowa River.
In April of the next year, Black Hawk and over 400 warriors and families recrossed the Mississippi to fight for their original land in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. They thought they would receive help from Canada, and a few tribes did join them. But, before they could reach their original village, American troops arrived and the army fell apart.
The Black Hawk War began when Illinois volunteers assaulted some people who were sent by the Sauk Chief under a truce flag, and two Indians were killed. Troops and Illinois volunteers, including young Abraham Lincoln, followed as Black Hawk led his warriors North. Extreme hunger and the burden of women and children along caused Black Hawk's people to go west of the Mississippi, in an effort to end the fighting. But they were attacked and defeated when they reached the mouth of the Bad Ax River in Wisconsin. Black Hawk, his two sons, and some other chiefs were taken as prisoners to Fort Armstrong. It was here, on September 21, 1832, that the Black Hawk Purchase was signed. The Sauk ended up giving up more land for a yearly grant of money and a reservation in Iowa.
In 1833, Black Hawk was taken east for a meeting with President Andrew Jackson. Younger men who did not want to fight the whites had undermined Black Hawk's position as a tribal leader. Black Hawk spent his last days in Iowa under the supervision of Chief Keokuk. He died on October 3, 1838, at his lodge of the Des Moines River.