Search This Blog

Friday, June 11, 2010

Black Hawk the Sauk Leader


As a kid in the 1970s, I loved watching Chicago Blackhawks' hockey. Those were the glory days of Bobby Hull, Stan Makita, and Tony Esposito. I was one of those crazy people jumping for joy this week when they won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years.

The Chicago Blackhawks were founded in 1926, by coffee tycoon, Major Frederic McLaughlin. He bought the Portland Rosebuds to build the core of his new team, but didn't like the name "Rose Buds." So, McLaughlin turned to local history and his own past for inspiration. In World War I, he had served with the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion of the 86th Division of the U.S. Army. Members of this division called themselves Black Hawks in honor of the Sauk Native American chief. McLaughlin felt this name was more fitting for the National Hockey League.

Black Hawk (1767 - 1838) was born in Saukenuk, Illinois, and died in a village on the Des Moines River, Iowa.

He was the leader of a faction of Sauk and Fox Indians. Supported by part of the two tribes, Black Hawk contested the loss of 50 million acres of territory that had supposedly been granted to the United States by tribal spokesmen in 1804. His decision to defy government orders to vacate tribal lands along the Rock River resulted in the Black Hawk War of 1832.

Henry Blodgett (1821 - 1905) wrote of the Black Hawk War in his autobiography, published in 1906:

"Early in the spring [1832], and when the whole settlement was busy ploughing and preparing the ground for their crops, rumors began to come to us that Black Hawk and his band of Sacs and Foxes, who had been moved west of the Mississippi River… was coming back into Illinois, for the purpose of making war upon the settlements."

In 1831, the Blodgett Family had left New York for a new settlement near today's Downer's Grove in Will County. (above Henry Blodget in 1850)

With the threat of war looming, Blodgett recalled that one man came to the settlers' aid:

"On the night of the tenth of May, old Aptakisic, otherwise known as Half Day, chief of one of the bands of the Pottowotamies [sic], and whom we had seen a great deal of during the winter, as he had been often at our house, came about twelve o'clock at night and gave a whoop. Father sprang out and opened the door, and he at once began to tell father that he was to take his family and get away from there as soon as possible, that Black Hawk and the head men of his band had been at Waubansie's Village, which is the present site of the City of Aurora, in consultation with the Pottowotamie head men during the whole of the day before, endeavoring to influence the Pottowotamies to join him in the war, which he was determined on making against the white people."

The alarm went out to notify the "neighborhood" and by daylight all the settlers in the vicinity were "gathered and on the road to Chicago."

Blodgett continued:

"As we moved on, he [Half Day] moved on with us, not saying a word, simply following in our trail during the whole of the day. Our march, necessarily with ox teams, was a slow one... the old chief following us... until we were in sight of Ft. Dearborn, when he waved us good-bye with his hand, turned his horse, and disappeared."

Black Hawk was defeated by the U.S. Army and the Illinois militia, and many of his followers killed. Though he did not achieve his goal, many Americans admired Black Hawk's courage in defending his people's ancestral lands, and he became a folk hero.

Aptakisic was one of the signers of the Treaty of Chicago. The treaty was signed between the U.S. Government and the United Nation of Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatomi Indians on September 26, 1833. Five million acres were sold to the United States including the last tracts of Native occupied Great Lakes’ land. Cover page of the Treaty of Chicago, from the Federal Archives

Several years later, the Village of Half Day (now Lincolnshire) was named in honor of Aptakisic, whose name can be translated as "sun at meridian" or half day.


Henry Blodgett eventually moved to Waukegan where he was an attorney and a judge, and in 1846 co-founded the Anti-Slavery Society.

6 comments:

Nicki said...

So was Half Day Road really named for Aptakisic (aka Half Day), rather than the story I've always heard of it being a half-day's trip from Chicago?

Thanks - I always enjoy your interesting posts!

D_Dretske said...

Half Day Road was named for the Village of Half Day, which in turn was named for Aptakisic (Half Day) the Native American leader.

The misconception that Half Day was named for being a half day's journey from Chicago began in the early 1900s, as more and more travelers came out to Lake County for recreation.

Thanks so much for reading!

Inner Prop said...

I'm looking for primary and secondary sources for Native American History in the area. Can you steer me in a good direction? Thanks.

D_Dretske said...

Two terrific secondary sources: "Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History" by Helen Hornbeck Tanner (University of Oklahoma Press, 1987); and "The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Culture 1665-1965" by James A. Clifton (The Regents Press of Kansas, 1977). Primary sources would be museum collections--try the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston; and the Lake County Discovery Museum has a collection of beaded objects (some Woodland).

Lars Adams said...

Quick question that's been puzzling me. Daniel Wright stated that the village was named for Hafta, a chief buried near Mettawa's village. This seems like a dead ringer for chief Half Day, but Henry Blodgett clearly recalled a tearful goodbye with Half Day before he was forced with his people on the Trail of Death, and his body lies with the Potowatomi out west to this day. How then can he be the same one that Wright was talking about since he was clearly not buried near Mettawa? Could Hafta be Wrights rendering of a Potowatomi language name of a chief different from Half Day (Aptakisic)? Thanks,

Lars

Diana Dretske said...

Hello Lars,

It appears that Daniel Wright never knew Chief Aptakisic "Hafda." Henry Blodgett was clearly well acquainted with Aptakisic.

Blodgett writes in his autobiography that "old Aptakisic, otherwise known as Half Day, [was the] chief of one of the bands of Pottowotamies [sic]."

Aptakisic (sometimes spelled Abtegizhek) signed the Treaty of Chicago in 1833, and is reported to have represented Mettawa by wearing his moccasins. So, he was in the area, but why didn't Wright know him?

Potawatomi scholar and author, James A. Clifton, mentions Aptakisic/Half Day no less than nine times (in the period 1833-1847) in his extensive work "The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Indian Culture 1665-1965." Wonderful book. I highly recommend it.

This begs the question why Daniel Wright stated that chief Hafda is buried near Indian Creek, and seems to have died by 1833. A different chief with the same name?

I think I need to track down James A. Clifton with this question...

Thanks for your comments!