Keokuk Pleads With Black Hawk

In 1832 Keokuk tried to convince Black Hawk not to go to war.


Keokuk, a powerful leader of the Sauk, realized the hopelessness of Black Hawk’s war against the whites.

Who indeed are our people, who do not morn the death of some loved one at the hand of some long guns, whose cabins are as plenty as the trees in the forest. In a contest where our numbers are so unequal to theirs, we must ultimately fail. Your long experience upon the warpath tells you that only failure with result from this suicidal undertaking. You have been cruelly deceived by evil counselors who are leading you into the crocked path of the bad spirit; those who have no love for you, or respect for your gray hairs, our good name. I beseech you by everything you hold sacred, abandoned this wild and desperate undertaking, stay in your village and plant the summer’s crop. Rise to the dignity of your honored position of leader of your people and shake off the bad spirits which bind you hand and foot. If you persist on going on a warpath with the white people, then in deed may we bid farewell to Black Hawk, whose guiding spirit has forsaken him in his old age.


Ignoring Keokuk’s advice and following that of misguided advisors, Black Hawk once again crossed the river to Saukenuk.

“First People of the Prairies,” The Iowa Heritage: Program # 1, Iowa Public Television, 1979.