When the region that is now Iowa became United States territory by the purchase of Louisiana in 1803, the Sauk and Foxes jointly claimed the country on both sides of the Mississippi, from the Wisconsin River to the Illinois, on the east, and from the Upper Iowa to the mouth of the Missouri, on the west. The Foxes for the most part lived in villages west of the Mississippi, while the Sauk clung to the east bank of the river. The Foxes had their principal village near the site of the present city of Davenport, Iowa; while the main village of the Sauk, called Saukenuk, was located near the present site of Rock Island, Illinois.44
Scarcely had the Americans taken over the government of the Louisiana Purchase when they came in contact with the Sauk and Foxes in such a way that the consequences of this meeting were felt for a generation.
In what is now the state of Missouri a rough frontier settlement called Cuvier had been established on the Mississippi. Its inhabitants were mostly French traders and trappers who were generally on good terms with the Indians. Women were scarce in this frontier settlement and Indian maids were secured as dancing partners by the whites. While the Indian girls danced, the Indian men regaled themselves with whisky.45
One night in the spring of 1804 Indians and white men met at such a dance in one of the cabins at Cuvier. Liquor was plentiful and beneath whites and Indians became hilarious p17 as the night wore on. In the course of the evening a white man insulted an Indian maid with whom he was dancing. Her father, although "esquaby", was not too drunk to attempt to avenge the insult. He was unceremoniously kicked out of the cabin by the white man, and the dance proceeded. Nursing his wrath the Indian lay in wait outside the cabin door. When his assailant appeared the aggrieved father felled him with a tomahawk and fled in a canoe to Saukenuk.46
Now the murder of a white man by an Indian was a crime which the government could not overlook, and accordingly a detachment of soldiers was sent up the Mississippi from St. Louis to apprehend the murderer. The Sauk turned the fugitive over to the soldiers who returned with him to St. Louis. There he was thrust into prison to await his fate.47
Meantime the chiefs and head men of the Sauk, heeding the mourning of the family and friends of the prisoner, held a council to see what could be done. It was determined to try to secure the release of the prisoner by sending a delegation of five head men to St. Louis to pay for the person killed.48 Among the five were Pashipaho, a well-known chief, and Quashquamme, a relative of the prisoner.
When the Sauk delegation reached St. Louis they soon learned that their mission was hopeless. Nevertheless they tarried, living well and drinking heavily on the credit extended to them by Pierre Chouteau. Chouteau doubtless hoped that by befriending Sauk visitors he would win them and their tribesmen from the British traders of the Upper Mississippi Valley and secure this trade for himself. Indian guests accepted gifts and credit from Chouteau until they owed him $2,234,50.49
p18 In the meantime William Henry Harrison, Governor of Indiana Territory and thereby Governor of the new District of Louisiana, as well as Superintendent of Indian Affairs of the District, arrived in St. Louis. Before coming west he had received instructions from Washington to conclude treaties of trade and friendship with the Indians. Chouteau, it is claimed, disclosed to the Governor the opportunity to make such a treaty with the five head men of the Sauk and Foxes who were then in the city. Here was an opportunity for Chouteau to collect his debts. The Indians were given uniforms and medals, and among other things were promised the release of the prisoner if they would sign the treaty. Finally they agreed to accede to the wishes of the White Father, and on November 3, 1804, the five Indians affixed their marks to the much discussed Treaty of 1804.50
In this treaty the Sauk and Foxes are represented as disposing of •some 50,000,000 acres of their land lying in the present States of Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin. East of the Mississippi this cession included all the land claimed by these Indians between the Illinois River on the south to the Wisconsin River on the north. West of the Mississippi the cession included the land between the Missouri River on the south and the so‑called Jeffreon [Jefferson] River on the north. In exchange for this land the Sauk and Foxes were promised a cancellation of their debts to Chouteau, and annuities of $1000 for an unspecified number of years.51 The murderer was released as promised but he was immediately shot down, it is said, by a relative of the white man whom the Indians had killed.52
The only generous provision of this treaty was the section that permitted the Indians to occupy their land p19 until it was needed for settlement. Moreover the government promised to erect a trading house or factory within the ceded domain to put a stop to the impositions of private traders and to supply the Indians with goods at a more reasonable rate than they had been accustomed to get them. At the same time the government secured the right to erect a military post at or near the mouth of the Wisconsin River, and a tract of land not to exceed •two miles square was to be given as a site for the fort.53
On their belated return to Saukenuk the five head men shamefacedly hung about outside the village before coming in to report. At last they came up to the council lodge and gave an account of their mission. They insisted, so Black Hawk says, that they agreed to give the American chief some land on the west side of the river and likewise more on the Illinois side opposite "Jeffreon", but denied that they had ceded any land about Rock River. Black Hawk then adds: "this was all myself and nation knew of the treaty of 1804. It has since been explained to me. I found by that treaty, that all of the country east of the Mississippi, and south of Jeffreon was ceded to the United States for one thousand dollars a year. I leave it to the people of the United States to say whether our nation was properly represented in this treaty?"54
The Treaty of 1804 at St. Louis marked the beginning of the long process by which the Indian title to the soil of the Upper Mississippi Valley was extinguished. Taking advantage of the five head men may have seemed a good bargain at the time, but its results proved tragic and costly, culminating finally in the Black Hawk War of 1832.55
44 Articles on the Sauk and Foxes in Hodge's Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico; Cole's A History of the People of Iowa, p58.
45 Armstrong's The Sauks and the Black Hawk War, pp58, 59.
46 Armstrong's The Sauks and the Black Hawk War, pp59, 60.
47 Armstrong's The Sauks and the Black Hawk War, p60.
48 Armstrong's The Sauks and the Black Hawk War, p60; Cole's A History of the People of Iowa, p60.
49 Armstrong's The Sauks and the Black Hawk War, p61.
50 Armstrong's The Sauks and the Black Hawk War, p61.
51 The treaty is found in United States Statutes at Large, Vol. VII (Indian Treaties, 1778‑1842), pp84‑87.
52 Cole's A History of the People of Iowa, p61.
53 United States Statutes at Large, Vol. VII, p86.
54 Black Hawk's Autobiography (1882 edition), pp23, 24. The full title of this work is Autobiography of Ma‑ka-tai‑me-she-kia‑kiak, or Black Hawk, Embracing the Traditions of His Nation, Various Wars in which He Has Been Engaged, and His Account of the Cause and General History of the Black Hawk War of 1832, His Surrender, and Travels Through the United States. Dictated by Himself. It was prepared by J. B. Patterson, editor and amanuensis to Black Hawk, while Antoine LeClaire acted as interpreter. The autobiography was taken down by Patterson at Rock Island, Illinois, in 1833, and was first published at Boston in 1834.
55 Quaife's Wisconsin Its History and Its People, Vol. I, pp409, 410. Abel's The History of Events Resulting in Indian Consolidation West of the Mississippi River in the Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1906, Vol. I, pp241‑275, is an excellent account of the Indian policy of the United States at the time of the Treaty of 1804 and later.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
Old Fort Crawford
History of Wisconsin
History of Iowa
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 17 Apr 13