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The Chicago Traveler

Black Hawk State Historic Site

by Matt B on March 12th, 2008

black hawk state historic siteWhen people think about this country's Native American populations, they often think of Alaska, New Mexico, or South Dakota. But a number of tribes settled in or traveled through what is now the state of Illinois, including the Chippewa, the Delaware (who were driven west by White settlers), the Foxes, the Kickapoo, the Miami (who once had a town near modern-day Chicago), the Potawatomi, and the state's namesake, the Illinois (a hodgepodge of related tribes). Illinois is a word which means 'men' or 'people.' (The original word was Illiniwek, but was changed by the French to 'ois.)

The Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island (about three hours from downtown Chicago) celebrates all the American Indians of the area, especially the Sauk, who occupied the area from about 1750 to 1831. The state park is a wooded 208-acre (0.84 km2) area bordering the Rock River. It is most famous for being the birthplace of the Sauk warrior Black Hawk.

black hawkAfter the War of 1812, more and more White settlers began spreading throughout Illinois, forcing the tribes across the Mississippi River. Black Hawk and his followers refused to let strangers have his ancestral lands. In 1832, approximately 1500 men, women, and children led by Black Hawk attempted to re-occupy their former village. The new settlers considered Black Hawk's movements an act of war and called upon the local militia, initiating a 15-week conflict known as the Black Hawk War.

Unfortunately, many of Black Hawk's followers were killed, and their defeat marked the passing of Native Americans from the state of Illinois. However, his courage was admired by both Native Americans and White settlers alike, and tales of his bravery made him a local hero. In the late 1800s, the central portion of the former village was set aside as a historic site, and a statue of Black Hawk was raised in 1892.

black hawk statueToday, the Hauberg Indian Museum, located on the historic site, features full-size replicas of Sauk houses and features authentic artifacts. The two-acre (8094 m2) Dickson Cemetery is where many of the area's earliest settlers are buried. The land throughout is an excellent home for wildlife. Over 150 species of birds can be observed throughout the year, including bald eagles. In fact, the Black Hawk Forest has been identified as one of the least-disturbed forests in all of Illinois.

There are picnic areas available as well as shelter houses equipped with fireplaces. Kids can enjoy playground equipment, and everyone can take advantage of the four miles (6.4 km) of marked hiking trails. The trails do not permit bicycles, but they can be used for cross-country skiing in the winter. Be sure to contact the Site Manager for information about the spring bird-and-wildflower walks, field trips, and geology outings.

black hawk prairie

Photo credit: Wikipedia, (via Flickr:) sirbranderson, readysubjects

Black Hawk State Historic Site: 1510 46th Ave (Rock Island); 309-788-0177
Daily: Sunrise ' 10:00 p.m.

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POSTED IN: Architecture & Attractions, Museums, Sports and Recreation

3 opinions for Black Hawk State Historic Site

  • leonora
    Mar 15, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    This is a great place to visit, rich in history and beautiful too! My children loved the musuem when they were small and there are lots of trails to hike. Definitley worth the stop if you are in the vicinity. The park is beautiful no matter what the season.

  • matthew
    Mar 15, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    hey, my class is doing county projects an I
    chose Black Hawk. I was wondering if you could put more pictures on this wbsite to discribe it and so I can use some pictures for my project.

    Matthew Mcgaffey

  • Matt B
    Mar 16, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Matthew, I would suggest contacting Black Hawk State itself, or doing a search for Creative Commons pictures on the web. Flickr (www.flickr.com) is a good place to start searching.

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