Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Of Rivers and Indians

The Rock River of northern Illinois bears a common name
but it is an uncommonly beautiful stream with a rich history.

It arises in southern Wisconsin, wends its way south to Rockford, Illinois
and then gracefully turns southwest. 
It joins the Mighty Mississippi at the Quad Cities.
There are several low head dams like this one
in Oregon, Illinois where we are staying for a few days.
The dams are great places to sit and enjoy the beauty of the river;
the sound of the falls, the sight of the rainbow tinted mist
and the patient fishermen waiting for their day's catch.
But more beauties enchanted us, too!
High above the river bank,
on the edge of Lowden State Park where we are staying
is the statue of "The Eternal Indian."
The statue was created by sculptor Lorado Taft and dedicated in 1911.
The sculpture is over 48 feet high and is constructed of concrete.
The artist declared that the image he had created did not represent any one individual.
Nevertheless, the statue is most often referred to as "Black Hawk."
Black Hawk, a Sauk and Fox medicine man of the 1830s,
rejected a treaty signed by some members of his tribe.
That treaty relinquished to the U.S. government
all their tribal lands east of the Mississippi River.
Large portions of land in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois
were opened to settlement by white men
and the Indians were removed to the west of the Father of Waters.
Black Hawk, and a band of about 1000 supporters,
refused to leave their beloved homeland.
They promised they would not use violence to protect it,
but several divisions of U.S. military were sent out
to remove Black Hawk and his followers from their traditional homeland.
Violence ensued, and to this day it is referred to as the
"Black Hawk War."
Black Hawk's warriers were killed and he was captured by U.S. troops.
He is reported to have said,
"We fought hard but your guns were aimed well."
As he was led away by U.S. soldiers, he is also reported
to have asked them to protect the land as his people had done.
Black Hawk died in the mid-1830s on land west of the Mississippi River,
territory that is now southeastern Iowa.
But Black Hawk will not be forgotten as his spirit inhabits the statue of
"The Eternal Indian."
Through those unblinking eyes of stone
he gazes forever toward the southwest
down his beloved Rock River.