Keokuk (Sauk leader)

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Keokuk. Engraved- Keokuk or the Watchful Fox.jpg
Died 1848 Edit this on Wikidata
Occupation Tribal chief edit this on wikidata

Keokuk (1767–1848) was a chief of the Sauk or Sac tribe in central North America noted for his cooperation with the U.S. government which led to war with Black Hawk, who led part of their band into the Black Hawk War.[1] Keokuk County, Iowa and the town of Keokuk, Iowa, where he is buried, are named for him.[2]


In 1829 Caleb Atwater met Keokuk.

Keokuk, the principal warrior of the Sauks, is a shrewd politic man as well as a brave one and he possesses great weight of character in their national councils. He is a high minded, honorable man and never begs of the whites. While ascending the Mississippi to join us at the head of his brave troops, he met, arrested, and brought along with him to Fort Crawford two United States soldiers who were deserting from the garrison when he met them. I informed him that for this act he was entitled to a bounty in money, to which he proudly replied that he acted from motives of friendship towards the United States and would accept no money for it.[3]

Stories are told of Keokuk's capacity to sway the sentiments of a council. On several occasions, he carried with him the votes of a considerable assemblage of his tribe, when every member but himself before his speech had been firmly determined to the contrary. At one time, in May 1832, he broke in upon a war dance that his band was holding preparatory to uniting with Black Hawk against the whites, and convinced the warriors in the heat of their fury that the act would be suicidal and must not be undertaken. Keokuk always acted as an ardent friend of the whites.[4]

When Black Hawk took up arms against the settlers, and solicited general co-operation from his tribe, the energy of Keokuk alone succeeded in keeping the majority of the band on the side of peace, and Keokuk took every opportunity to attempt to persuade Black Hawk to withdraw from his position before it was too late. When, in August 1833, Black Hawk returned from his visit as a captive to Washington, D.C., and the east, he was formally delivered by the U. S. authorities to the custody of Keokuk, who, by the Rock Island Treaty of September 1832, had been officially recognized as the principal chief of the Sauks and Foxes.[4]

A four hundred square mile strip surrounding Keokuk's village was exempted from the 1832 Black Hawk Purchase. In 1837, with several village chiefs of his nation, Keokuk visited Washington, where a peace was arranged between his people and their old-time adversaries, the Sioux. They also made visits to New York City, Boston, and Cincinnati, where Keokuk's speeches attracted attention. Black Hawk was with the party, as Keokuk feared to leave the scheming old man at home during his own absence.[4] In 1845,[5] Keokuk and his people were moved further west to a reservation in Kansas, where Keokuk died in 1848, a victim to poison, administered by a member of the Black Hawk band.[4]


Chief Keokuk had not opposed the advance of the white men, and Keokuk and his followers eventually moved west of the Mississippi River. Although a four hundred square mile strip surrounding his village was exempted from the 1832 Black Hawk Purchase, he and his people were eventually moved farther, to a reservation in Kansas, where Keokuk died in 1848. In 1883 his remains were moved back to the town named after him and a monument by Nellie Walker erected there in 1913.

The Chief Keokuk Statue stands today in Rand Park, Keokuk, Iowa, erected by the Keokuk chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.[6]

Chief Keokuk gallery[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Iowa: A Guide to the Hawkeye State, Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Iowa, The Viking Press, New York, 1938
  • "Goodbye My Keokuk Lady" by Raymond E. Garrison, Hamilton, IL: Hamilton Press,1962.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-07-25. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
  2. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 174.
  3. ^ Caleb Atwater (1831) Remarks made on a tour to Prairie du Chien: thence to Washington City, in 1829. p. 73. Isaac Whiting, Columbus.
  4. ^ a b c d Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1892). "Keokuk". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
  5. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Keokuk (chief)". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  6. ^ "Goodbye My Keokuk Lady" by Raymond E. Garrison, p. 88

External links[edit]