Keokuk was born about 1767 near Rock River, Illinois. He was not a chief by birth, but rose to command through ability and force of character. At an early age he became a member of the Sauk council and later stepped into prominence as a tribal guest-keeper. His lodge soon became a center for all social and political affairs and Keokuk was able to use his office to further his own ambitions. He worked his will against custom in veiled, diplomatic ways, secretly playing one faction against another. In time he became the leading councilor in the Sauk assembly, and enjoyed great popularity among his people.
Treaty of 1830
On July 15, 1830, U.S. Indian Comissioner William Clark signed a treaty with Saulk and Fox which ceded over 26-million acres of Sauk land east of the Mississippi to the government of the United States. It also created a neutral gound boundary between the Sauk and Foxes and their traditional enemies, the Sioux. The treaty was signed by Keokuk, and in November 1830 was approved by the Dakota Sioux. In Article 2 of this treaty the Sauk and Fox agreed to cede to the United States all of their lands east of the Mississippi and some of claims west of it in exchange for thousand dollars in goods from the United States every year.
Black Hawk War
A Native American, Black Hawk, of the Sauk tribe, did not approve of the Treaty of 1830. In the spring of 1830, when Black Hawk and his followers returned from their hunt, they found white settlers occupying their village. Black Hawk had not sanctioned the sale of this land and was determined to regain the village. This was the instigation of the 1832 Black Hawk war.
Those of the Sauk who favored a call to arms turned to Black Hawk who became their leader. Black Hawk was of the Thunder clan (Black-big-chest). Thus the political union between the Sauk and the Foxes was broken. The fighting began before Black Hawk was ready, and he was forced to charge with only a small number of those on whose support he had depended. After a series of battles in northern Illinois and Wisconsin Black Hawk’s forces were finally defeated at the Battle of Bad Axe in present day Wisconsin.With his depleted forces he could not successfully contend against the Illinois militia and their Indian allies.
Keokuk was also a leading figure for the native tribes during the negotiations to end the war which ceded six million acres of land in what is now the state of Iowa. Two areas were held back as special awards. One was these areas was a four hundred square mile strip surrounding the village of Keokuk was a reward for his neutrality during the conflict. The Sauk did not keep the land for long. In 1845 Keokuk and the Sauk were relocated to Kansas.
Death and Burial
On his death from dysentery, in April 1848 in Kansas, where he had moved three years earlier, the chieftainship, with its unsavory associations, went to his son, Moses Keokuk (Wunagisäa, 'he leaps up quickly from his lair'). Those who knew both father and son maintain that the son was superior in both intellect and ethics.
In 1883 the remains of the elder Keokuk were removed from Kansas to Keokuk, Iowa, where they were reinterred in the city park and a monument erected over his grave by the citizens of the town.
To find the family tree for Chief Keokuk in Roots Web, click here. This will take you to his individual information page. To see his ancestors, click on the Pedigree tab. To see his descendants, click on the Descendants tab.
If you are LDS (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and you have a new FamilySearch account, you can find Chief Keokuk and his descendants on new.familysearch.org. Once you are in new.familysearch.org, type in your user name and password. Click on the Search tab. Click on the Search by Number tab. Type in LHZ7-J6N in the Person Identifier box. Click on Search
Chief Keokuk's pedigree with details will appear. The wife that appears on the first screen will be Pretty Door Aks Light Hair. No children are listed for this couple. To see the children of Chief Keokuk, go to the tab Spouses and Children and click on the other spouses. This will show their children. At this point you will be able to move around and see his ancestors and descendants. If you have trouble, contact your ward family history consultant.
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