Military Honour Code Essay

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In 1911, Lorado Taft built a large sculpture entitled The Eternal Indian. This statue of an Indian man looking over an Illinois valley was inspired by the legendary Sauk and Fox war chief, Black Hawk, according to Taft. However, when looking at the statue against an image of Black Hawk, the two do not look similar at all. The Eternal Indian appears to be a generic plains Indian, with two long braids and a nondescript robe looking over the valley. However, Black Hawk presented himself as a Sauk and Fox chief, with his hair pulled back in a ponytail, a buckskin fringed shirt, and beaded necklaces and earrings. This difference in imagery has led people to speculate that Black Hawk would not find this memorial suitable to represent his life or the culture of the Sauk and Fox people. As a more suitable memorial of Black Hawk and his tribe, I believe that a small plot of land in northern Illinois should be allocated back to the Sauk and Fox people. On this land, on one day every year, the Sauk and Fox could hold traditional ceremonies to honor and celebrate not only their culture but also the actions of Black Hawk. A military element should also be included in this celebration to honor Black Hawk’s leadership as a great war chief.

In the autobiography Black Hawk dictates about his life, most of the story he tells revolves around issues of land and the right of certain people to live on or take that land. When American settlers begin encroaching on Sauk and Fox land, claiming it to be rightfully theirs, Black Hawk is understandably outraged on behalf of his people as can be seen in the quote: “What right had these people to our village, and our fields, which the Great Spirit had given us to live upon?” Because of the intensely different cultural ideas that native people and American settlers had about land ownership, along with the tactics that many Americans used to trick natives into ceding their lands unknowingly, Black Hawk was outraged at the idea that whites were trying to take the lands of his people. Not only were these settlers trying to live on his tribe’s land, where his ancestors and the past relatives of his tribe people were buried, but these American settlers were also taking over the Sauk and Fox fields, leaving the native people with nowhere to grow food for themselves. Black Hawk felt so strongly attached to his lands that he even went so far as to say, “For this spot, I felt a sacred reverence, and never could consent to leave it, without being forced therefrom.” Unfortunately, Black Hawk and the band of Sauk and Fox that followed him were eventually forcefully removed from their lands through a war with the American army. However, before reaching this point, Black Hawk made every effort to speak with American leaders such as the “great chief at St. Louis” and several different American military leaders that he met while fighting for his lands. He was always told the same thing, that his people had ceded their lands many years ago, and that they needed to move across the Mississippi by their treaty. Black Hawk believed this story of Sauk and Fox's Indians ceding their land to be a lie because he could not find one person among his band who remembered signing such a treaty. It is possible that some of his tribe were coerced into signing a treaty that they did not know the meaning of, but regardless of how Black Hawk tried to solve the situation, whether through diplomatic means or violent means, in the end, nothing worked. Black Hawk was forced to surrender himself after heavy losses to his people. Because of the trials that Black Hawk faced attempting to protect the lands of his tribe from being taken, he might find a more appropriate memorial than a statue to be some chunk of land in northern Illinois being allocated back to the Sauk and Fox people. Whether this land is large enough for people to live on, or simply large enough for the Sauk and Fox people to be able to build a cultural center to educate the surrounding community about their culture and the life and deeds of Black Hawk, I think this allocation of land would serve better to remember Black Hawk than the current statue.

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Even if delegating a certain amount of land in northern Illinois to be returned to the Sauk and Fox people is too large a request, a ceremony honoring these people could still be held in the area, such as within Lowden State Park near the statue of what is supposed to represent Black Hawk. This kind of celebration would be culturally relevant to the Sauk and Fox who had many different ceremonies and rituals in honor of certain events that took place throughout the year. For example, after wartime ended, braves who had done well in defending their people and acted bravely during battle would go to their father’s grave, where a large painted post stood. By doing well in the war, the brave had earned the right to repaint the pole marking the grave, bringing honor to his family and showing the importance of the battle to the Sauk and Fox way of life. Along these same lines, at the end of a long winter hunt, as the ground was becoming softer in the spring, the Sauk and Fox would have what is called a “great medicine feast,” which involved not only burying all the tribespeople who had died throughout the year but also included a ritual in which the families who had lost a loved one would give up the things they owned. The purpose of this was to give their belongings as gifts to their friends, as a way of appeasing the Great Spirit. By giving up what they had, these families would humble themselves before the Great Spirit and hope that their sacrifices would be rewarded. The tribe also had the tradition of the crane dance, which occurred around the time of year when the corn was planted. Single men among the tribe would begin courting the women they would like to marry around this time as well. This process included, among many other things, the young man playing a “courting tune” on his flute to let the young woman know that he was interested. After this period and the end of the crane dance, the national dance begins to celebrate the warriors of the tribe. During this ceremony, people of the tribe sit in a circle and play drums and sing as, one by one, warriors from the tribe come to the middle of the circle and, to the beat of the drums, act out their war stories. These stories are met with cheers and praise by those around the circle. This ceremony is like the transitional ceremony between the Sauk and Fox of a boy becoming a man. Sometime after this, once the corn planted by the women has become ripe, yet another feast is held, along with a ceremony to give thanks to the Great Spirit for that year’s plentiful harvest and for giving the Fox the corn they depend on in the first place. So, as can be seen, ceremonies and feasts were an extremely important cultural tradition among Black Hawk’s people. For this reason, it seems like an all too appropriate way to celebrate not only the life of Black Hawk but the legacy and history of the Sauk and Fox people. By designating a day in honor of Black Hawk, ceremonies and dances could be held that celebrate not only the original culture of the Sauk and Fox but also dances and ceremonies that highlight and pay respect to the things that happened to these people as European and American settlers came onto their lands. This would be a way to mourn and honor the sacrifices and losses of the Sauk and Fox, but it would also be a way to educate people within the community about who the Sauk and Fox were and what their culture was like before direct contact with the American settlers.

One aspect that should likely be included in the ceremonies held to honor Black Hawk is some form of military display, whether this be a traditional Sauk and Fox ceremony or some kind of modern American military salute. This seems like a ceremonial tradition that Black Hawk would have felt deeply honored by because he was a great war chief. Additionally, not only was Black Hawk ferocious and strategic in battle, but he was also fair and merciful where it was appropriate, which makes him a truly great military leader. In one particular example, Black Hawk even says, “…, as I never thought it brave, but cowardly, to kill an unarmed and helpless enemy!” Also, in another example of Black Hawk’s exceptional military leadership, when Black Hawk and his band are being driven off their lands, he sends a message to the incoming military officer that his band will fight if they have to. At the same time, Black Hawk tells his people not to attack first, but to only act defensively, further showing that he does not want to war just to war. He would rather avoid violence with the Americans but was ready to fight if it became necessary. Black Hawk goes on throughout his autobiography to praise certain American military leaders, including President Andrew Jackson, for their courage and fair actions on the battlefield, calling these men braves. From this, it is obvious that Black Hawk responds to and respects bravery and valor in war, regardless of culture. So, while it would still be effective to include a traditional Sauk and Fox military ceremony, I think it would also be powerful to have a modern military solution to honor the feats and leadership of Black Hawk. Having the American military honor Black Hawk as a brave and distinguished war chief would show respect from Americans for Black Hawk as a leader among his people.

Given the first-hand evidence from Black Hawk’s autobiography, to properly honor his memory and the memory of his tribe, the remaining band of the Sauk and Fox should be given a plot of land in northern Illinois on which they could hold traditional ceremonies to honor their ancestors on one day each year. These ceremonies would serve to not only honor Black Hawk and his tribe members but also educate the people currently living in northern Illinois about the culture of the Sauk and Fox, a people who lived on these lands before American or European settlement. There should be some kind of military honor included in this ceremony, whether it be in traditional Sauk and Fox fashion or a more modern American military salute. This would be extremely meaningful to the memory of Black Hawk because of the importance that he put on being a brave and just war chief of the Sauk and Fox people.

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Military Honour Code Essay. (2024, April 10). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from
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