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  • 8/2/2019 Skull Wars2


    March18, 2010XX

    Dr. David Hurst Thomas, CuratorAmerican Museum of Natural History

    Central Park West at 79th StreetNew York, NY 10024-5192

    Re: Black Hawk and HisResemblance to Kennewick Man

    Sauk & Fox sailing in canoes on the Des Moines River, Catlin, 1835

    Dear Dr. Thomas:Thank you for the tremendous effort to articulate the chasm between archaeology, scientificmethod bias and Indian spiritual traditions in Skull Wars. My initial reaction to the foreword byVine Deloria was wouldnt it be interesting if the Kennewick skull dimensions could becompared with those recorded on Black Hawks skull in the Journal of Phrenology, published in1838? ( The original articlegives measurements of Black Hawks head on the points shown in the illustration below:

    I am writing to ask if you might recommend a Native American researcher with an interest inrecording any oral history or other leadsthat could clarify the events transpiringafter the death of Chief Black Hawk(Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak). Multipleaccounts with conflicting outcomesregarding the disposal of his bones, donot square up with the obvious physicalevidence: the Chief has two markedgraves sites located near present-dayEldon, Iowa on the Des Moines River.(Also nearby is the Indian Agency,where Chief Wapello and Agent Streetare buried, downstream about 8-10miles.)

    The first location is depicted in TheFuneral of Black Hawk, (Catlin, the National Gallery, Washington, DC) looking east.

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    The same site now, looking west. Itis located on the North side of theDes Moines River, on River Roadeast of Eldon, Iowa. Theapproximately 16 x 6 burial moundis still clearly visible.

    The stone house next to it was builtfor the lock tender to live in whenthey were planning on putting locksand dams on the Des Moines Riverbefore the railroads came through,about 1847. In July 1939, thephrenologist and patent medicinedoctor, James Turner, stole the skullof Chief Black from this site andlikely returned to steal the skeletonthe following winter.

    Sarah Walsh Nossaman, the local potters daughter, claims to have been an eyewitness at theage of 14, to Turners arrival at his parents cabin near present day Bonaparte, with the freshskull but no skeleton. She witnessed Turner boil the skull in a large pot to remove the flesh.She says he had no skeleton with him that night.( )

    The skeletal remains, by officialaccounts, were taken to Quincy, ILby Turner, where the articulatedskeleton was given to a doctor andlater returned to the Iowa TerritorialGovernor at the governors request.

    (Moore, F.R., Wapello Chief: ATale of Iowa, 1878, p.45) However,I have read all the correspondencefrom the territorial governors writtento the War Department during thattime as well as Agent Streets verybadly preserved log books, andfound no mention of the dispositionof the remains, or of any Indianunrest. According to Moore, that wasthe reason the governor asked forthe bones to be returned. Black

    Hawks sons reportedly went to the governors office after the bones were recovered, to retrievethe remains for burial, but then decided to leave them there for safekeeping. Officially, they werethen placed in the Natural History Museum in Burlington, where they were destroyed when themuseum burned down in 1857.

    That begs the question Why is there a second Black Hawk grave? The second grave islocated in the Iowaville cemetery, about a mile from the first site, overlooking the river bottomland where the Ioway Indians were massacred by the Sac & Fox (or possibly the Sioux) around1820. That event may have been the largest one-day slaughter of natives, armed with primitiveweapons, in North American history. The survivors of that conflict swam the Des Moines River
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    with their babies on their backs, just as survivors of the Black Hawk war would swim theMississippi in the following decade. But Im not chasing the odd way that history repeats itself orthe Ioway story at the moment.

    I believe that Black Hawks sons may have collected the remains, without the missing skull,when they visited the governor, and they reburied them at Iowaville. That theory is corroboratedby a brief phrase in the local newspaper of the time. The Keosauqua Democratic Union, on

    August 26, 1854 describes Iowaville as once an old Indian town-surrounded with memorials ofthe departed race of aborigines. Just above town is the grave of Black Hawk, and his bones, allexcept the skull, of which the grave was robbed by a Prenologist (sic).(

    This must be a reference to the second grave, since the first grave was known to have beenrobbed twice inside of two years after Black Hawks death in 1838 and the remains taken. Thesecond grave has the bronze marker of a modern war veteran. I was told by someone at theIowa Historical Library in Des Moines that the Society of the War of 1812 may have placed itthere. My friend Rising Sun, a member of the Wisconsin Ho-Chuck tribe, suggested that the

    medicine bag entrusted to Black Hawks line mightbe buried there. Is there a non-intrusive way to

    tell if the bones are there? This is a story thatbegs the light of some oral history to be shed on it.

    A family said to be Black Hawk descendents (otherthan Jim Thorpe) are living in Eldon, but I had tomove away before I located them.

    I am probably unemployed for the summer, so willreturn from Raleigh, NC to my home outside ofOttumwa, IA. If someone passing through theMidwest would like a tour of the place where thegreat chiefs lived and died in 1838 to 1840, I wouldbe a very happy guide to the area.

    Two published authors, Ruby Dee, Bury My Heartat Wounded Knee and Jason Berry, The Spirit ofBlack Hawk: A Mystery of Africans and Indianshave stated that because Black Hawks remainswere stolen, he has no grave. But the fact is, hehas two graves. Can you help me find out why andset the historical record straight?

    Sincerely,Pat XX

    XAbout Pat: I am an amateur historian, a white, female who holds an MS degree in Wood Science & Technology anda BA in Chemistry. I work as a project manager, delivering air pollution control equipment to industry worldwide. Igrew up about 15 miles from the 80-acre piece of Tama County Iowa land purchased by remnants of the Sac & Fox(Meskwaki) who returned to Iowa from their exile in Kansas in 1857, selling their horses to raise the money. I studyall things related to either stolen Indian skulls or Chief Black Hawk, particularly the period before and after his deathin October, 1838. Several modern links to this story, that seem to defy coincidence, are not described here, such asmy personal experiences with the BH Spiritualist Church in New Orleans and the 2006 Quintuple Murders thatoccurred at Bonaparte, near Potters Creek. Recall that the eyewitness to the skull boil was the potters daughter. Asa scientist, Im clinging to the rationality of Science and dont really believe that these two evil events that probably
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    occurred in a common location, separated in time by 168 years, could have any more than a coincidentalrelationship.