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For Black Hawk, it’s been a good but hollow year

The Native American leader who once fought to defend his people’s claim to this region is remembered in a statue restoration project and a winning sports team. Black Hawk would have rather kept his land.

Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

For a man who has been dead for 175 years, 2013 has turned into a pretty good year for Black Hawk.

The Sauk tribe leader was best known in life for leading his people during the Black Hawk War of 1832.

In death, his memory has been honored in multiple ways.

A stunning example is the 50-foot-tall concrete statue, created by sculptor Lorado Taft near Oregon in 1911, originally to pay tribute to all Native American people. However, “The Eternal Indian” became known as the Black Hawk statue, and that’s what people still call it.

Every so often, the statue needs to be repaired from the ravages of weather. Concrete, after all, tends to crack. The good news is that all money necessary for the 102-year-old monolith’s repairs – $625,000 – has been raised.

An architectural firm has been hired to examine the structure and have its report ready by the fall, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Next spring, repair work on the Black Hawk statue will begin.

When the work is done and the scaffolding has been removed, it should be quite a sight to behold.

Another stunning example of Black Hawk’s resurgence involves a certain National Hockey League team that has had a pretty good year itself.

When the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in exciting, come-from-behind fashion this week, they captured the attention and admiration of millions of people.

The team’s name, which used to be the Black Hawks, also honors the Native American leader who once called Northern Illinois his home.

As an estimated 2 million fans prepare to celebrate the Blackhawks today in a Chicago victory parade and rally, a few might recall the real Black Hawk.

If he were alive today, the real Black Hawk might be surprised by all the fuss about a towering statue and a championship sports team.

His supreme wish was not to be a legend or a celebrity, but to retain the Northern Illinois region for his people. As the nation expanded westward in the 1800s, that wish would not be granted.

Defeated in bloody battle, Black Hawk and his people were expelled from Illinois.

“Rock River was a beautiful country,” Black Hawk was quoted as saying. “I liked my towns, my cornfields and the home of my people. I fought for it. It is now yours. Keep it as we did.”

How today’s society chooses to recognize Black Hawk is nice if somewhat hollow. Chalk it up as a sad commentary on our nation’s shabby treatment of its indigenous people.

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