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'There was no concern for ... the Indians'

'There was no concern for ... the Indians'

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Anyone reading Regena Schantz' biography of George Davenport will quickly grasp the decimation of Native Americans that accompanied European settlers' move west.

When Davenport arrived in the Quad-City area in 1816, he was the first white settler. When he died just 30 years later, a city bearing his name was bustling with residents and businesses and Iowa was on the cusp of statehood.

The founding of the Quad-Cities was the "un-founding" of Saukenuk, a large Sauk village in the area of 45th Avenue and 11th Street in today's Rock Island.

Schantz' book describes the Black Hawk War of 1832 — a series of skirmishes, really — that finally forced Black Hawk to leave Illinois forever. 

A treaty signed on a hillside near today's 5th and Farnam streets in Davenport opened to legal settlement some 6 million acres west of the Mississippi River, from the Missouri border north to the Upper Iowa River in northeast Iowa. The stretch was 50 miles wide at the ends and 40 miles in the middle.

"The Black Hawk War had been a clash of ideas and vision for the future of this country," Schantz writes.

"As the Sauk and Mesquakie moved west, they left behind their village sites, their cornfields, their sugar groves (maple trees), and the burial grounds of their ancestors. In their place would come cities and towns, mills, factories and farms. Rocky Island (Arsenal Island), which once was at the very edge of the frontier, would soon be the center of urban development."

Some settlers wished the Indians would establish farms like they did, but that did not happen.

"Accustomed to hunting along the major waterways and in the forests, many (Indian) hunters returned from the prairie to their old hunting grounds now occupied by settlers," Schantz writes.

"They were less and less successful as hunters (game was depleted) and becoming nuisances among settlers."

"Those who knew tribal ways observed that unless they turned to farming they would become shiftless wanderers who had nothing but time on their hands, susceptible to alcohol and to those who had no interest in their welfare.

"Davenport could see that eventually they would become dependent on the government for their very subsistence."

Schantz also touches on the nationwide Indian removal policy, established by President Andrew Jackson's Removal Act of 1830, that "turned the Indian trade into a governmental means for acquiring Indian lands.

"The traders were encouraged to facilitate removal of the tribes, by promoting huge debts among (them)," she writes. "Then, as a means to settle these debts, they encouraged the tribes to sell their lands."

The time came in the Quad-City area when "only on occasion was there any public reflection on the Indian issue as the Indians were no longer a part of life around Rock Island," she writes.

"As noted by the Davenport Gazette, the Indians 'were truly passing away.' Their numbers were rapidly decreasing and soon, the editor predicted, they 'will only be known in history.' There was no concern for what was truly happening to the Indians."


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