The decade’s smartest and most destabilizing book on Indians, Americans, amnesia and memory. This book unsettles conventional wisdom of all kinds. Straightforward images document the massive and mysterious project by citizens of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois to inscribe the name of a 19th century Indian leader on a staggering variety of stores, parks, bars, nursing homes, teams, and schools. An instant classic, in the tradition of Michael Lesy’s “Wisconsin Death Trip.”

—Paul Chaat Smith, associate curator, Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian

The name Black Hawk permeates the built environment in the upper Midwestern United States. It has been appropriated for everything from fitness clubs to used car dealerships. Makataimeshekiakiak, the Sauk Indian war leader whose name loosely translates to “Black Hawk,” surrendered in 1832 after hundreds of his fellow tribal members were slaughtered at the Bad Axe Massacre. Re-Collecting Black Hawk examines the phenomena of this appropriation in the physical landscape, and the deeply rooted sentiments it evokes among Native Americans and descendants of European settlers. Nearly one hundred and seventy original photographs are presented and juxtaposed with texts that reveal and complicate the significance of the imagery. Contributors include tribal officials, scholars, activists, and others including George Thurman, the Principal Chief of the Sac and Fox Nation and a direct descendant of Black Hawk. These image-text encounters offer visions of both the past and present and the shaping of memory through landscapes that reach beyond their material presence into spaces of cultural and political power. As we witness, the evocation of Black Hawk serves as a painful reminder, a forced deference, and a veiled attempt to wipe away the guilt of past atrocities. Re-Collecting Black Hawk also points toward the future. By simultaneously unsettling and reconstructing the Midwestern landscape, Re-Collecting Black Hawk envisions new modes of peaceful and just coexistence and suggests alternative ways of inhabiting the landscape.

 

Re-Collecting Black Hawk is an important and exciting work of cultural geography and Native studies. Featuring a fascinating photo-essay and foregrounding the voices of tribal administrators, Native scholars and artists, this innovative book will be accessible and valuable to a diverse range of readers interested in memory and landscape in the American Midwest.

—Bill Anthes, Pitzer College, The Claremont Colleges

Through an original and highly provocative pairing of image and text, Brown and Kanouse explore the complicated legacy of white colonization of an indigenous world. Now called the American Midwest, that world bears the imprint of its previous inhabitants as filtered through the conquerors. The book’s brilliance resides in the incessant questioning of that legacy—why it’s selectively remembered and forgotten. Re-Collecting Black Hawk will change how readers make their own memories of this place.

—Steven Hoelscher, University of Texas at Austin