The Mysteries of Indian Lake

Hiking with friends makes the trail more fun. We were lucky to receive gorgeous weather last weekend that was perfect for outdoor afternoons. At Indian Lake, a flotilla of geese were sunbathing in the water.

Canadian Geese at Indian Lake Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

But why is it called Indian Lake? This was once Ho-Chunk land. Was there an encampment? I looked on the Dane County Park website, and found a description of a historical marker at the park which we had not seen. The lake is named for the Sauk and Fox Tribes. Starting in 1830, the US government decreed they should leave Illinois and go to Iowa in order to reserve more Illinois farm acreage for European settlers. Without enough land for their crops, the Sauk and Fox tribe members were starving. Illinois settlers raised a militia because they were afraid of their indigenous neighbors and in April, 1832 attacked the Sauk and Fox, despite the peace flag they displayed. The tribes returned fire, and the lines were drawn for the Black Hawk War. On July 21, 1832, Sauk and Fox Tribe members including their children and elderly, went through southern Wisconsin past the west end of Indian Lake to escape the US Army troops. The army pursued the tribes. On August 2, 1832, further west on the Wisconsin border the Sauk and Fox families attempted to cross the Mississippi River holding a peace flag and the army fired on them from boats. The massacre diminished their numbers from 1000 to 150. This is a beautiful place with a tragic past.

Autumn View Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

Not knowing the history, we hiked up the incline and began to have wooded vistas. A farm house built by German settlers in the late 1800s is now in ruins. (the barn still stands)

Abandoned Farm House Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

Lovely birch trees grew along the edge of the hill.

Indian Lake Vista Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

A stranger kindly offered to take our photo.

Rebecca and Evan Photo: Kind Stranger

After enjoying the vistas for at least an hour, we hiked down near the lake.

Red Barn Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

The cattails and white aster seeds were glowing in the sun. My camera captured this better than my phone could. I like their halos.

Cattail Fluff in the Sun Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

The golden time of day arrived, when the lake shines bright with the lowering sun.

Rippling Water of Indian Lake Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

We were uplifted by the hike, and also ready for our next meal. Our group said goodbye to Indian Lake, or See you later, perhaps in winter.

Glowing Goldenrod Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

Is Indian Lake a descriptive enough name? How about Sauk and Fox Lake to better memorialize their passage. Or, we ask their descendants to choose the name. ¡Olé! –Rebecca

Hello Poets, sharpen your pencils, the celestial tanka poetry challenge is underway!

Tankas are out of this world! Deadline: Sunday, 14 November. Join us.

Rebecca Cuningham

23 thoughts on “The Mysteries of Indian Lake

  1. Native American history is hard to come by in the UK – not surprising I suppose – and this horrible incident is more recent than I would have supposed. Yes,Sauk & Fox is more appropriate.

    I’m working – no, labouring – on my Tanka!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your comment, Margaret. It is difficult to come by here, much more so than one might expect. The park sign only told the story about the fleeing tribes passing near the lake, but not the sad end to the story.
      I look forward to your celestial tanka. A confession; I literally count on my fingers as I say my lines aloud. It seems to flow more readily when I do. 🙂


  2. What a tragic history of such a beautiful, now serene place! I agree that a more suitable name should be given this place to honor the Sauk and Fox. Thanks for sharing the lovely day you and your friends had.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A wonderful blog!
    I love the idea of renaming places to tell all/more history. In Amherst, MA, where the very large University of Massachusetts is, there is a movement to rename the town “Dickinson” in honor of Emily Dickinson who lived here all her life. Amherst is named for Lord Jeffrey Amherst, who advocated for biological warfare against the indigenous people via infected smallpox blankets. How unbearably sad….


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