Blackhawk, Mother Anderson & Southern Spiritualism

By Travis Sanders


Born Ma-ca-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, or Black Sparrow Hawk in 1767, Blackhawk was the son of a Chief and medicine man for his Sauk people in the area that is today Illinois. At a young age, approximately 15, Blackhawk became an honorary war chief because of his skill and talent as a warrior in battles with the Osage, Sioux, and Cherokee. Despite being a healer, Blackhawk, it seems would have to fight his entire life.

In the War of 1812 Blackhawk was propositioned by James Madison to help the English, but instead of gunpowder in return as was promised, he was given blankets and some food. In 1861 he signed what was presented as a peace treaty with the Americans- but really it was a document tricking him into selling his people’s land east of the Mississippi and forcing his people to a reservation.


Blackhawk spent most of his life in battle. He even became somewhat of a celebrity in his day and age for how skilled he was, and how much upset he could created for white armies and people of power in an attempt to hold onto what was rightfully his and his peoples.  He died in 1836, but that was not the last he would be heard from.

Mother Leafy Anderson (born 1887) was a Wisconsin born medium, healer and Spiritualist, who claimed Blackhawk as her primary control, or Spirit Guide. Leafy was of mixed race- African and Mohawk descent, and being both of Native blood, and of a marginalized and oppressed group of people, it made sense that she felt a kinship with Blackhawk.


In 1913 Mother Anderson established the Eternal Life Christian Spiritualist Church and under Blackhawk’s instruction- Mother Anderson went to New Orleans in 1920 and helped usher in the “Spiritual Church Movement” of the American south.

Now New Orleans Spiritualism and the Southern Spiritual Church Movement different slightly from modern Spiritualist Churches in the north (which have a protestant christian flavor), as New Orleans Style Spiritualism often blends Catholic iconography as well as the more charismatic influences of it’s congregation, being that most of those who converted to Spiritualism in that area came from a Pentecostal faith. This meant in addition to the Catholic vestments and imagery, practices such as tongues, faith healing, prophesy, and trance (which in this instance may have looked more like ‘possession’ by spirit guides in more of an African/Caribbean -originated sort of way).


You might have known that Spiritualist have always been progressive, and some of the earliest Suffragettes and women’s rights champions came out of Spiritualism- so it’s not surprising that Mother Anderson’s Church was female lead, and always sympathetic towards the oppressed. In fact, in addition to channeling Blackhawk in her services, Mother Anderson was sought by many to petition the spirit of Blackhawk for those who were being harassed or unfairly treated- a wound that Blackhawk knew well. Even today many people still honor and petition Blackhawk for peace, protection, and justice.


Leafy Anderson passed into Spirit in 1927 but the Spirit of Blackhawk continued to work with her successor, Catherine Seals- who helped cement Blackhawk as somewhat of a folk saint in New Orleans and the Southern Spiritual Church movement.  However numerous mediums throughout history have often claimed that Blackhawk has worked with them as a control or guide such as the British physical medium, Evan Powell (similar to how many mediums have worked with the spirit of John King)

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Native American Spirit guides are not a new concept in Spiritualist teachings. Some say it’s because aspects of indigenous spirituality are inherently spiritualist by nature. Others say that because they are so close to the Earth, that energy is highly conducive for working the denser energies of physical mediumship phenomena.

Blackhawk continues to be a recognized force in Southern Spiritualism and Folk practices. He is often honored by placing a representation of him in a bucket of dirt with tools and offerings of his liking. His feast day(s) is/are December 17/18th.

Blackhawk: Working with his Spirit by Mama Starr

The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook by Kenaz Filan