Sac & Fox NationHistory of the "Real" Fox TribeSac & Fox Nation

This material is adapted from:

The Sac & Fox Nation Website - (

Sauk and Fox History by Lee Sultzman - (

The Fox is one of two closely related tribes which, according to oral history, originated near the Saint Lawrence Seaway in Canada before 1600. The actual name of the tribe is "Mesquakie" meaning "people of the red earth." The tribe consisted of family clans named Bear, Beaver, Deer, Fish, Fox, Ocean, Potato, Snow, Thunder and Wolf. Early French explorers mistook a clan name ("Wagosh," meaning "Fox") for that of the entire tribe, and began referring to them as the "Renard" (French for "fox"). English and Americans continued the error in their own language.

The Fox are closely related to the "Sac" or "Sauk" tribe (either name is correct). The name comes from their own language, "sakiwuk," meaning "people of the outlet." This refers to their original homeland on Michigan's Saginaw Bay, which, in turn, gets its name from them - Saginaw meaning "place of the Sauk." The Fox and Sauk speak an "Algonquin" language of the Southern Great Lakes, which is closely related to that of the Kickapoo and the Shawnee.

The Fox and the Sauk were so closely associated that these two distinct tribes are usually considered to have been a single tribe. Although joined in very close alliance after 1734, the Fox and the Sauk maintained separate traditions and chiefs. Fox and Sauk chiefs fell into three categories: civil, war, and ceremonial. Only the position of civil chief was hereditary The others were determined by demonstrated ability or spiritual power. Agriculture provided most of their diet such as corn, beans, squash, and tobacco. The women were considered the owners of their fields. Large communal buffalo hunts, especially after they acquired horses in the 1760s, were conducted in the fall and provided much of their meat during winter. However, like other Great Lakes Algonquin, when the Fox or Sauk wanted to hold a real feast for an honored guest, the main course was dog meat, from which the expression "putting on the dog" has come.

The Fox and Sauk had lived in southeast Michigan for many years before the French came to the Great Lakes in 1615. Over the next two hundred years, in a long series of wars with the French, the British, the Americans, and other Native American tribes, the Fox and Sauk moved to Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, and finally, Oklahoma. As they moved around, small groups of the Sac and Fox were able to hold onto some land in different places. Today the 2,200 members of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma live on less than 1,000 acres near Stroud. The 400 members of the Sac and Fox of Missouri maintain a reservation at Reserve, Kansas. The Sac and Fox of the Mississippi hold almost 5,000 acres in Iowa. Growing corn there has come naturally to them. With good land and left alone to make their own decisions, they are among the most prosperous group of Native Americans in the United States.

Famous Sauk chiefs were Keokuk and Blackhawk (shortened by the Americans from "Black Sparrow Hawk"). Keokuk has an Iowa city named after him and is the only Native American ever honored with a bronze bust in the U.S. Capitol. His likeness has also appeared on American currency. Aiding the British against the Americans in the war of 1812, Blackhawk described "civilized" warfare as follows:

"Instead of stealing upon each other, and taking every advantage to kill the enemy and save their own people, they march out, in open daylight and fight regardless of the number of warriors they may lose! After the battle is over, they retire to feast and drink wine, as if nothing had happened; after which, they make a statement in writing of what they have done, each party claiming the victory, and neither giving an account of half the number that have been killed on own their side."

Olympian Jim Thorpe ("Wathohuck" or "Bright Star") was a Sauk. His outstanding athletic achievements are commemorated by the Olympic rings in the modern-day emblem of the Sac & Fox Nation.

by Steve "Red Deer" Rogers

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A great number of interesting links to native American websites are at "Native American Indian PlentyStuff."

Native American Tales and Legends can be found at: Native American Lore Index

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