July 11, 2012

Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa


The Meskwaki established a permanent settlement near Tama, Iowa and are the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa.With the turbulent years between the Removal and Reservation Periods, most tribes were being forced into reservations. The Meskwaki are the first and one of the few tribes that returned home. The Meskwaki with their perseverance and faith in their traditional Meskwaki religious beliefs plus trust in themselves and their leaders that they would prevail in order to return, purchased private land and remained in Iowa.

Official Tribal Name: Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa

Address: 349 Meskwaki Road, Tama, IA 52339
Phone: 641.484.4678

Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning

The Fox call themselves Osakiwug or Asakiwaki – which means “people of the outlet,” which refers to their original homeland on Michigan’s Saginaw Bay which gets its name from them – Saginaw meaning “place of the Sauk.” Often misinterpreted as “people of the yellow earth.”

The Sauk call themselves Meshkwakihug or Thakiwaki or Sa ki wa ki, which means “red earth people.” Often misinterpreted as “people coming forth from the water.”

The name Fox was applied to the entire Tribe by the French, from the name of one clan, the Wagosh or “Red Fox” group.

Common Name / Meaning of Common Name: Sauk

Alternate names:

Sac & Fox Tribe of Oklahoma

Meskwaki – (from Fox) Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa

Sa ki wa ki – Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma

Ne ma ha ha ki – The Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska.

Alternate spellings:

The Fox – Mesquakie (Meshkwahkihaki, Meskwaki, Meskwakihuk, Meskwakihugi)

Name in other languages:


Renard (French for Fox)
Asakiwaki (Sauk)
Outagamie or Odugameeg (Ojibwe “people of the other shore”)
Beshdeke (Dakota)
Skenchioe (Iroquois)
Skaxshurunu (Wyandot)
Skenchiohronon (Huron)
Mshkwa’kitha (Shawnee)
Squawkies (British)
Tochewahcoo (Arikara)
Wacereke (Winnebago)
Wakusheg (Potawatomi)


Hotinestakon (Onondaga)
Osaugee (Ojibwe)
Quatokeronon (Huron)
Satoeronnon (Huron)
Zake (Dakota)
Zagi (Winnebago)

Region: Northeast

State(s) Today: Iowa

Traditional Territory:

The original homeland of the Sacs and Fox was in the Great Lakes region, where the Sacs inhabited the upper Michigan peninsula and the Foxes, the south shore of Lake Superior.

By 1667, when Father Allovez made the first recorded white contact with the two Tribes, Iroquois and French pressure on the Sacs, and Chippewa pressure on the Foxes, had pushed both groups to the vicinity of the present Green Bay, Wisconsin.

French attacks on the Sacs and Foxes in the eighteenth century, attributed to Indians, contributed to a strengthened alliance amounting to confederation of the two Tribes. Forced to migrate south, they attacked the Illinois Tribe and forced them from their lands along the Mississippi in the present states of Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Those groups that stayed near the Mississippi river became known as the “Sac and Fox of the Mississippi” to distinguish them from the “Sac and Fox of the Missouri,” a large band that settled further south along the Missouri River.

Confederacy: Sauk & Fox


Reservation: Sac and Fox/Meskwaki Settlement

The Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa live on a settlement. This is different than a reservation because the land is owned by the tribe while a reservation is land set aside by the Government to allow tribes to reside. The Meskwaki Settlement is located in Central Iowa.

Land Area:
There are over 8,000 acres of land owned by the Meskwaki Nation in Tama County & Palo Alto County in Iowa.
Tribal Headquarters:
Time Zone:

Population at Contact:

At the time of their first contact with the French in 1666, both the Fox and the Sauk were living in Wisconsin. The initial French estimates placed the Fox at 5,000 and the Sauk at 6,500. Since both tribes had just endured 30 years of war, a relocation to Wisconsin, and numerous epidemics, it appears their original populations must have been at least twice this – approximately 10,000 for each tribe.

By 1712 the Fox had dropped to about 3,500. They lost half of these in the First French War (1712-14). They began the Second Fox War in 1728 with about 1,500, only 500 of whom survived the attempt by the French to remove them from the face of the earth. The Sauk relations with the French were friendly until they protected the Fox in 1734, and they numbered close to 4,000 at this time.

Later estimates are sometimes confused because the Fox and Sauk were treated as a merged tribe. Both tribes increased after 1737. Zebulon Pike in 1806 listed the Fox at 1,750 and the Sauk at 2,850. His estimate of the Sauk may actually have been too low. Government records in 1829 reported there were 5,000 Sauk, 1,600 Fox, and another 500 Sauk in Missouri.

After their removal from Iowa in 1846, the population of both tribes underwent a drastic decline. The Indian Bureau in 1845 stated 1,300 Fox and 2,500 Sauk had left Iowa, but only 700 Fox and 1,900 Sauk arrived in Kansas. The Missouri Band at this time numbered less than 200.

After a terrible smallpox epidemic, 300 Fox and 1,300 Sauk were all that remained on the Kansas reserve in 1852, but at least 300 Fox and an unknown number of Sauk were hiding in Iowa. Others were on the Kickapoo reserve or in places where no one could count them. Most of the Fox left shortly afterwards and returned to Iowa.

Following the Civil War, 600 Sauk and 100 Fox relocated to Oklahoma. Only the Missouri Band managed to stay in Kansas. The 1910 census listed 343 Fox in Iowa, 630 Sauk and Fox in Oklahoma, and 90 Sauk in Kansas.

Registered Population Today:

The Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa has nearly 1,400 enrolled tribal members.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


Name of Governing Body:
Number of Council members: 7
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers: Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, 3 council members


Language Classification:

The Sac and Fox tribes were always closely allied and speak very similar Algonquian languages, sometimes considered two dialects, instead of two languages.

Language Dialects:

Number of fluent Speakers:



Bands, Gens, and Clans

Descent was traced through their patrilineal clans: Bear, Beaver, Deer, Fish, Fox, Ocean, Potato, Snow, Thunder, and Wolf.

Related Tribes:

Sac & Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska, Sac & Fox Nation

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies:

Sioux, Omahas, Menominees

Ceremonies / Dances:

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Legends / Oral Stories:

Art & Crafts:




The two Tribes lived in bark houses in small villages in the warm weather and in oval flag-reed lodges in large villages during the winter.


The Sac and Fox were semi-sedentary farmers. Although they established fixed villages and practiced extensive cultivation of maize, beans, squash and tobacco, they devoted much time to fishing, hunting of small game and buffalo, and harvesting wild rice. Travel was by dugout and birch-bark canoe.

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

The social and religious organization was a complex one in which the Grand Medicine Society played an important part.

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs


Historical Leaders:

Chief Poweshiek
Black Hawk
Black Sparrow Hawk

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 leadership ability or spiritual power.

Jim Thorpe whose indian name was Wathohuck , meaning Bright Star (Sauk/Pottawatomi 1888–1953), athlete who won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics

Catastrophic Events:

Tribe History:

In 1804, at St. Louis, Missouri band chiefs were persuaded to sign a treaty ceding to the U.S. Government all Sac and Fox lands east of the Mississippi River, as well as some hunting grounds to the west of the river, which the other Sac and Fox knew nothing about.

Government efforts over several years to enforce the land surrender embittered the Sacs and Foxes, most of whom knew nothing about the 1804 Treaty. A brave and warlike people, they had aided the British in the war of 1812, and had fought constantly with the Sioux, Omahas, Menominees and other tribes.

Government attempts to remove the Sacs and Foxes caused a split in the confederation. The majority of the Tribes followed the conciliatory Sac chief Kaokuk, an intelligent and able (though somewhat pompous and ambitious orator and politician) who agreed to removal.

The remainder of the federation, however, supported his rival, Black Hawk, a brave Sac warrior who was bitterly opposed to the 1804 treaty and led his “British Band” into revolt and bolder skirmishes which became known as “Black Hawk’s War.” Despite broken promises of help from other tribes, and pursuit by superior U.S. Forces, Black Hawk skillfully led his followers north as far as Prairie du Cien, Wisconsin, where they were defeated and their leader was captured.

With the 1832 treaty of Ft. Armstrong, Sac and Fox power on the frontier came to an end. In 1833 they were removed to Iowa.

The Sac & Fox lived there for only thirteen years, then were moved to the Osage River Reservation in Kansas for a 23-year stay.

Although Sac and Fox warriors had been able to drive the Sioux from their Iowa lands during their stay there, and to win fights in Kansas with Comanches, Cheyennes, Iotas, Osages and other Tribes, the inexorable westward movement of white settlers resulted in still another removal of the Sacs and Foxes in 1869, this time to Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

Cakewalk, and later his son Moses, continued to lead the conciliatory faction of the Tribes, but most of the Foxes opposed the many cessions of land to the Government and, under the leadership of Chief Poweshiek, returned to Iowa in 1850 to join a small number who had steadfastly refused to leave.

In the News:

Further Reading:

US Tribes Q-S
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