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Sac and Fox Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Fox and Sacs for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Sauk-Fox pages for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Sac and Fox pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.




   Sac and Fox Tribes

Are the Sac and Fox Indians one tribe, or two?
They were originally two tribes: the Sauk (or Sac) tribe and the Meskwaki (or Fox) tribe. The Meskwaki and Sauk Indians were related to each other and spoke the same language, but they were politically independent. However, the Fox tribe was nearly destroyed in a war with the French, and the surviving Fox Indians fled to the Sauk villages for protection. The two tribes merged into a single tribe called the Sac and Fox. Most Sac and Fox people still live together today.

How do you pronounce the words "Sac and Fox" and "Mesquakie-Sauk"? What do they mean?
Fox is pronounced like the animal. Their own name for themselves, Meskwaki (also spelled Mesquakie or Mesquaki) is pronounced "mesk-wah-kee" and means "red earth people." Sauk (pronounced "sock") and Sac (pronounced "sack") both come from the native name Asakiwaki, which means "yellow earth people."

Where do the Fox and Sauks live?
The Fox and Sauks are original residents of the eastern woodlands and prairie regions, particularly in Michigan and Wisconsin. Today most Fox and Sauks live on reservations in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa.

How is the Sac and Fox Indian nation organized?
There are three Sac and Fox tribes today. Like most Native American tribes in the United States, the Sac and Fox live on reservations or trust land. A reservation is land that belongs to the tribe and is under their control. Each Sac and Fox tribe has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. But the Sac and Fox are also US citizens and must obey American law.

In the past, the Meskwaki and Sauk tribes were each ruled by two chiefs. The peace chief, who inherited the position from his father, was in charge of diplomatic and domestic affairs. The war chief, who was elected by the other warriors, was in charge of military and police affairs. Today each Sac and Fox tribe is governed by a council that is elected by all the tribal members.

What language do the Fox and Sauks speak?
Most Sac and Fox people speak English today. Some older people also speak their native Meskwaki-Sauk language. If you'd like to know an easy Meskwaki-Sauk word, "ho" (pronounced like the English word "hoe") is a friendly greeting. You can read a Meskwaki-Sauk picture glossary here.

Today Meskwaki-Sauk is an endangered language because most children aren't learning it anymore. However, some Sac and Fox people are working to keep their language alive.

What was Sac and Fox culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is the home page of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, where you can learn about Fox and Sauk people past and present.

How do Sac and Fox Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Sac and Fox children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But they did have toys and games to play with, and Sauk and Fox women made dolls for their daughters out of cornhusks. Like many Native Americans, Sauk and Fox mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were Sac and Fox homes like in the past?
There were two types of dwellings which the Meskwakis and Sauks used in their villages: dome-shaped houses called wigwams, and rectangular lodges with bark covering. Here are some pictures of wigwams, lodges, and other Native American homes. Today, Native Americans only build a wigwam or lodge for ritual purposes. Most Sac and Fox people live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Sac and Fox clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Sac and Fox women wore wraparound skirts. Sac and Fox men wore breechcloths and leggings. Shirts were not necessary in the Sac and Fox culture, but people wore ponchos when the weather was cool. The Mesquakies and Sauks also wore moccasins on their feet. Later, Sac and Fox people adapted European costume such as cloth blouses and jackets, decorating them with distinctive silk applique. Here are some photographs and links about Native American regalia in general.

The Mesquakis and Sauks didn't wear feathered headdresses like the Sioux. Traditionally, Fox and Sauk men wore caps made of otter fur. Fox and Sauk women usually wore their hair in a long braid or a bun gathered at the nape of their necks. Fox and Sauk warriors often wore their hair in the Mohawk style or shaved their heads completely except for a scalplock (one long lock of hair on top of their heads). Sometimes they added a porcupine roach to make this hairstyle more impressive. Sac and Fox men and women both painted their faces with bright colors for special occasions. The Sac and Fox tribes originally used different colors and designs of face and body painting, so that a Fox Indian and a Sauk Indian looked different even though their clothing styles were the same.

Today, some Sac and Fox people still wear moccasins or an applique skirt, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers or roaches in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

What was Sac and Fox transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Sac and Fox Indian tribe used birchbark canoes (made of birch bark stretched over a wooden frame) and dugout canoes (made from hollowed-out logs). Canoeing is still popular within the Sac and Fox nation, though few people handcraft their own canoe anymore. Here is a website with pictures of birchbark canoe styles. Over land, the Sac and Fox tribe used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) Today, of course, Sac and Fox people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Sac and Fox food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Sac and Fox were farming people. Sac and Fox women grew corn, beans, and squash on small farms on the outskirts of their village. Sac and Fox men hunted deer, small game, and sometimes buffalo. The Sac and Fox also ate berries, fruit, and honey, baked cornbread, and cooked soups. Here is a website with more information about Native American food and culture.

What were Sac and Fox weapons and tools like in the past?
Sac and Fox hunters and warriors used bows and arrows and spears. Sometimes men would fight each other with special wooden war clubs. Here is a website about Native American weapons.

What are Sac and Fox arts and crafts like?
Sac and Fox artists are known for their quill embroidery, pottery, and beadwork. Here is a website with photos of traditional Meskwaki artwork.

What other Native Americans did the Sac and Fox tribe interact with?
The Sauk and Fox tribes were close allies with each other, and also with the Kickapoo tribe. Sometimes these three tribes traded with the Chippewa and Potawatomi Indians, but other times they fought each other. The Sac and Fox tribes were frequently enemies of the Iroquois Confederacy and the Sioux tribes.

What kinds of stories do the Sac and Fox Indians tell?
There are lots of traditional Sac and Fox legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Sac and Fox culture. Here is one traditional legend about the origin of corn. Here's a website where you can read more about Meskwaki mythology.

What about Sac and Fox religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Sauk Indian religion or this site about Native American religion in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy We Are Mesquakie, We Are One, which is historical fiction about a young Mesquakie (Fox) girl growing up during the Indian Removals of the 1840's. If you want to know more about Sac and Fox culture and history, two interesting sources are Sac and Fox (for younger kids) and The Sac and Fox Indians (for older kids), or you could go straight to the source and read the fascinating 1844 autobiography of Sauk leader Black Hawk. You can also browse through our recommendations of American Indian books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2013.

Thanks for your interest in the Sac and Fox Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Sac and Fox

Sac and Fox Indian Tribe
An overview of the Sac and Fox tribe, their language and history.

Sac-Fox Language Resources
Fox-Sauk language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Sac and Fox Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Sac and Fox people past and present.

Sac and Fox Words
Sac and Fox Indian vocabulary lists.



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