Meskwaki Tribe


Meskwaki Locations

The Fox are an Algonkian language speaking group who call themselves meškwahki·haki, formerly transcribed as Mesquakie. The tribe now uses Meskwaki, which means red earth people, after the reddish color of the soil of their homeland (Smith 184, 1928). The Meskwaki originally lived east of Michigan along The Saint Lawrence River. The tribe may have numbered as many as 10,000, but years of war with the French and other tribes reduced their numbers and forced them west, first to the area between Saginaw Bay and Detroit in Michigan and then to Wisconsin.

Throughout their post contact history, the Meskwaki have been a clearly defined tribe. However, the U.S. Government has blurred their identity by designating them Fox and merging them with the Sauk. Their relationship with the Sauk after 1733 was a close alliance rather than a union. The Fox and Sauk occasionally acted jointly, but remained territorially and politically autonomous. However, the government grouped them as a single entity under the name Sac-and-Fox. After a Sauk band split away in the early 19th century and acquired official recognition as the Sac-and-Fox of the Missouri, the Fox and the rest of the Sauk were designated Sac-and-Fox of the Mississippi. During the 1850’s the Fox ended their Sauk alliance and returned to Iowa from Kansas. This movement changed the official terminology and the Fox are now called the Sac-and-Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa. Their Algonkian dialect is closely related to the Sauk and Kickapoo in which their language is contemporarily termed Sauk-Fox-Kickapoo (Callender 636, 1978).

Huron Smith undertook ethnobotanical fieldwork among the Meskwaki in 1923. Smith says that the Meskwaki tribe in Tama, Iowa told him a variant story of their presence there: “In 1850, the Government assigned them a reservation in Kansas. On their way from Wisconsin to Kansas, they camped on the banks of the Iowa River, near Tama. When they reached Kansas, they did not like the land. For this reason they came back to Tama where they purchased two thousand acres along the Iowa River” (Smith 185, 1928). Smith made two field trips to the Meskwaki reservation, each of one month duration in the months of June and September in 1923.

Callender, Charles. 1978. Fox. In: Bruce G. Trigger, ed. Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15, pp. 636-646. Smithsonian, Washington D.C.

Smith, Huron. 1928. Ethnobotany of the Meskwaki Indians. In: Bulletin of The Public Museum of The City of Milwaukee. Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 175-326. Milwaukee, WI.

Meskwaki Items