Meskwaki Language


The Mesquakie-Sauk (Sac and Fox) Language is an Algonquian language spoken by about 800 Indians, mostly Fox, in the American Midwest. The two dialects, Mesquakie (spoken by the Meskwaki, or Fox) and Sauk (spoken by the Asakiwaki, or Sac), are mutually intelligible.

The Kickapoo language is considered by some linguists to be another dialect of Mesquakie-Sauk, but though Kickapoo is certainly a closely related language, Meskwaki and Sauk speakers cannot readily understand it.

Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo are all polysynthetic languages with complex verb structures and fairly free word order, but unlike Kickapoo, Meskwaki-Sauk is not a tone language.

Mesquakie-Sauk is a seriously endangered language today, due to most of its speakers being older and the Sac and Fox communities being so far-flung. Some teachers are trying to revitalize the language, particularly the Meskwaki dialect, before it is too late. 

The Sac and Fox have been such closely associated allies that they are usually considered as a single tribe. They originally lived in Michigan (Saginaw Bay is named for the Sauk tribe), but multiple forced relocations left their descendants in Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

The Sauk and Fox Indians have gone down in history as "warlike" people because of the Fox tribe's immediate hostility towards the French. This hostility was far from random, though--the Huron, armed with French weapons, had just finished driving the Fox from their lands in Michigan when the French themselves arrived, and the dispossessed Fox were not pleased with the newcomers.

Two Fox Wars ensued, but the Fox Indians  could not hold their own against the larger and better-armed French.

Usually the French were the least violent of the European invaders, but on this occasion, they resolved to wipe out the conquered Fox Indians, and pursued them across the country slaughtering any they could find.

The only survivors were a group of no more than 500 Fox people who were sheltered by their near relatives the Sauk, and, though they had previously maintained good relations with the French, the Sauk tribe now found themselves under assault as well.

Luckily for the Fox and Sauk, the various Native Americans allied with the French were starting to put more and more pressure on them to abandon their commitment to genocide, and the French eventually gave in and made reluctant peace with the Sac and Fox tribes.

After the French departed North America, most of the Fox and Sauk Indians were relocated to Iowa, Kansas, and finally Oklahoma.

One group of Sauk, under the warrior Black Hawk, refused to leave and fought the Black Hawk War, which ended with American soldiers wiping out the entire band as Black Hawk brought them in for surrender.

Another group, mostly Fox, returned to Iowa, where the state government was willing to sell them land. This turned out to be good farmland, unlike anything available in Oklahoma, and the Meskwaki tribe in Iowa is a prosperous one today.

The rest of the Sac and Fox Indians remained in Oklahoma. Collectively, there are about 4500 Sac and Fox Indians today. 

Famous Sac and Fox