Sac and Fox Tribes

The following information is taken from the Oklahoma Historical Society book on the "History of Lincoln County."

The Sac or Sauk, or people of the yellow earth, and the Fox or Mesquakie, or people of the red earth, began as two separate but neighboring tribes and their earliest known habitiat was within the eastern penisula of Michigan.

From the book, Thwaite's Jesuit Relations, comes this fact: "when first known to history, i.e. in 1650, the Sauk and Foxes numbered probably 6500 (Sauk, 3500; Foxes, 3000)."

Father Allouez, the first person to describe the Sauk, wrote this in the book: "... in 1667 they (Sauk) were more savage than all the other peoples he had met; That they were a populous tribe, although they had no fixed dwelling place, being wanderers and vagabonds in the forests."

Because their language and customs were similiar and for protection and survival, the Sac and Foxes banded together and are considered Woodland Indians of the Algonquin linguistic family.

It was in November of 1869 that the first Sac and Fox Indians arrived in Indian Territory in what is now called Lincoln County, Oklahoma. The group traveled for 19 days from Osage County, Kansas, in 17 government wagons to reach their new home, the Sac and Fox reservation land, six miles south of what is now called Stroud. Twenty-three wagons filled with baggage, implements and provisions preceded the party and were already on the groung when the Indians arrived.

The Sac and Fox Indians had signed a treaty with the United States in 1867 and agreed to purchase 750,000 square miles of land in portions of what is now Payne, Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties.

The tribes sojourn in Kansas was just one of the many stops in a succession of moves forced on them by the migration of white settlers beginning in 1804, when they left their original Great Lakes homeland and lived in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas, before the move to Indian Territory.

Government Chief Keokuk negotiated the 1867 treaty to exchange Kansas land for the Indian Territory property, and some of the tribe protested the transaction. In 1868, a delegation went to Washington D.C. to protest and file lawsuits concerning the document, but in 1869 and 1870 most of the tribe removed to Indian Territory.

One band of the Sac and Fox, lead by heriditary Chief Mo-Ko-Ho-Ko, protested the move to Indian Territory and for years after the treaty was signed (and even after his death in 1880) many of his band kept returning to their old homes in Kansas and Iowa.

One discontented group of Sac and Fox returned to the Tama, Iowa area where they purchased land and remained as a separate tribe. The Sac and Fox of Iowa, who call themselves Mesquakie, list a about 700 on their tribal roles. There is also a Sac and Fox of Kansas and a Sac and Fox of Missouri, each tribe with fewer than 200 members. The Sac and Fox of Oklahoma is by far the largest of the four and list more than 2300 persons on the tribal roll.

The winter of arrival at their Indian Territory home in 1869 was a mild one -- lucky for the Sac and Fox -- as they were forced to live in linen tents until homes and buildings were constructed.

A large number of the more able tribesmen came to the reservation area in the spring of 1870, after participating in a winter hunt, and so saved the United States government moving costs.

A few months after their arrival in Indian Territory, the Sac and Fox government agent, John Hadley, reported a total of 418 Sac and Fox Indians on the reservation: 220 males and 228 females.

In both of the reports Hadley filed with the government in 1870, he writes that the Indians were unsure of land titles and rights and were worried about hostilities because the government was not sure of reservation boundaries. There is evidence in files of the Oklahoma Historical Society that the tribe had to move twice because the government surveyors ahd marked the eastern and southern boundaries incorrectly.

Soon after their arival in Indian Territory, the Sac and Fox dispersed into several villages in the huge reservation area. They built their traditional bark houses for summer and cattail house for winter and began to farm and raise stock on the mostly thin and rocky soil, a much different farming situation than they had experienced, considering the rich river bottom land of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, and their Great Lakes homeland.

The cattails gathered in the fall were used to weave mats for the houses that the Sac and Fox lived in during the winter months, when they moved to Indian Territory in 1869. A large piece of elm bark was laid against the canvas for a door of their winter hut. They used large pieces of elm bark like this to construct their summer houses.

In 1885 the tribal council, led by Chief Ukquahoko, organized into a Sac and Fox Nation, wrote a constitution, elected a Principal Chief to approve and sign all bills and contracts and a Second Chief to chair the councils. The same year the tribe established a complete court system and instituted a police department.

Pressure for the opening of Indian Territory to white settlement resulted in an agreement made by the United States Commissioners at the Sac and Fox Agency in June, 1890, signed by Principal Chief Mahkosahtoe and First Assistant Principal Chief moses Keokuk in behalf of the Sac and Fox Nation, providing for part of their reservation to the United States.

Allotments of 160 acres to each member of the nation were completed, and the "surplus" lands (about 385,000 acres) were opened to white settlement by a run on Tuesday, September 22, 1891.

Soon after the tribe signed the agreement that authorized the run into Sac and Fox lands, the federal government abolished the elected tribal council and Chief Mahkosahtoe held office until the council itself was dissolved officially on July 17, 1909.

Walter Battice, an early-day treasurer of the tribe, wrote that with the abolishment of the council "... We, as educated Indians, too late to ponder right and wrong of human relations with Indians and invaders ... must equip ourselves for what is coming. Before 1867, we had two chiefs, one Sauk and one Fox, then we have five Chiefs, Keokuk, Chicaskuk, Ukquahoko, Pahtequah and Cuppewhe, each with a band."

The Sac and Fox Indian Boarding School, begun by Quaker missionaries in 1872, was located on the eastern edge of the reserve land and many Sac and Fox children were forced to attend. A number of Sac and Fox elders remember the government sheriffs' coming to their villages to "catch" children, load them into wagons and take them to the Sac and Fox School and a number of other Indian Schools as far away as Pennsylvania. There they were forced to learn English and were often punished for speaking their active Indian lanuage.

"Many wagon loads of nearly 100 children are expected to attend the Sac and Fox Mission School," reported a Stroud newspaper in September of 1901.

The first school building was a handsome three-story brick structure, built at a cost to the tribe of $9500. Other school buildings included a girls' dormitory, boys' dormitory, a laundry, a large barn, and a water tower and sewer system.

Many buildings were erected a the Sac and Fox Agency in the years between 1870 and 1900, including several two-story brick homes for the tribal chiefs. A large brick home was constructed for Chief Keokuk and still stands about four miles west of the "agency" site. (In 1987 the Keokuk house was owned and occupied by the Ninness family and is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites).

Other structures in the Sac and Fox agency town included four brick buildings, two frame houses a sawmill, a brick kiln, two frame store buildings, a blacksmith shop, a church, a log calaboose (jail), a physicians office, and several old log cabins. At various times the town also included a cotton gin, a bank, a boarding house, cafes, and at one time even a little photography studio and a shoe repair shop.

J. Y. Bryce, a Methodist-Episcopal missionary to the Sac and Fox, wrote the following description of the agency in 1890: "... The agency was both a preaching point and a military post. Its normal popluation was less than 500...."

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Warwick, Oklahoma
Sac & Fox Tribes