The Sac Tribe

Sac Chief Black Hawk by John T. Bowen, 1838

Sac Chief Black Hawk by John T. Bowen, 1838

The Sac or Sauk tribe were among several Algonquian tribes whose earliest known location was on the Michigan peninsula, the other tribes being the Potawatomi, Mascouten, and the Fox. Their own name, Osakiwug, means “people of the yellow earth. The neighboring Ojibwe and Ottawa peoples referred to them by the name of Ozaagii, meaning “those at the outlet,” which the French translated as Sac and the English as Sauk.

The Sac, along with these other tribes, were first known to Europeans under the general term “Gens de Feu,” recorded by French navigators Samuel de Champlain and Gabriel Sagard. For years, the Sac, along with the other nations of the “Gens de Feu,” were at war with the Neutral and Ottawa tribes, and were finally driven out of the northern peninsula of Michigan, then settling around Green Bay and the Fox River of Wisconsin, as well as in northern Illinois. The Sac were estimated to be about 750 people in 1736.

They were closely allied with the Fox tribe, who resisted French encroachment and fought two wars against them in the early 18th century. After a devastating battle in September 1730 in Illinois, hundreds of warriors were killed, and many women and children were taken captive by the French allies. The Fox refugees then took shelter with the Sac, subjecting them to French attack. The rest of their history is that of the Sac and Fox Tribe.

War dance of the Sac and Fox, by Peter Rindisbacher, about 1830

War dance of the Sac and Fox, by Peter Rindisbacher, about 1830

In the early 1800’s one group of Sac moved to Missouri and later to Kansas and Nebraska. Another group moved to Iowa.

Together they fought in Black Hawk’s War in 1832. In 1869, a larger group of Sac moved on to a reservation in Oklahoma, where they merged with the Fox as the federally recognized Sac and Fox Nation. A smaller number of Sac remained in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska.

Today they have three federally recognized tribes, together with the Fox, including:

Sac & Fox Nation, headquartered in Stroud, Oklahoma
Meskwaki Nation, headquartered in Tama, Iowa
Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska, headquartered in Reserve, Kansas

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated January 2023.

Also See:

Native Americans – First Owners of America

Native American Photo Galleries

Native American Proverbs & Wisdom

Sac and Fox Tribe