The Sacs, or Sauks, are one of the first of the Western Algonquian tribes seen by the Europeans. Their Indian name signifies “Yellow Earth People.” They were said to be more savage than neighboring tribes—forest vagabonds and wanderers. Their prehistoric home was about the south shore of the Great Lakes, probably in Michigan. It is said that “they could not endure the sight of the whiskers of the Europeans,” killing those of their captives who wore them. They were active in the wars among the Indian tribes, and suffered accordingly. In 1804, at St. Louis, one band of the Sacs made a treaty ceding all the lands of the Sacs and Foxes in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri. This act enraged the other portion of their tribe, and the Foxes. In fact, it was resented by all the tribes of those regions, and was one of the causes of the Blackhawk War. The band committing this crime against the tribe was later called the Missouri River Sacs. A band of Sacs once lived on the Osage River, in Missouri.

The Blackhawk War almost destroyed the Sacs and Foxes. They came together in Iowa, where they soon regained their prowess, making war on a number of tribes, expelling the Sioux from that territory.

The Foxes were the Red Earth People. They were first met along the Red River, in Wisconsin, and on Lake Winnebago. They were fierce warriors, and their Indian neighbors said they were stingy, moved by avarice, thieves, and always turbulent and quarrelsome. From their first acquaintance with Europeans they were closely associated with the Sacs. Their migrations and history are practically the same.

By the year 1836 the confederacy of which the Sacs and Foxes were a part seems to have retained only themselves and the Iowa. On the 17th of September of that year these made a treaty with the United States by which they were given a reservation lying immediately north of that of the Kickapoos in Kansas and Nebraska. Thither the confederacy of the three tribes migrated. There dissensions arose between the Sacs and Foxes due to the intrigues of Keokuk. They maintained separate villages. While the Foxes were absent on a buffalo hunt, about 1857, the Sacs made a treaty providing that the Sacs and Foxes should accept their lands in severalty and sell the surplus. This treaty was fomented by thieves and grafters. The Government is always beset with an unsavory rabble—scoundrels and scalawags—who make themselves useful politically. For their services they intrigue and plan larcenies of anything from a public document to an Indian reservation. If their transactions become a public scandal the Government repudiates them. If their plans do not arouse too much adverse sentiment, the Government permits them to mature, and the dishonest officials take a portion of the loot.

The Foxes would not be bound by the treaty, and their chief was deposed, an action the Foxes did not agree to. The chief and most of the Foxes went to Iowa, where some of their tribe had always lived. In 1854 some Foxes had slain a number of Plains Indians in battle while on a buffalo hunt, and fearing punishment by the Government, had gone back to Iowa. These Foxes bought a small tract of land on the Iowa River upon which they settled. This small reservation is in Tama County, and had been increased until it contains three thousand acres.

By the treaty of May 17, 1854, the reservation secured to the Iowas in 1836 was decreased. The confederacy had ceased to exist, so the Iowas made their own terms with the Government. They accepted a small tract about the mouth of the Great Nemaha as their future home. The residue of their lands were sold for their benefit. June 5 to 9, 1857, these lands were sold at Iowa Point. They comprised some of the best lands in Brown County.

On the 18th of May, 1854, the Government concluded a treaty with the Sacs and Foxes. They disposed of all their lands except fifty sections, which were to be selected within six months. Some eight thousand acres yet remain to members of those tribes who chose to remain there. Most of the Sacs went to what is now Oklahoma in 1867.

The Presbyterians established a mission among the Iowas while they dwelt yet in Missouri. Samuel M. Irvin and his wife were the first missionaries. They came with the Indians to the new reservation, arriving in 1837. The site of the future mission was fixed at a point about two miles east of the present town of Highland, in Doniphan County. The first building erected was a log cabin. In 1845 the Presbyterian Board of foreign missions erected a brick mission building to replace the log cabin and other temporary structures. The new building was one hundred and six feet long by thirty-seven feet wide, three stories in height, and contained thirty-two rooms. This structure was standing as late as 1907, but it was much damaged by a tornado in that year—practically destroyed, in fact.

Back to: Iowas, Sacs And Foxes Indian Tribes