Geographical region : lake Winnebago, Wisconsin

Lived normally in tipis

Language group : algonquian


Fox (trans. in plural of wagosh, 'red fox,' the name of a clan).

An Algonquian tribe, so named, according to Fox tradition recorded by Dr William Jones, because once while some Wagohugi, members of the Fox clan, were hunting, they met the French, who asked who they were; the Indians gave the name of their clan, and ever since the whole tribe has been known by the name of the Fox clan.

Their own name for themselves, according to the same authority, is Meshkwa`kihug', 'red-earth people,' because of the kind of earth from which they are supposed to have been created.

They were known to the Chippewa and other Algonquian tribes as Utugamig, 'people of the other shore'.

When they first became known to the whites, the Foxes lived in the vicinity of Lake Winnebago or along Fox river, Wis. Verwyst (Missionary Labors, 178, 1886) says they were on Wolf river when Allouez visited them in 1670.

As the tribe was intimately related to the Sauk, and the two were probably branches of one original stem, it is probable that the early migrations of the former corresponded somewhat closely with those of the latter.

The Sauk came to Wisconsin through the lower Michigan peninsula, their traditional home having been north of the lakes, and were comparatively newcomers in Wisconsin when they first became known to the French.

One of their important villages was for some time on Fox river.

The conclusion of Warren (Hist. Ojibways, 95, 1885) that the Foxes early occupied the country along the south shore of Lake Superior and that the incoming Chippewa drove them out, has the general support of Fox tradition.

Nevertheless there is no satisfactory historical evidence that the Foxes ever resided farther north than Fox river in Wisconsin, and in none of their treaties with the United States have they claimed land north of Sauk county.

This restless and warlike people was the only Algonquian tribe against whom the French waged war.

In addition to their disposition to be constantly at strife with their neighbors, they had conceived a hatred of the French because of the aid which the latter gave the Chippewa and others by furnishing firearms, and because they gathered the various tribes for the purpose of destroying the Foxes.

The proposal to exterminate them was seriously considered in the French councils, and their destruction would earlier have been attempted but for the pleas interposed by Nicolas Perrot.

Their character is briefly described by Charlevoix (Shea trans., v, 305, 1881) when he says they "infested with their robberies and filled with murders not only the neighborhood of the Bay [Green Bay], their natural territory, but almost all the routes communicating with the remote colonial posts, as well as those leading from Canada to Louisiana.

Except the Sioux, who often joined them, and the Iroquois, with whom they had formed an alliance, all the nations in alliance with us suffered greatly from these hostilities.

It was this tribe that in 1712 planned the attack on the fort at Detroit, and but for the timely arrival of friendly Indians and the bravery of the French commandant, Buisson, would undoubtedly have destroyed it.

They were almost constantly at war with the Illinois tribes south of them, and finally succeeded, in conjunction with the Sauk, in driving them from a large part of their country, of which they took possession.

From their earliest known history they were almost constantly at war with the Chippewa dwelling north of them, but usually without decided success, though often aided by the Sioux.

It was by the Chippewa, together with the Potawatomi, Menominee, and the French, that their power was finally broken.

About 1746, and perhaps for some few years previous, the Foxes lived at the Little Butte des Morts on the west bank of Fox river, about 37 miles above Green Bay.

They made it a point, when ever a trader's boat approached, to place a torch upon the bank as a signal for the traders to come ashore and pay the customary tribute, which they exacted from all.

To refuse was to incur their displeasure, and robbery would be the mildest penalty inflicted. Incensed at this exaction, Morand, a leading trader, raised a volunteer force of French and Indians, and after inflicting severe punishment on the Foxes in two engagements drove them down Wisconsin river.

They settled on the north bank about 20 miles from the mouth.

About 1780, in alliance with the Sioux, they attacked the Chippewa at St. Croix falls, where the Foxes were almost annihilated.

The remnant incorporated with the Sauk, and although long officially regarded as one, the two tribes have preserved their identity.

According to Dr William Jones (inf'n, 1906) the culture of the Foxes is that of the tribes of the eastern woodlands with some intrusive streaks front the plains.

They were acquainted with wild rice, and raised corn, beans, squashes, and tobacco.

They lived in villages in summer, the bark house being the type of the warm-weather dwelling; in winter they scattered and dwelt in oval flagreed lodges.

The belief in a cosmic substance called munitowiwi, or unit munitowiwini, is an essential element in their philosophy.

Objects, animate or inanimate, imbued with this substance become the recipients of marked adoration.

The Foxes practice many ceremonies, the principal one being the feast festival of the gentes.

There is probably no other Algonquian community within the limits of the United States, unless it be that of the Mexican band of Kickapoo in Oklahoma, where a more primitive state of society exists.

Besides being warlike, the Foxes were described by neighboring tribes as stingy, avaricious, thieving, passionate, and quarrelsome; their bravery, however, was proverbial.

Like most of the tribes of the region of the great lakes they were polygamists.

They were familiar with both dug-out and birch-bark canoes.

Spears and clubs were among their weapons of war.

Schoolcraft states that a band of warriors seen by him wore headdresses consisting of red-dyed horsehair tied in such manner to the scalplock as to present the shape of the decoration of a Roman helmet.

The rest of the head was completely shaved and painted.

They wore breech-cloths, moccasins, and leggings, and the upper part of their bodies was painted; often the print of a hand in white clay was marked on the hack or shoulder.

They bore flags of feathers.

Their "coat of arms" is described by Lahontan in heraldic terms: "A meadow sinople, crossed by a winding pale, with two foxes' gules at the two extremities of the river, in chief and other words, as his figure oblique mark representing a stream, with a fox at each end on opposite sides. He esplains this "coat of arms" as the mark or symbol which, after a victory or successful raid, they painted on trees.



Sac and Fox


A closely related Native Americans of the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock. For a long period they dwelt around Saginaw Bay in E. Michigan, but in the early 17th cent. they were driven from this area by the allied Ottawa and Neutral groups.

The Sac (also commonly written Sauk) and the Fox fled N. across the Strait of Mackinac, then S. into present Wisconsin.

Thus in 1667, when visited by Father Claude Jean Allouez, they were settled around Green Bay in N.E. Wisconsin.

They then numbered some 6,500.

The Sac were enterprising farmers but spent much time hunting and raiding, although they never developed a soldier society to the degree that the Fox did.

The Fox were fierce warriors and constantly waged war with the Ojibwa.

Together, the Sac and Fox fought wars against the Sioux and the Illinois, as well as the French.

The French, harassed by the Fox, waged a war of extermination; by 1730 they had reduced the Fox to a mere handful.

The remnants of the tribe incorporated with their longstanding allies, the Sac, and from that time the two tribes have been known as the Sac and Fox.

After the war with the Illinois (c.1765), the Sac and Fox moved into Illinois territory.

In 1804 a fraudulent treaty was extracted from them, and they were told to move W. of the Mississippi.

Most of them refused to go, but by 1831 they were induced to cross the river into Iowa.

By 1832, however, they were back on the east side of the river, attacking frontier settlements.

This started the Black Hawk War.

After that war they moved west, eventually settling on reservations in Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Sac and Fox culture was of the Eastern Woodlands area with some Plains area traits.

See W. T. Hagan, The Sac and Fox Indians (1958); F. O. Gearing, The Face of the Fox (1970).