The Meskwaki are of the Algonquian origin from the Eastern Woodland Culture areas. The Language spoken is the same dialect ads the Sauk and Kickapoo. The tribe has been historically located in the St. Lawrence River Valley, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Iowa. Meskwaki were called “Renards” (The Fox) by the French – the tribe's first European contact in 1666 – but have always identified themselves as “Meskwaki”.
Meskwaki and Sauk are two distinct tribal groups. Linquistic and cultural similarities between the two tribes have made them often associated throughout history. Terminology established by the United States Government continues to treat the Sac & Fox as a single political unit despite their separate identities.
Meskwaki fought against the French in what is called the Fox Wars (1701-1742). The Meskwaki resistance of French rule was so effective that the French King signed a decree commanding the complete extermination of the Meskwaki… the only edict of its kind in history of a Major and full standing army on one particular American Indian tribe. The Sauk and Meskwaki allied in 1735 to fend off Europeans and other Indian tribes. Both tribes moved southward from Wisconsin into Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.
After the Black Hawk War of 1832, the United States officially combined the two tribes into a single group known as the Sac & Fox confederacy for treaty-making purposes. Then a series of land cessions under the name of “Sac & Fox”, the Sauk and Meskwaki lost all lands and ultimately were removed to a reservation in east central Kansas in 1845. But some Meskwaki remained hidden in Iowa with others coming back within a few years. In 1856 the state of Iowa enacted a law allowing the Meskwaki to stay. The U.S. government however tried to force the tribe back to the Kansas reservation by withholding treaty-right annuities.
In 1857 the Meskwaki purchase the first 80 acres in Tama County. Ten years later the U.S. finally began paying annuities to the Meskwaki in Iowa, an act that gave the Meskwaki a formal identity as the Sac & Fox of Iowa. The jurisdictional status was unclear since the tribe then had formal federal recognition with eligibility for BIA services but also had a continuing relationship with the State of Iowa due to the tribe’s private ownership of land which was held in trust by the governor. For the next 30 years the Meskwaki were virtually ignored by federal as wall as state polices. Subsequently, they lived a more independent lifestyle than other tribes confined to regular reservations that were strictly regimented by federal authority. To resolve this jurisdictional ambiguity, in 1896 the State of Iowa ceded to the Federal Government all jurisdiction over the Meskwaki.
Owing to the noble sacrifices and vision of ancestors, the Meskwaki still remain… and even thrive. Neither “New France” nor its French monarchy exist anymore.