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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

First Meeting with the Fox

Editor's Note:

Fox Indians: the Fox, or Meskwakie, Indians were by this time so closely allied with the Sauk, or Sac, that they appeared to white observers almost as one tribe. Their name Meskwakie means "red earth people" and at the time of white contact they were living in close alliance with the Kickapoo in Michigan.

They came into Wisconsin about 1650 from the east under pressure from the Iroquois. During the first half of the 18th century they attempted to control key locations on the main fur trade routes in Wisconsin, including the river that today bears their name. They were consequently at war with the French from about 1710 to 1750. About 1730 they were driven from the Fox Valley by French forces under Paul Marin and took up residence on the lower Wisconsin River near modern Sauk Prairie. Jonathan Carver spent several days there in the 1760s and left this detailed account of their town.

Soon after Carver visited them, both the Sauk and the Fox relocated to the Mississippi, and spread up and down from the mouth of the Rock River in both directions. In 1829 they were forced west of the Mississippi into Iowa.

Both tribes lived in permanent villages of large, bark-covered wigwams, farming in the summer and hunting at other times of year. See their Web site for information about the Sac and Fox Nation today.

July 1st [1834]

Many of the Fox Indians called, with whom I conversed a little. They appeared very interesting and intelligent, and my heart was drawn out in pity for them -- "O Lord, cut short the days of darkness" -- may the light of the Gospel soon shine upon them. At night heavy thunder and lightning, and rainy most of the night.

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