Sac (people)

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The Sacs or Sauks are a group of Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands culture group. Their autonym is (oθaakiiwaki in their own language, and their exonym is Ozaagii(-wag) in Ojibwe. The latter is the source of their names in French and English.


Clan system

Originally, the Sauk had a patrilineal clan system, in which descent was traced through the father. Clans which continue are: Fish, Ocean/Sea, Thunder, Bear, Fox, Potato, Deer, Beaver, Snow, and Wolf. The tribe was governed by a council of sacred clan chiefs, a war chief, the head of families, and the warriors. Chiefs fell into three categories: civil, war, and ceremonial, but only the civil chief was hereditary. The other two chiefs were determined by demonstrating their ability or their spiritual power.

This traditional manner of selecting historic clan chiefs and governance was replaced in the 19th century by United States appointees of the Sac and Fox Agency. In the 20th century, the tribe adopted a constitutional government patterned after the United States form. They elect their chiefs.[citation needed]


The Sac are believed to have had their original territory along the St. Lawrence River. They were driven by pressure from other tribes, especially the Iroquois, to migrate to Michigan, where they settled around Saginaw Bay. Due to the yellow-clay soils found around Saginaw Bay, their autonym was Oθaakiiwaki (often interpreted to mean "yellow-earth".) The Ojibwe and Ottawa name for the tribe (exonym) was Ozaagii, meaning "those at the outlet". From the sound of that, the French derived Sac and the English "Sauk". Anishinaabe expansion and the Huron attempt to gain regional stability drove the Sac out of their territory. The Huron were armed with French weapons. The Sac moved south to territory in parts of what are now northern Illinois and Wisconsin.

A closely allied tribe, the Meskwaki (Fox), were noted for their hostility toward the French, having fought two wars against them in the early 18th century. After the second war, Fox refugees took shelter with the Sac, making them subject to French attack. The Sac continued moving west to Iowa and Kansas. Two important leaders arose among the Sac: Keokuk and Black Hawk. At first Keokuk accepted the loss of land as inevitable in the face of the vast numbers of white soldiers and settlers coming west. He tried to preserve tribal land and to keep the peace.

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