Sac and Fox Customs

Sac and Fox Customs

The Sacs and Foxes had many peculiar customs, one being that each male child was marked at birth with either white or black color, the Indian mother alternating the colors so that the nation was evenly divided between black and white. This distinction was kept alive during life, the object being to create rivalry and a spirit of emulation between the members of the tribe. Thus black was the competitor of white in their games and social customs, and each side tried to outdo the other, and in war to take more scalps. Black Hawk belonged to the “Black” party and Keokuk to the ” White” party. Marriage among the Sacs and Foxes required only the consent of the parties and their parents. The husband could at any time divorce his wife or add another if he deemed best, and although the marriage ties were not strong, the ties of consanguinity were rigidly preserved. Hereditary rights were traced through the female line. This was accomplished by means of the Totem, an’ institution or emblem which served as a distinction for the different clans or families. The family surname was represented by some bird or animal, such as Eagle, Hawk, Heron, Deer, Bear, etc. Each Indian was proud of his Totem– in fact it represented a fraternity or secret society. As the different members of a clan were connected by ties of kindred, they were prohibited from intermarriage. A Bear might not marry a Bear, but could marry an Eagle, Hawk. or member of any other clan. This Totem system furnished the means of tracing family lineage through all their years of wandering and preserved their hereditary rights. The Sacs and Foxes had from the early part of the eighteenth century occupied the banks of the Mississippi between the mouth of the Missouri and the Wisconsin, the Sacs occupying the eastern side of the river, and the Foxes its western banks.

The Sac and Fox Indians of Illinois 


Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908

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