The Sauk people historically lived along the St. Lawrence seaway in Canada. Under pressure from the expanding Iroquois confederacy, the group eventually migrated to the Saginaw Bay region of Michigan. The Sauks, like many other people of the region, spoke an Algonquian language. "Sauk" refers to the group's exonym, "Ozaagii" -- used by neighboring Ottawa and Ojibwe to mean "those at the outlet" of the Saginaw. This name was transliterated by the French, and eventually, the English, as "Sauk" or "Sac". The group's autonym, "Oθaakiiwaki" means "people of the yellow earth." -- a reference to the soils in the nation's newfound home in Michigan.
The Sauk were divided about which side to support during the French and Indian War. During the American Revolution the Sauk sided with the British against the Americans.The Sauk were originally allies of the French but fell from favor when they helped other American Indian peoples -- namely, the Fox -- who were hostile to the French. The Sauk then allied with the Meskwaki, or Fox, and travelled with them westwards, to Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas. In 1832, a mixed group of Sauk and Fox united under powerful Sauk leader Black Hawk, and lead Black Hawk's War, to fight further U.S. seizure of Sauk and Fox territories. After the U.S. Civil War, most of the combined Meskwaki and Sauk were forced to new lands in Indian Territory -- present-day Oklahoma. Starting in this period, the two groups were federally recognized together, as the Sac and Fox Nation.
The Sauk never were a prominent tribe in Ohio. They gave up all claims to lands in Ohio with the signing of the Treaty of Fort Harmar (1789). In 1804, the Sauk natives relinquished all of their lands east of the Mississippi River.
Several contemporary federally-recognized tribes descend from the Sauk people. These include the Sac and Fox Nation (Oklahoma), the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, and the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri (Nebraska and Kansas).
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.