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ETHNONYMS: Mesquakie, Outagami


Identification. The Fox were a hunting and agricultural society whose name for themselves was "Meskwahki-haki," meaning "Red earths" or "People of the red earth." Their identity is often confused with the Sauk. But even after the development of a close alliance between the two groups in the eighteenth century, the Fox have remained a single, clearly defined group.

Location. In aboriginal times the Fox were located in Present-day southern Michigan or northwestern Ohio. Prior to European contact they were driven by the Iroquois into Wisconsin, where they were located at the time of first direct Contact with Europeans in the mid-seventeenth century. Their territory at that time centered on the Wolf River and spread from Lake Superior south to the Chicago River and from Lake Michigan west to the Mississippi River.

Demography. In 1650 the Fox numbered approximately 2,500, and in the early nineteenth century, between 1,600 and 2,000. By 1867 the Fox population had declined to but 264 persons. In 1932 they numbered 403, and in 1955, 653. In the 1980s the Fox numbered about 1,000, with some 500 on the Sac and Fox Reservation in Tama County, Iowa.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Fox spoke an Algonkian Language, which those in Iowa still speak.

History and Cultural Relations

In the mid to late seventeenth century the establishment of a French trading post at Green Bay drew the Fox to the Wolf River area. Almost from the start, tension and conflict characterized Fox-French relations. This stemmed in part from Fox opposition to the French extending the fur trade to their traditional enemies, the Dakota. In 1712, twenty-five years of continuous warfare were initiated when the Fox who had moved to Detroit and were presumed by the French post there to be planning an assault were attacked by a coalition of tribes organized and incited by the French commander. During this period the Fox were nearly wiped out by warfare and disease. In 1733 they took refuge with the Sauk at Green Bay and soon thereafter both tribes fled to Iowa. Shortly after the cessation of hostilities in 1737 the Fox returned to Wisconsin, but by the late eighteenth century they were living on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River.

Between 1832 and 1842, Fox and Sauk ceded their lands to the United States and moved to a reservation in Kansas. On the Kansas reservation, relations between the two groups were marked by tension, and between 1856 and 1859 the Fox returned to Iowa and settled near Tama. The federal government opposed this move, but was unsuccessful in returning them to Kansas.

The descendants of the Fox have maintained many elements of the traditional culture, including their language and clan-organized ritual activities. An important factor in this process has been tribal ownership of land and resistance to land allotment.


In the early nineteenth century, the Fox settlement pattern alternated between large semipermanent villages occupied during the summer planting and fall harvesting seasons and small dispersed camps used during the winter and early spring hunting seasons. The semipermanent villages were located in river bottoms near agricultural fields and moved periodically as firewood resources were depleted. Generally, fewer than twenty dwellings or lodges made up a village, with the lodges aligned in parallel rows along an east-west axis. A typical summer lodge consisted of an elm-bark-covered pole scaffolding measuring forty to sixty feet long and twenty feet wide. Winter camps varied in size from one to a few extended families, with dwellings consisting of dome-shaped, poleframed structures covered with cattail mats. On the 3,476-acre reservation, the Fox now live in scattered modern housing.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Fox were hunter-farmers whose subsistence focused on deer, bison, maize, squash, beans, and pumpkins. Trapping and hunting for the fur trade became an important part of the economic pattern very soon after European contact. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the seasonal pattern of economic activities included planting crops in May and June and harvesting in the early autumn, after which the summer villages dispersed and the people journeyed to their hunting grounds. Hunts were also carried out during the summer growing season. Midwinter was spent in temporary camps in sheltered river bottoms where the people remained until hunting activities were renewed in the early spring. In April the dispersed families returned to their summer village and initiated a new cycle of agricultural activities.

Since the 1950s, commuting to work in nearby cities has been an important part of the economic pattern of Fox living near Tama, Iowa. Tribal income is derived from renting tribal lands to local farmers.

Industrial Arts. The Fox displayed a typical Woodland pattern, relying on the bow and arrow for hunting and warfare. Clothes were made from deerskin. Aboriginal manufactures were quickly replaced with items obtained from Europeans.

Trade. Apart from furs taken to obtain European trade goods, hides and tallow, a by-product of deer hunting, and lead ore obtained through surface mining were important trade items for the Fox during the historic period.

Division of Labor. Traditionally men hunted, and women were responsible for growing crops and gathering roots, nuts, berries, and animal by-products such as honey and beeswax.

Land Tenure. When they settled near Tama, Iowa, in 1857, the Fox purchased 80 acres of land; since that time additional land purchases have brought tribal holdings to 3,476 acres.


Kin Groups and Descent. Fox kin groupings consisted of numerous exogamous patrilineal clans, the corporate features of which focused on ritual activities and rights to clan names. In theory, each clan was descended from a vision seeker who had been blessed by a spirit. Lineages composing the clans were the primary means for the inheritance of rights to ritual positions and political offices and also served to regulate Secondary marriages. Descent was patrilineal.

Kinship Terminology. Kinship terminology followed the Omaha system.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage within one's clan was forbidden. Whether arranged by the couple, a go-between, or through negotiations between families, marriage was validated by an exchange of gifts between families. Polygyny was permitted; however, its frequency is unclear. After marriage, the couple resided with the wife's parents for one year or until the birth of their first child; thereafter they might live in their own lodge or with the husband's parents. Widows and widowers were expected to replace their deceased spouse with a Member of the spouse's lineage; failure to do so brought retribution from the women of the offended lineage in the form of the destruction of the offender's property.

Domestic Unit. Each household consisted of an extended family of between five and thirty persons. Each extended Family constituted an economic unit whose members cooperated in hunting and agricultural activities.

Inheritance. Ritual positions and political offices were controlled by lineages and inherited patrilineally.

Socialization. Corporal punishment of children was rare, the preferred method being forced fasting to instill correct behavior. During her first menstruation, a girl was isolated in a separate lodge for ten days as a precaution against endangering others and herself; during subsequent menstrual periods she was similarly isolated but for shorter periods of time. For boys, puberty was marked by a vision quest, undertaken in isolation, with the object of gaining spiritual power. Girls also sought visions, but not in isolation nor as part of menstrual seclusion.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Fox society was split into two divisions whose lines crosscut clan and lineage divisions. The two divisions were represented by the colors white and black and organized the people for games, ceremonies, dances, and warfare. The firstborn child of a couple was assigned to the division to which the father did not belong, and subsequent Children were assigned to alternate divisions according to their order of birth. Numerous permanent and temporary voluntary associations existed for raiding, ritual, and other purposes.

Political Organization. Politically, Fox society was Divided into peace and war organizations, each with its own chief and subordinate officeholders. The peace chief had Little authority and functioned primarily as a moderator; he was selected for the position from a specific lineage which Controlled rights to the office by a tribal council. During times of war and other threatening periods, the war chief and the war organization held considerable power. For the war chief, this stemmed from his control over the camp police, an organization of warriors that enforced decisions made by the tribal council. In the early nineteenth century, the war chief acquired office through successful leadership in warfare. At an earlier time, however, clan affiliation may have been an important factor in access to the office. Membership in the Tribal council was controlled by a specific lineage and its Responsibilities included issues such as peace and war, relations with other tribes, and the selection of winter hunting grounds. Today, an elected tribal council of seven members meets monthly to manage tribal affairs.

Social Control and Conflict. In addition to enforcing the decisions of the tribal council, the camp police regulated Tribal movements and patrolled the campgrounds during bison hunts. Their unquestioned right to destroy the property of anyone who disobeyed them enabled the camp police to function effectively as a mechanism of social control. Currently, tension exists between the traditional and progressive factions who disagree about the extent to which the tribe should follow White economic and political practices.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Fox cosmology included a belief in an upper world in the sky, associated with good, and a lower world beneath the earth, associated with evil. The Fox believed themselves to be the grandchildren of the earth and all that grew on it. Fox supernatural beings included Great or Gentle Manitou, who ruled the upper world. Other important supernatural beings included spirits associated with the four cardinal directions and the earth.

Religious Practitioners. Certain prescribed actions could be undertaken to gain the attention and favor of the spirits and place them under obligation. These actions included blackening one's face, fasting, wailing, and smoking or offering tobacco, which was believed to be greatly desired by the spirits, but accessible to them only through human beings. Successful vision questers were believed to be able to draw on supernatural powers contained in sacred packs they assembled following their vision experience. In some instances, Individuals experienced multiple intense visions; the sacred packs associated with these visions were believed to be extremely powerful, with benefits extending to the clan and lineage of the vision quester.

Ceremonies. Two ceremonies were held annually in order to maintain the powers of the sacred packs of clans and Lineages. One of these, a winter ceremony, was small and lacked elaborate ritual and social activities. The second, held in the summer, was rich in such activities, including prayers, songs, the telling of the histories of the sacred packs, dancing, and feasting.

Arts. Body ornamentation was important to the Fox. They were highly skilled in ribbon applique and silverwork and the production of beaded ornaments.

Medicine. The Fox developed a rich pharmacopoeia, and curers used over two hundred plant materials in curing, most of which were used for intestinal disorders. Most were taken internally, some applied externally, and a few burned for the therapeutic value of the smoke.

Death and Afterlife. Death was announced by a village crier and followed by an all-night mourning ceremony at the deceased's lodge by the deceased's clan members. The corpse was dressed in the finest clothing and wrapped in bark or reed mats prior to burial. Interment was usually in the ground, with the corpse extended and oriented along an east-west axis, the feet to the west. Noted warriors were commonly buried in a seated position. The burial ceremony included an address by a funeral director and tobacco offerings by the director and mourners; the earth-filled grave was covered over by a small wooden shed and marked with a post at the head that indicated the deceased's clan affiliation. Grave goods were few, and the deceased's property was divided by burial attendants and the deceased's surviving relatives.

Within four years of an individual's death, an adoption ceremony was held that served to release mourners from their obligations and bring into the deceased's lineage a friend or other person chosen by the surviving relatives. Usually the adoptee was a person of the same sex and age of the deceased, and the ceremony of adoption included feasts, games, dancing, and the exchange of gifts.


Callender, Charles (1978). "Fox." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15, Northeast, edited by Bruce G. Trigger, 636-647. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

Hagan, William T. (1950). The Sac and Fox Indians. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Jones, William (1939). Ethnography of the Fox Indians. U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin no. 125. Washington, D.C.



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fox / fäks/ • n. 1. a carnivorous mammal (Vulpes and other genera) of the dog family with a pointed muzzle and bushy tail, proverbial for its cunning. ∎  the fur of a fox. 2. inf. a cunning or sly person. ∎  a sexually attractive woman.• v. 1. [tr.] inf. baffle or deceive (someone). ∎  [intr.] dated behave in a cunning or sly way.2. [tr.] repair (a boot or shoe) by renewing the upper leather. ∎  ornament (the upper of a boot or shoe) with a strip of leather.


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fox the fox is proverbial for its artfulness and cunning; in Ben Jonson's play, the miser who deceives those around him with promises of wealth is named Volpone (in Italian, ‘Fox’). It figures in a number of fables, such as that giving rise to the expression sour grapes. In the story in which the fox and the crane entertain one another the fox meets his match: the long-beaked crane serves food in a deep-necked jar from which the fox cannot eat.

In the stories of ‘Uncle Remus’, Brer Fox is the determined enemy of Brer Rabbit, who despite his own strength and cunning is in the end always outwitted by the rabbit.
foxfire a name for the phosphorescent light emitted by certain fungi on decaying timber. The term is now only North American, but is first recorded in the late 15th century.
foxhole a hole in the ground used by troops as a shelter against enemy fire or as a firing point; the term was first used in accounts of the First World War. The American priest William Thomas Cummings (1903–45) is recorded as saying, ‘There are no atheists in the foxholes.’ In 1963, in a message to Congress on the proposed Civil Rights Bill, John Fitzgerald Kennedy also used the image: ‘there are no ‘white’ or ‘coloured’ signs on the foxholes or graveyards of battle.’


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FOX (Heb. שׁוּעָל), the Vulpes vulpes. The biblical name is shu'al, as in the passage: "Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards" (Song 2:15). The comparison in Ezekiel 13:4 of the false prophets to foxes may be a reference to their craftiness or to their habit of frequenting ruins. Parables about the fox's cunning are contained in the folklore of various nations; R. Meir is said to have compiled 300 fox fables (Sanh. 38b). The word shu'al however is also used for the jackal, and the other biblical passages in which it occurs, e.g., the one in which Samson is said to have caught 300 shu'alim (Judg. 15:4), probably refer to it. The place-name Shaalbim (Judg. 1:35) or Shaalabbin (Josh. 19:42) is probably the etymon (in the plural) of the Arabic and Akkadian words for "fox," – thaʿlab and sēlibu, respectively.


S. Bodenheimer, Ha-Ḥai be-Ereẓ Yisrael (1953), 244; Tristram, Nat Hist, 85–87. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 279.

[Jehuda Feliks]


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fox Any of several carnivores of the dog family. The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is typical. Height: 38cm (15in); weight: c.9kg (20lb). Distinguished by its sharp features, large ears and long, bushy tail, foxes feed on insects, fruit, small birds and mammals, and carrion. They are solitary animals, living in dens only for the mating season. Family Canidae. See also fox-hunting


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fox OE. fox = OS. vuhs (Du. vos), OHG. fuhs (G. fuchs) : WGmc. *fuχs; rel. to Skr. púccha- tail, Russ. pukh fine woolly hair, down; the name may mean orig. ‘the tailed one’. Cf. VIXEN.
Hence fox-glove OE. foxesglōfa, f. g. sg. of fox (with unexpl. assoc.); the flower resembles a fingerstall in shape.


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fox (Alopex, Cerdocyon, Dusicyon, Vulpes) See CANIDAE.


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FOX. SeeMesquakie .


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FOX (fɒks) Commerce Futures and Options Exchange (in London FOX)

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