Native toUnited States, Mexico
RegionCentral Oklahoma, Northeastern Kansas, Iowa, and Coahuila
Ethnicity760 Meskwaki and Sauk and 820 Kickapoo in the US (2000 census)[1] and 423 Mexican Kickapoo (2010 census)[2]
Native speakers
700: 250 Sauk and Fox and 400 Kickapoo in the US (2007–2015)[1]
60 Kickapoo in Mexico (2020 census)[3]
Great Lakes Algonquian syllabics
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
sac – Fox and Sauk
kic – Kickapoo
qes Mascouten
Map showing the distribution of Oklahoma Indian Languages
Kickapoo is classified as Severely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Fox (known by a variety of different names, including Mesquakie (Meskwaki), Mesquakie-Sauk, Mesquakie-Sauk-Kickapoo, Sauk-Fox, and Sac and Fox) is an Algonquian language, spoken by a thousand Meskwaki, Sauk, and Kickapoo in various locations in the Midwestern United States and in northern Mexico.


The three distinct dialects are:

If Kickapoo is counted as a separate language rather than a dialect of Fox, then only between 200 and 300 speakers of Fox remain. Extinct Mascouten was most likely another dialect, though it is scarcely attested.


Most speakers are elderly or middle-aged, making it highly endangered. The tribal school at the Meskwaki Settlement in Iowa incorporates bilingual education for children.[6][7] In 2011, the Meskwaki Sewing Project was created, to bring mothers and girls together "with elder women in the Meskwaki Senior Center sewing traditional clothing and learning the Meskwaki language."[8]

Prominent scholars doing research on the language include Ives Goddard[9] and Lucy Thomason of the Smithsonian Institution and Amy Dahlstrom of the University of Chicago.


The consonant phonemes of Fox are given in the table below. The eight vowel phonemes are: short /a, e, i, o/ and long /aː, eː, iː, oː/.

Labial Alveolar Postalveolar
or palatal
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive plain p t k
preaspirated ʰp ʰt ʰtʃ ʰk
Fricative s ʃ h
Approximant j w

Other than those involving a consonant plus /j/ or /w/, the only possible consonant cluster is /ʃk/.

Until the early 1900s, Fox was a phonologically very conservative language and preserved many features of Proto-Algonquian; records from the decades immediately following 1900 are particularly useful to Algonquianists for this reason. By the 1960s, however, an extensive progression of phonological changes had taken place, resulting in the loss of intervocalic semivowels and certain other features.[10]


This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (July 2019)


Mesquakie numerals are as follows:[11]

nekoti one
nîshwi two
nethwi three
nyêwi four
nyânanwi five
nekotwâshika six
nôhika seven
neshwâshika eight
shâka nine
metâthwi ten

Writing systems

Letter in the Kickapoo language written in Coahuila, Mexico in the 1950s

Besides the Latin script, Fox has been written in two indigenous scripts.[12]

Fox I

The Fox I script.[13]

"Fox I" is an abugida based on the cursive French alphabet (see Great Lakes Algonquian syllabics). Consonants written by themselves are understood to be syllables containing the vowel /a/. They are:

[a] /pa/
t /ta/
s /sa/
d /ša/[b]
tt /ča/[c]
ŋ[d] /ya/
w /wa/
m /ma/
n /na/
K /ka/
g[e] /kwa/[f]
  1. ^ Written as a tall loop, similar to a cursive b or l.
  2. ^ Character ⟨d⟩ for /š/ derives from French ⟨ch⟩.
  3. ^ Character ⟨tt⟩ for /č/ derives from French ⟨tch⟩.
  4. ^ The cursive form of capital I is a more graphically accurate approximation for /ya/; the actual character is a small clockwise loop with a long tail.
  5. ^ The actual character for /gwa/ or /kwa/ is shaped more like a cursive g or a with a long, winding tail that goes in a loop, almost like a figure-8 shape.
  6. ^ Character ⟨q⟩ for /kw/ derives from French ⟨q(u)⟩.

Vowels are written by adding dots to the consonant:

ℓ. /pe/
ℓ· /pi/
ℓ.. /po/

Fox II

"Fox II" is a consonant–vowel alphabet. According to Coulmas, /p/ is not written (as /a/ is not written in Fox I). Vowels (or /p/ plus a vowel) are written as cross-hatched tally marks.

"The Fox II" script.[14]

Consonants (approximately)
+ /t/
C /s/
Q /š/
ı /č/
ñ /v/[a]
ƧƧ /w/
# /n/
C′ /k/
ƧC /kw/
Vowels (approximately)
× /a/
II /e/[b]
III /i/[c]
IIII /o/[d]
  1. ^ Actually like one script n stacked on another.
  2. ^ If the cross-hatching does not show up (perhaps because this line has been copied without formatting), this is like a small capital H with the cross-bar sticking out on either side.
  3. ^ Resembles Chinese 卅 but lower and wider.
  4. ^ Resembles Chinese 卌, but lower and wider.

See also


  1. ^ a b Fox and Sauk at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021) Closed access icon
    Kickapoo at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. (2015). Lenguas indígenas en México y hablantes (de 3 años y más) al 2015. Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Lenguas indígenas y hablantes de 3 años y más, 2020 Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine INEGI. Censo de Población y Vivienda 2020.
  4. ^ "Meskwaki Settlement School - Meskwakiatoweni (Meskwaki language)". Archived from the original on 2019-07-23. Retrieved 2019-07-23.
  5. ^ Moctezuma Zamarrón, José Luis 2011, El sistema fonológico del Kickapoo de Coahuila analizado desde las metodologías distribucional y funcional Archived 2014-03-04 at the Wayback Machine. México: INALI
  6. ^ Meskwaki Settlement School Website, "Meskwaki Settlement School Website". Archived from the original on 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2009-02-03.
  7. ^ "Meskwaki Education Network Initiative (MENWI)". American Indian Studies Research Institute at Indiana University. Archived from the original on 2004-01-03. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  8. ^ Scandale, Maria (2011-02-21). "Meskwaki Tribe Receives Grant for Sewing and Language Project -". Indian Country Today Media Network, Archived from the original on 2024-05-26. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  9. ^ Nelson, John (2008-07-27). "Talking the talk". Archived from the original on 2020-08-06. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  10. ^ Language change in the speech community: change by loss of a stylistic register, in Historical Linguistics: Toward a Twenty-First Century Reintegration (ISBN 0521583322), page 57
  11. ^ Sauk Counting Worksheet (Sac and Fox). Retrieved 17 March 2019 from Archived 2019-10-28 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Coulmas (1999: 153–155)
  13. ^ Jones, William, 1906, p. 90
  14. ^ Jones, William, 1906, pp. 90-91