Meskwaki Political Entities

The Meskwaki also belong to a political entity to which they are known as a group. Under this political entity the United States Government sees the tribe acting as one. A political entity can be pointed out and labeled. It is a group of people living within a certain territory under a government that has some sovereignty.

Under this political entity the Meskwaki are labeled as the Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa. They can be measured as a people in certain terms. The Sac and Fox of Iowa can be measured from their numerical membership by their Tribal Constitution. A provision is in the constitution of who the members are and who can be members in the future. With this, an enrollment is made and kept of the people who are entitled to be members. Only members of this political entity can be called citizens of this group.

The Sac and Fox of Iowa can also be measured as a political entity geographically. This is in the terms of land they occupy called territory. A provision in the constitution describes the territory the Sac and Fox of Iowa now occupy and can occupy in the future. Within this territory the Sac and Fox of Iowa can enforce their laws and rules over its members.

The Sac and Fox of Iowa can be described as a political entity structurally in terms of their form of government. The tribe’s form of government is established in the constitution. Provisions in the constitution show how the governing body is to be made. Under the government, as described in the constitution, the Sac and Fox of Iowa are recognized by other governments as speaking and acting as one. And the enrolled membership gives the governing body the authority to make and enforce the rules under the constitution.

The Meskwaki as a political entity under the name of Sac and Fox have some sovereign rights. These rights are internal and external. Internal sovereign rights give the tribal government sovereignty; the right and ability to make and enforce laws over its membership and territory. When making and enforcing these laws the political entity must answer to their membership and not to any other entity. The constitution describes the internal sovereign powers, which are granted to the governing body. When exercising these powers the governing body is treated as a political entity because it represents people with some sovereign powers.

Other sovereign powers are called external rights, which give the Sac and Fox of Iowa sovereignty to deal with other governments independent of any other authority. Like most other tribes the Sac and Fox political status is unique and limited. The United States through treaties has limited the tribe’s external affairs to dealings with the federal government. So the Sac and Fox (Meskwaki) of Iowa are sovereign without having full sovereign powers. Their sovereign being is recognized and supported in their treaties with the United States. And without destroying the original tribal sovereignty, the Sac and Fox of Iowa and the United States have reshaped and limited tribal sovereignty to their understanding and agreements.

Treaties and Acts of Congress were made with tribes, which gave them their special status. From Revolutionary times to the end of the American Civil War, treaties were continually made with tribes. Under these treaties, rights were granted that must be recognized by the United States. The first treaty the Sac and Fox of Iowa had with the United States was the Treaty of 1804 and the last was the Treaty of 1867.

When Indian lands and rights became important political matters, the U.S. Congress passed legislation stating that agreements with tribes would be made by Acts of Congress and no longer by treaty. The change in dealing with the whites did not change the special relationship the tribes had with the United States. The rights provided by Acts of Congress are as valid as treaty rights. (JLB)

Click here to learn about the various political entities the Meskwaki have been part of due to the treaty making process of the U.S. government.