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H I S T O r Y

H A p p E N E D

H E r E

Native American Heritage in Arkansas

"history has a way of intruding upon the present, and perhaps those who read it will have a clearer understanding of what the American Indian is, by knowing what he was." — From Arkansas writer Dee Brown's classic best-seller Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West.


rkansas’s first inhabitants knew well the rich resources and beauty of the land we call The Natural State. The Native Americans who occupied the region hunted and fished in its rivers, lakes and forests, just as we can today. They built shelters and settlements from its trees, earth and stones, and we are still able to visit and honor those sites. They fashioned beautiful artifacts from its clay, and some of the largest collections of enduring Native American crafts and art can be found in the state. As in many other parts of the country, the history of Native American interaction with European explorers and American homesteaders is often painful but worthy of remembrance. By following in their footsteps and discovering who they were through the wealth of sites and museums all around the state, we live their past in the present, celebrating the glory of their accomplishments and imagining their noble history.

table of contents Native American Heritage Sites • • • • • • • • • • • 3 Histories of the tribes • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 14 prehistoric • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 15 the caddos • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 16 the quapaws • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 17 the osages • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 18 the cherokees • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 19 Trail of Tears • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 20 a timeline of Arkansas's first peoples • • • • 22 resources/credits • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 29

Native American Heritage Sites Bentonville



Eureka Springs


71 62


Siloam Springs Spring


Peaa Ridge Pe Ridg

Bella Vista


49 Rogers

Bull Shoals



412 Prairie Grove West Fork ork

Ponca Boxley



Fort Smith




Van Buren





64 Morrilton








10 7

270 Pine Ridge





71 Dierks



Hot Springs Spring

70 270






63 England








Star City


79 7



Washington ashington



Hope 278





Texarkana Texarkana


82 371






278 278

El Dorado


7 Junction City 167

West Memphis

Helena-West est Helena



63 165

Jerome Jerom


Lake Village Villag



Drennen-Scott House Museum of Native American History Ridge House University of Arkansas Museum Collections Trail of Tears Park Lake Dardanelle State Park Pea Ridge National Military Park Fort Smith National Historic Site Cob Cave, Lost Valley

North Central 21 22

Indian Rock Cave and Trail Buffalo National River, Indian Rockhouse Cave



82 82

Arkansas Post National Memorial

Northwest 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Arkansas City


Parkin Archeological State Park Hampson Archeological Museum State Park Arkansas State University Museum

lower delta 11



63 Emerson

8 9 10

Tillar McGehee

79 7


278 Hampton



Warren rren

167 278








11 167





Pine Bluff 530


26 30






St. Charles




79 5300



Sequoyah National Research Center Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park Historic Arkansas Museum The Gravestone and Memorial of Quatie Ross Petit Jean State Park, Rock House Cave Cadron Settlement Park Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Heritage Park

upper delta




49 79






167 Malvern 270

Forrest City


DeValls Bluff






Des Arc









1 3 4

6300 430 Little4400 30



26 27







De Queen


Mountain Pine Mount Ida




North Little Rock



T Turrell



67 167




Searcy Sear








Bald Knob









Marked Tree T






Heber Springs Dover








1 2 3 4 5 6 7




55 Osceola


Fairfield Bay






40 Clarksville




Mountain View

Wiederkehr Ozark Village

49 49

65 Pelsor



aragould 412 Ridge 412 Paragould 412







49 71

67 Powhatan





Calico Rock







Hardy Hard

Ash Flat



67 63


St. Francis




Y Yellville




14 15 16

Mountain Home


Harrison Harriso

Springdale Fayetteville yetteville





Mammoth Spring 412 Cherokee Village Salem

65 Wilmot


23 24

Museum of Regional History Caddo Indian Memorial Trail and River Walk


2 toltec mounds archeological state park

(Arkansas History Commission)

490 Toltec Mounds Road, Scott 501-961-9442 The 185-acre National Historic Landmark, cooperatively managed by Arkansas State Parks and the Arkansas Archeological Survey, preserves the site of a mound-building culture known as the Plum Bayou people, who inhabited the surrounding area and used the site for ceremonies and civic events during AD 650 to 1050. Three mounds remain where 18 once stood, in alignment with solstice and equinox, and are surrounded by an earthen embankment 8 to 10 feet in height, a portion of which is still visible today. Two barrier-free trails with interpretive panels wind through the impressive grounds, including a boardwalk over Mound Pond. An exciting new feature of the park is the Plum Bayou Garden, a living demonstration of the plants and raw materials the ancient culture drew upon for their sustenance. Extensive exhibits inside the visitor center provide further history of this fascinating glimpse into the distant past.

1sequoyah national research center

2801 South University Avenue, Little Rock 501-569-8336 Located on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus, the center is the largest assemblage of Native American expression in the world, including tribal newspapers, poetry, history books and art. The mission of the program is to acquire and preserve the writings and ideas of Native North Americans. The center is open to the public Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. In addition to archived materials for research, there’s an adjacent art gallery with rotating exhibits. Not far from the center is Trail of Tears Park, with commemorative plaques explaining the site’s relevance for the removal of Choctaw and Chickasaw, and planted with native grasses and plants they may have seen on the trail. 3


3Historic Arkansas Museum

Tripod bottle Clay, red slip, handbuilt, Caddo 1200-1500 C.E. (Historic Arkansas Museum)

200 East Third Street, Little Rock 501-324-9351 A trove of Arkansas’s historical artifacts and information concentrating on the pre-Civil War era, Historic Arkansas Museum has a permanent exhibit devoted to Native American life in The Natural State called “We Walk in Two Worlds: The Caddo, Osage & Quapaw in Arkansas.” The exhibition contains 158 objects, such as pottery, clothing and weapons, but most important is the dominant presence of the Native American voice, from each of Arkansas’s three prominent tribes, who were extensively consulted and interviewed.

4The Gravestone and

Memorial of quatie ross 1200 South Broadway, Little Rock 501-376-1843 Much myth and mystery surround the life of Quatie Ross, the wife of Cherokee chief John Ross. According to reports, she died near Little Rock on February 1, 1839, during the forced march of the Trail of Tears, reputedly freezing to death when she gave her covering to warm a child. Her original marker was thought lost until discovered in Little Rock’s historic Mount Holly Cemetery. The original stone is preserved now in Historic Arkansas Museum, and a replica is in Mount Holly, along with a memorial, where visitors often leave tokens in the American Indian tradition.



Horned animal head and bison

Portal symbol

Paddlefish and trap

5petit jean state pArk rock house cave

1285 Petit Jean Mountain Road, Morrilton 501-727-5441 Not a true cave but a large rock shelter, the walls here contain more than 100 spectacular examples of prehistoric rock art by Native Americans, accessed by an easy .25-mile trail. The site was occupied off and on from the late Paleoindian period (8000 BC) to the Mississippi era (AD 900-1600), but the exact date of the art has not been determined.

6Cadron settlement park 6200 Highway 319 West, Conway Cadron Settlement Park is on the National Register of Historic Places and played a significant role in the Trail of Tears for Native Americans. In 1834, a group of Cherokees emigrating to Oklahoma were felled by a cholera epidemic when stopped here. The Faulkner County Historical Society conducted a cemetery census in 1991 and identified almost 50 Native American graves and more that were unidentifiable. Courtesy of Mike Hall and



upper delta

7reed's bridge battlefield heritage park

Arkansas Highway 161, Jacksonville 501-241-1943 ReedsbridgebattleďŹ This park encompasses a battlefield of the 1863 Little Rock campaign during the Civil War, but the military highway through it was also a route of the Trail of Tears. Narrative historical markers highlighting the site’s interest for Native Americans include information about the crossing by the John Bell detachment of some 660 Cherokees in December of 1838.

8parkin archeological state park 60 Highway 184 North, Parkin 870-755-2500 This significant historical site is believed by many scholars to be the Native American village of Casqui, mentioned in reports from members of the de Soto expedition in the summer of 1541. Over the 17 acres along the St. Francis River, a large platform mound has been preserved, and visitors can walk a three-quarter-mile trail with interpretive panels and imagine what life was like when the village was active from AD 1000 to 1600. A station for the Arkansas Archeological Survey allows visitors to see and experience how archeologists conduct research and work. 6

upper delta

10arkansas state university museum 320 University Loop Circle, Jonesboro 870-972-2074 A state-of-the-art museum will open on the town square in 2017.

9hampson archeological museum state park

Among the exhibits in Arkansas State University Museum is “Portals of the Soul: Ancient Peoples of Northeast Arkansas” in the Native American Gallery, which opened in 2009. It presents the story of Arkansas’s first civilization – the Native American artisans who poured out their creativity and honored the spirits with powerful and beautiful designs in artifacts of pottery, shell, copper and stone.

2 Lake Drive, Wilson 870-655-8622 This park exhibits a nationally renowned collection from the Nodena site, a 15-acre palisaded village that once thrived near the Mississippi River in what is today Mississippi County. The home of a farming-based civilization that lived there from AD 1400 to 1650, the area has yielded many remarkable archeological finds, including colorfully painted pottery and vessels, and stone tools. The park is located on the north edge of Wilson on U.S. Highway 61 and Lake Drive.

Nodena village re-creation


Lower Delta


11arkansas post

national memorial 1741 Old Post Road, Gillett 870-548-2207 Henri de Tonti, a French fur trapper and trader, established this post in 1686 at the Quapaw village of Osotouy, near the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers, to do business with the tribe. The thriving village became a part of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and was the first territorial capital of Arkansas. The Menard-Hodges site nearby, under the auspices of the memorial, holds Native American mounds and was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1989. The Quapaw tribe is cooperating with the National Parks Service on preserving and interpreting the site.


12Drennen-Scott House 222 North Third Street, Van Buren 479-262-6020 John Drennen, one of the founders of the town of Van Buren, built this house overlooking the Arkansas River in 1838, and it has been converted to a history museum under the leadership of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Important to those interested in Native American history is Drennen’s role as an Indian agent on the frontier, including his oversight of the eligibility process for settlement payments for the Cherokees who had been relocated to the Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.


13Museum of Native American History 202 Southwest O Street, Bentonville 479-273-2456 Take a 14,000-year journey through Arkansas’s and America’s past. Exhibits follow chronological order, starting with the first peoples through the 20th century. Artifacts, tools, beautiful crafts and art abound: arrowheads, pottery, clothing and blankets give a rich history of Native American life over the centuries. The Sweetwater Biface is a particularly famous work of Caddoan stonework. Audio wands are available for self-guided tours.

“The Bailey Family” – 3 Caddo (Bailey Variety) human effigy bottles that were found together at the Hughes Mound in Arkansas. They are 2 males and 1 female and are thought to represent a father, mother and son.

14ridge house 230 West Center Street, Fayetteville 479-521-2970 This house contains the log walls of the original structure from the 1830s. In 1840, it was sold to Sarah Ridge, the widow of John Ridge, a leader of the Cherokees who was instrumental in promoting and signing the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, which it was hoped would encourage Cherokees to accept a voluntary move to Indian Territory. Most Cherokees rejected the treaty, and the government began forced removal, leading to the Trail of Tears. John Ridge was murdered in 1839, and his wife moved to Fayetteville, where she lived until her death in 1856. Now owned by the Washington County Historical Society, the house is open by appointment. 9


17lake dardanelle state park 100 State Park Drive, Russellville 479-967-5516

15university of arkansas museum collections 2475 North Hatch Avenue, Fayetteville 479-575-3556 The University of Arkansas Museum Collection houses more than 7,000 catalogued Native American whole pottery vessels – the largest single collection of late prehistoric and protohistoric period whole pottery vessels from Arkansas. In addition to the whole pottery vessels, the collections include hundreds of thousands of artifacts that come from all parts of Arkansas, and that range in age from the oldest Native-made tools more than 10,000 years in age to historic period objects. The collection resides in the headquarters of the Arkansas Archeological Survey on the campus of the University of Arkansas. The Survey also coordinates excavations and research at state parks like Toltec and Parkin, and throughout the state of Arkansas. The secure curation area, where most artifacts are held, is visible through the foyer of the survey headquarters. Access to the collections for research and other purposes can be arranged through the offices.

16trail of tears park 1100 West Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard (at the northwest corner of Stadium Drive) Fayetteville This site on the campus of the University of Arkansas commemorates a spot on the Trail of Tears where a group of 1,100 Cherokees led by John Benge passed through the frontier village of Fayetteville on January 18, 1839. A plaque and a native stone sculpture stand near the site of the party’s encampment. 10

Lake Dardanelle State Park is located along the water route of the Trail of Tears and is one of only two sites along the trail where members of all southeastern tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw and Seminole) passed in their forced journey west to Indian Territory. Long before tribes moved through this area along the Trail of Tears, this area was Cherokee land beginning in the late 1700s. The Cherokees built towns and farms in this fertile river valley.


19Fort Smith National Historic Site 301 Parker Avenue, Fort Smith 479-783-3961 Pea Ridge Battlefield

This site, devoted to a raucous frontier history – the original fort was founded to keep peace between warring tribes, and a later one became the province of Isaac Parker, the “Hanging Judge” – includes a walk to the Trail of Tears Overlook, where interpretive panels tell the story of the five tribes who were removed to Indian Territory. That viewpoint looks out on the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau rivers, and a path marker indicates the border between Arkansas and Indian Territory.

Elkhorn Tavern, Pea Ridge National Military Park

18pea ridge national military park

15930 East Highway 62, Garfield 479-451-8122 The site of a battle on the western frontier of the Civil War, the park offers visitors a wealth of information about the Native American participation on this front of the war, including the story of Stand Watie, a Cherokee supporter of the 1835 Treaty of Echota who became a general in the Confederate army and commanded the 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles during the battle. In June 1865, Watie was the last Southern general to surrender to the Federals. Also in the park is Elkhorn Tavern, a stop along the Trail of Tears; the Cherokees camped nearby, and soldiers escorting them likely stayed in the tavern. A historical marker explains the significance of the site for those who suffered on the trail. “This is an amazing place,” said John McLarty, president of the Arkansas chapter of the Trail of Tears Association. “When you stand at the Elkhorn Tavern, you are literally on the Trail of Tears.” 11


north central

20Cob Cave Buffalo National River, 402 N. Walnut, Suite 136, Harrison 870-365-2700 Located on the Lost Valley Trail (2.3 miles round trip), one of the Buffalo National River’s most popular trails, Cob Cave is a bluff shelter believed to have been inhabited seasonally by Native Americans between AD 1100 and 1400. When the cave was explored officially in the 1930s, archeologists from the University of Arkansas found pictographs and petroglyphs, woven bags and cultivated plants. The trailhead can be found about a half a mile off Arkansas Route 43, 1.5 miles south of Ponca.

21INDIAn rock cave and trail 335 Snead Drive, FairďŹ eld Bay 501-884-4899 This 100-foot-wide, 90-foot-deep and 90-foot-high formation, carved by springs for centuries out of the sandstone cliff, contains petroglyphic evidence of Native American presence generations ago. A three-quarter-mile trail behind the Old Log Cabin accessible from the parking lot of the Indian Hills Country Club leads to the site.

22buffalo national river, indian rockhouse Cave

Buffalo National River, 402 N. Walnut, Suite 136, Harrison 870-365-2700 Indian Rockhouse Trail (3.5 miles round trip, rated moderate to strenuous) leads to its namesake, one of the largest bluff shelters in the Ozarks, which was used by Native Americans some 4,000 years ago. This trail is located at Buffalo Point, 14 miles south of Yellville on Highway 14, then three miles east on Highway 268. 12


23Museum of regional history 219 North State Line Avenue, Texarkana 903-793-4831 Housed in the town’s oldest brick building, Texarkana’s Museum of Regional History has a newly renovated and reworked gallery devoted to its large collection of Caddoan pottery and artifacts. The Caddo confederation resided in part at the bend of the Red River nearby.

24Caddo Indian Memorial Trail and river Walk Norman

Twenty-one interpretive panels on a one-quarter-mile trail describe the history of the Caddo people and this historic burial ground, along with a wildflower garden. Excavations by the Arkansas Archeological Survey discovered Caddoan artifacts, including tools and weapon points, and the Caddo tribe conducted a religious ceremony there in 1989 to honor the dead buried in this place.

Photo courtesy of Mary B. Lysobey


histories of the tribes


istorians and archeologists estimate that Native Americans have inhabited the lands now comprising the state of Arkansas for almost 14,000 years. We are able to gain a clearer picture of the peoples who made their homes here and distinguish among different tribes from the historical records that begin with Hernando de Soto’s expedition in 1541-43 and from other explorers who followed him. Those most prevalent in Arkansas included the Caddos, Quapaws, Osages and later, Cherokees, as they traveled through Arkansas on the Trail of Tears to present day Oklahoma.

Osage Quapaw

Caddo Little Maumelle River, Pinnacle Mountain, Little Rock


Histories of the Tribes Parkin site drawing (Parkin Archeological State Park)

prehistoric Ted Morris,artist. (Parkin Archeological State Park)


Toltec Mounds, artwork carved by David Thompson. (Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park)

he Paleoindian peoples, as archeologists call them, entered the area of Arkansas in groups of less than 50 before settling in small communities. There, they found plentiful chert, or fine-grained quartz, from which to make sharpened points for hunting. You can see examples of these early tools at the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, the Parkin Archeological State Park and Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park near Scott. In the Archaic Period, between approximately 9500 and 650 BC, the Native Americans in Arkansas adapted to the transforming, more fecund environment, which was warming after the “ice age” and producing more plentiful plant and animal life. They began forming larger communities and engaging in domesticating plants; nuts and plants became more important to their diets. These peoples hunted Ice Age animals such as mastodons, and as extinction changed the fauna available, they pursued deer, elk and other smaller mammals for their meat and hides. The Dalton point, a sharpened stone affixed to the end of a stick sited in a hurling mechanism, proved an effective hunting tool. In addition, the Dalton culture at the Sloan site (near Crowley’s Ridge State Park but not open to visitors) has given archeologists the oldest example of a ceremonial burial ground in the Western Hemisphere. By 600 BC, pottery was being used for cooking and storage of grain, nuts and seeds, and the bow and arrow became a widely used hunting tool by the end of the Hopewell era, around 500 AD. With further cultivation came a more stable village life, and the use of salt for preservation and for trade encouraged settlement in the saline springs of southwest Arkansas.

Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park provides a stunning example of early mound-building practices among a native tribe known as the Plum Bayou Indians. Their use remains somewhat of a puzzle, but shows an alignment with solstice and equinox lines. The Mississippi era, beginning around 900 AD, was characterized by further developments in farming and trade, with the Parkin site, now a state park, showing a settlement of several mounds and dozens of houses. Some scholars believe it to be the city of Casqui, identified in accounts from de Soto’s party.


Histories of the Tribes Caddo grass house, Edward S. Curtis photographer, c. 1927


Caddo Turkey Dance by Archie Blackowl (Sequoyah National Research Center)


hen European explorers in the 16th through the 18th centuries encountered the Caddo peoples in the vicinity of the Red and Ouachita rivers in southwest Arkansas, they found a settled, sophisticated community, with family homesteads spaced generously apart to allow for farming. The houses commonly resembled a beehive, with a hearth in the center, and were sometimes as large as 60 feet in diameter. The household might contain extended matrilineal families. Other Caddo confederacies occupied areas of east Texas and northwest Louisiana. Their social structure had the women preparing hides for clothing, cooking, weaving, raising children and gardening, while the men hunted, celebrated religious ceremonies and sometimes engaged in warfare. Other activities were shared communally, such as preparing soil and building houses. Tattooing was also common in both sexes. The leader of the community, the caddi, greeted visitors and forged relationships with the smoking of a calumet, or peace pipe (as did some other tribes in Arkansas).


The Caddos Caddo head pot Clay, handbuilt Circa 1600 - 1700 C.E. (Historic Arkansas Museum, Henderson State University)

Salt was of particular use and interest for food preparation, preservation and trade, and the saline water in marshes in southern Arkansas where the Caddos resided provided a plentiful supply, extracted by boiling the water in clay pans. Caddoan pottery was often intricately and beautifully decorated, and you can view many examples of it in the holdings of the Arkansas Archeological Survey at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. As the Caddo population was reduced by encounters with Europeans carrying smallpox and measles and by battles with the Osages and some other tribes, they were forced out of Arkansas by the late 18th century and officially ceded their Arkansas land under pressure in an 1835 treaty. They moved first to Texas and then to Oklahoma near the town of Binger, where the Caddo tribal rolls currently number about 5,000. The rotating site of the annual Caddo Conference ( is often held in Arkansas, with many exhibits and sessions open to the public.

Histories of the Tribes Quapaw

The quapaws The 17th-century Quapaw village of Osotouy, by Kugee Supernaw. (Courtesy of Quapaw Tribe)


uapaw land stretched on both the east and west banks of the Mississippi River when the Marquette-Jolliet expedition from Canada first encountered members of this tribe in 1673. According to accounts from the explorers, the French were invited to the village of Kappa, some miles north of the mouth of the Arkansas River, and were offered a calumet, or peace pipe, to smoke, an important ceremony for forging alliances. The French called the Quapaws the “Arkansas,” the Illini word for “People of the South Wind,” and so named the river and the countryside after them. Trade with the French became common for the tribe, and in 1686, a fur dealer named Henri de Tonti established a trading post at the Quapaw village of Osotouy in order to buy pelts from them. Now, the area is home to the Arkansas Post National Memorial near Gillett, run by the National Park Service. The memorial sometimes hosts events involving the Quapaw Tribe, who educate attendees about their history, beliefs and rituals.

Quapaw community was based around the family, a number of which were grouped into clans through the male line. The clans were divided into two groups, the Sky People and Earth People, each practicing related rituals, the former attending to spiritual concerns and the latter to material well-being. The Quapaws also believed in a force called Bradley human effigy vessel, Quapaw, Wakondah, which held everything in balance. (University of Arkansas Museum Collections)

Sedentary farmers, they grew corn, beans, squash, gourds and tobacco. Women were in charge of gardening, and butchered and prepared the hides of animals such as deer, bear and buffalo, which men took in hunting. Men waged war, hunted, fished and conducted community affairs in large “longhouses,”

Arkansea 1700, by Charles Banks Wilson.

constructed of parallel rows of poles connected in an arch and covered with bark. By the beginning of the 19th century, disease and war had reduced the number of Quapaws Robe called “the three villages.” Quapaw people. United States, to around 500, or Arkansas. Mid-18th century. Painted buffalo hide. (Musée du quai Branly) perhaps half the count of white settlers. That population pressure on the tribe led to two forced treaties with the United States, in 1818 and 1824, by which their territory was reduced to a fraction and eventually consisted of a reservation in northeastern Louisiana. Suffering under difficult conditions of severe weather and starvation there, many Quapaws returned to Arkansas and pressed claims against the government for possession of their homeland. Finally, with few options and little power to wield, they signed a treaty in 1833 that granted them reservation land in Indian Territory. The current tribal administration, now led by an elected group called the Quapaw Business Council, is based in the northeastern Oklahoma town of Quapaw. 17

Histories of the Tribes


Osage Native Americans, Lithograph by Luther L. Brand 1820-1840 (Historic Arkansas Museum)


The Osage village (Arkansas Archeological Survey)

hough they primarily resided in present-day southern Missouri, the Osages frequently made hunting forays into northern Arkansas and were fiercely defensive about protecting their land. As was the case with the Quapaws, the Osage tribe was a member of the Siouan language family, acknowledged a spirit force called Wakondah, divided its population into Sky People and Earth People, and organized its society by clans through the father’s line. Their dwellings – long, rectangular structures with bark covering – were also similar to Quapaw longhouses.

Osage Woman’s “Prairie Thistle” outfit, early 1900s. The Prairie Thistle blanket was reserved for the prominent, and this blanket came from Chief/Mayor General Tinker’s family. The selvage (yellow and red stripes) is a traditional Osage design and is considered a symbol of wealth. (Museum of Native American History)

Once Euro-Americans began exploring areas where the Osages lived, the two groups began to engage in trade, and the tribe forged important alliances with the French and Spanish that allowed them to expand their sphere of influence. They supplied information about the land and other peoples to the Euro-Americans and in turn received goods, including horses and firearms, that allowed them to thrive militarily throughout the 18th century over other tribes. “While the Quapaws sought to accommodate and channel change,” writes historian Kathleen DuVal, “the Osages went looking for it.” This led to conflicts with the Cherokees of such violence that the government established Fort Smith in 1817 to quell the warring, a story told at the Fort Smith National Historic Site.

The tribe was divided into five groups, organized in separate villages, overseen by a group of elders called the Little Old Men. The process of becoming one of these elders was arduous and long, with instruction beginning in childhood.

Once the United States acquired the land of the Louisiana Purchase and sought further settlement rather than trade, Osage influence waned. In a series of treaties in the early 19th century, culminating in an 1825 pact, the Osages ceded their land to the government and moved to Oklahoma, though the tribe kept some Arkansas land north of the Arkansas River.

Hunting was an important ritual and sustaining activity, providing clothing, food and other valuable materials from the spoils. During the summer, Osage men, notable for the lone scalplock extending from their shaved heads, left their villages and ranged widely into Nebraska and Kansas to hunt buffalo. Women were responsible for gardening, gathering and storing nuts and plants, and providing utensils and furnishings for the home.

The latter part of the century saw the federal government pass measures to squelch Indian cultural heritage in general and restructure their societies more along Euro-American lines, and the Osages formed the Native American Church, a combination of Christian and traditional Native American beliefs.

Osage warrior of the Wha-sha-she band (a subdivision of Hunkah), by George Catlin in 1834.


The osages

The Osage Nation now has its government in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Histories of the Tribes

The cherokees Cherokee Floral Purse, 2008 by Lisa Rutherford (Sequoyah National Research Center)


Sequoyah with a tablet depicting his writing system for the Cherokee language. 19th-century print of a painting.

embers of the Cherokee tribe began to immigrate to areas of current-day Arkansas in the mid- to late 1700s, as Euro-American settlers began occupying their homeland in the areas comprising current-day western North and South Carolina, northern Georgia, northeastern Alabama, and northeastern Tennessee. This brought them into conflict with the Osages, who were already established there, but the Osage treaty of 1808 with the United States (in the aftermath of the Louisiana Purchase) ceded lands that would eventually be settled by the Cherokees. The founding of Fort Smith primarily arose as a way for the government to manage attacks on the Cherokees by the Osages. Historians estimate that by the early 1800s, as many as 3,000 Cherokees were living in the area along the St. Francis River in northeast Arkansas (and southeast Missouri), and along Illinois Bayou and the Arkansas River in Pope County. By that time, because of interaction with Europeans over the previous centuries, the Cherokees had adapted many of the practices of the white settlers, including subsistence farming, animal husbandry, and dress and shelter resembling American frontier life. Native customs, however, were still very important to the Cherokees, including the Green Corn ceremony, which united the sometime distant homesteads and villages. One famous Cherokee resident of Arkansas during this time was Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee syllabry.

The founding of Dwight Mission on Illinois Bayou demonstrated the Cherokees’ thirst for knowledge. John Jolly, a Cherokee leader and an advocate for education among the tribe, welcomed and facilitated the building of the mission community that grew to include some 36 structures, including mills, barns and residences, and served some 60 children by the time it closed in 1829. At that

Old Style Cherokee Stamped Bowl, 2004 by Sean Grayson (Sequoyah National Research Center) Cherokee Weaver, 2006 by Joan Brown (Sequoyah National Research Center)

time, the mission moved to present day Oklahoma as the tribe ceded land under a treaty in 1828. The site is marked now by a sign on Highway 64 at a boat ramp to Lake Dardandelle, which covered the site when it was created. A previous treaty between the Cherokees and Acting Governor Crittenden near what is known as Council Oak in Dardanelle had resulted in the surrender of all Cherokee lands south of the Arkansas River. That treaty ended significant occupation of the Cherokees in Arkansas, but their imprint on the state remains through the land’s place on the Trail of Tears, as well as their participation in the Civil War. The National Park Service’s site at Pea Ridge tells the story of Stand Watie, who led the Confederate 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles and commanded the regiment at the battle there. The park also has one of the best-preserved routes of the Trail of Tears, where Elkhorn Tavern stands. That tragic forced removal of the Eastern Cherokees to the west in 1838-39 brought many of the tribe to northeastern Oklahoma and the town of Tahlequah, where the tribal headquarters stands today. Subsequent allotment policies ended the pratice of holding land in common and the operation of the Cherokee Republic. Tribal leaders have sought to preserve and reinvigorate some of the traditions of the tribe lost or neglected during assimilation with Euro-American culture. 19

trail of tears Hundreds of Indian men, women and children were transported up the Arkansas River by steamboats in the 1830s. Among the last 288 Indians was the Cherokee Chief John Ross whose wife Quatie died on the journey and was buried in Little Rock at Mount Holly Cemetery. Watercolor by Robert Gantt Steele (La Petite Roche Plaza, Little Rock) National Historic Trail Marker

Trail of Tears Marker, Sebastian County


A Place Not Our Home, by Manyi-Ten, 1988 (Sequoyah National Research Center)

s a new state admitted to the union in 1836, with a long western border separating it from Indian Territory, Arkansas became an important throughway for the forced relocation of Native Americans who were traveling there, particularly during the winter of 1838-39. Though the conflicts over Indian land began almost as soon as the first European settlers arrived on the continent, the immediate origins of relocation began in 1830 when the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act (IRA) and President Andrew Jackson signed it into law. It provided for an “exchange of lands” with Indians in the east and decreed their “removal west of the river Mississippi.” Some Native Americans had voluntarily moved previously as settlers encroached in the east (a group of about 1,000 Cherokees moved to Arkansas in 1810-11), but after the IRA passed, government agents enforced the law. The tribes forcibly removed included the Choctaw from Mississippi, Muscogee Creeks from Alabama and Georgia, Chickasaw from Tennessee, Seminoles from Florida and Cherokees from the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee. A minority of Cherokees followed John Ridge, one of the architects of the Treaty of New Echota in 1835-36, which called for voluntary removal to Indian Territory within two years. (His wife, Sarah Ridge, moved to Fayetteville after his death, where her house, the oldest in Fayetteville, is still partly standing.)


Elkhorn Tavern, circa 1880s (Pea Ridge National Military Park)

When few Cherokees chose to move, the U.S. government sent soldiers to enforce the treaty and compel the tribe to undertake the journey west. After early tragic losses to disease on the water routes, John Ross, the Cherokee principal chief, petitioned to let the Cherokees control their own removal. Over the course of the winter of 1838-39, many hundreds of the 15,000 tribe members lost their lives en route. The Northern Route was followed by most Cherokees and eventually traversed southern Missouri and entered Arkansas on a road that passed Elkhorn Tavern in what is now Pea Ridge National Military Park before continuing south to Fayetteville and then west into Oklahoma and Tahlequah. A path farther south, the Benge Route, consisted of a detachment led by Cherokee leader John Benge and started in Alabama, headed north to near Cape Girardeau, Missouri, then dipped down into Arkansas through Batesville and across the north central part of the state along the White River to Fayetteville and beyond. The Bell Route followed the old Memphis to Little Rock military road through what is now Village Creek State Park in Wynne on to North Little Rock, Conway, Russellville and Evansville on the Oklahoma border. This detachment, headed by John Bell, was made up of 660 Cherokees who had favored the Treaty of New Echota and thus took a different path to Indian Territory than did the groups organized by John Ross.

The Bell detachment was disbanded in Arkansas on January 7, 1839, to avoid any encounters with the anti-treaty Cherokee detachments in the Indian Territory.

Historic Washington State Park in Hempstead County also has interpretive panels relating to the Choctaw.

In the 1830s, the Creek, Chickasaw and Choctaw also followed this route to the Indian Territory. A 2-mile trail in Village Creek State Park is an extended preserved stretch of the road, and the National Park Service has called it “the most dramatic remaining section of the Trail of Tears.” A historic marker in Marion, Arkansas, from 1931, believed to be the oldest site on the route, acknowledges the use of the military road as a means to transport Choctaw and Chickasaw tribe members to the Indian Territory. Other informational displays can be found in the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena and the Village Creek State Park visitors’ center.

Scholarship and research on the Trail of Tears in Arkansas is ongoing. The Trail of Tears Association is headquartered in Little Rock and works with the Cherokee Nation, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail and the National Park Service to uncover new information and extend interpretation. The Sequoyah Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has an enormous collection of documents related to removal. Extensive driving directions for following the various routes of the Trail of Tears and more information can be found through the Arkansas Heritage Trails division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism at

While most Cherokees traveled the Northern Route, the contingent carrying John Ross’s family took the Water Route, which included a journey up the Arkansas River from its mouth at the Mississippi. His wife, Elizabeth (or Quatie), died on a steamboat and was buried in Little Rock. A memorial to her stands in the city’s Mount Holly Cemetery. The Water Route also was traveled by other removed Indians, including the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole, and many of them passed through Little Rock and the north bank of the river; interpretive markers now line North Little Rock’s Riverfront Park, explaining the route.

Through the work of many who wish to honor those who suffered and help inform those who wish to learn about this painful history, Arkansas provides a rich, moving and educational experience of the Trail of Tears. Trail of Tears, Village Creek State Park

Trail of Tears map





Cape Girardeau



north carolina

tennessee Charleston



Arkan sas Riv Fort er


Little Rock

Memphis i ver


Fayetteville Evansville

M issis si p pi R


mississippi Trail of T Tears ears N National ational Historic Trail:


Land Route

Te nness ee

south carolina

Chattanooga Riv er

Fort Payne

alabama Water Route

New w Echota

georgia Other ther Major Major Routes

Historic Washington State Park

Delta Cultural Center, Helena-West Helena


A timeline of arkansas's first peoples

Nodena pottery, 1400-1600 (Hampson Archeological Museum State Park)

Dalton point examples (Arkansas Archeological Survey) Mastodon skeleton replica based on bones dating ca. 10,000 BC (Arkansas State University Museum)

7000-2500 BC 2000-500 BC

8500 BC Around

11,650 BC Small groups of hunters and gatherers archeologists call Paleoindians settle in what is now eastern Arkansas.


In response to the end of the “ice age,” the Dalton culture adapts to the new environment, developing the Dalton point, a sharpened stone used for hunting as part of a stickand-dart hurling weapon. It also is responsible for the oldest cemetery in the Western Hemisphere in Greene County, Arkansas, at the Sloan site.

As the climate began to warm from the “ice age,” changes in the environment led Archaic Period Indians in Arkansas to cultivate plants, refine hunting strategies and fashion tools. There’s some evidence that they also built mounds and engaged in trade with resources like novaculite.

The Poverty Point culture in what is now Arkansas and northern Louisiana begins to establish trade networks and introduced new crafts, including effigy beads.

600 BC

At the beginning of what archeologists designate the Woodland Period, extending to approximately AD 1000, the manufacture of pottery, fired from clay, aids in the cooking and storage of food, which people learned to domesticate during the Archaic Period. 7.75” Dalton point made from novaculite 6000-7800 BC (Museum of Native American History)

500 BC-AD 500

The Marksville culture, with evidence at a site near Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, practices burial rituals and ceremonial commemoration of the dead.

a timeline of arkansas's First peoples

Plum Bayou Garden at Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park grows squash, sunflowers, beans and other plants cultivated by Native Americans over 1000 years ago.

Arrowheads (Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park)

AD 500 The bow and arrow begins to replace the spear for hunting.

Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, Scott

AD 650–1050

Native Americans known as the Plum Bayou Indians near Scott, Arkansas, build flattopped mounds for ceremonial gatherings of widely scattered groups. These mounds, excavated and preserved as Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, were surrounded by an embankment and ditch, and were arranged to align with the solstice and equinox. The state park hosts special programs at those times for contemporary visitors to experience what those who built them did. For unknown reasons, the inhabitants left the site in 1050 AD.

In the Mississippi Era, communities of Indians all across the Southeast construct large towns with highly developed trade and economic structures, cultivation of maize and strong leaders. This society can be experienced at Parkin Archeological State Park, where excavations revealed a fortified city with dozens of houses. Scholars believe this site may be Casqui, mentioned in accounts of Hernando de Soto’s explorations of the area in 1541, the first European to arrive in the region. In southwest Arkansas (as well as nearby Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma), the Caddo culture was also developing skills in pottery, salt making and mound building.

ad 900-1600

Casqui village re-creation The Spaniards traded tiny chevron glass beads made of seven layers of glass. This bead was found on the Parkin site.

Hernando de Soto by Telfer and Sartain, engraved before 1858.

French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet encounter members of the Quapaw tribe on the Mississippi River who take them to their town on Kappa, a few miles north of where the Arkansas River flows into the Mississippi. There, they fed the French party with dishes made of corn and shared with them a calumet, or peace pipe.

Explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who reached Arkansas in 1682 and stopped with his men at the Quapaw village of Kappa, a settlement located on the Mississippi River approximately 20 miles south of the mouth of the White River.

1673 1542 De Soto dies in present-day Arkansas. His two-year expedition across the region introduced catastrophic diseases and provoked conflicts with the native peoples. It would be 131 years before another European explorer would venture to the area, but the written records de Soto and his company left behind would end the prehistoric and begin the historic era in Arkansas.

1682 The Quapaws welcome to Kappa the French explorer La Salle, with whom they attempt to establish trade.

Jacques Marquette addressing the Quapaw Indians in June 1673, while fellow explorer Louis Jolliet looks on; taken from John Hugh Reynolds’ Makers of Arkansas History. Statue of Father Jacques Marquette in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County) commemorating the Marquette-Joliet Expedition; 2012.


a timeline of arkansas's First peoples Osage traders, by Charles Banks Wilson. Henri de Tonti, Portrait by Ben Brantly, 1935 (Arkansas History Commission)

16th-century drawing from Florentine Codex, depicting smallpox outbreak.

Henri de Tonti, a French fur trader, founds a post at the mouth of the Arkansas River.


After an original encounter with de Soto’s expedition, the next meeting of the Europeans and the Caddos was with Frenchman Henri Joutel, whose party found communities on the Red River and near present-day Camden, Arkansas.

The Osages, based primarily south of the Missouri River but with extended hunting grounds in Arkansas, acquire their own French trading post.

1722 1690 1700

1687 Speakers of the Tunican language who had lived in southeast Arkansas move to the Yazoo River in Mississippi.


Depiction of Arkansas Post in 1689, copied from the original by Annie Hatley in 1904. (Arkansas History Commission)

Because of smallpox and other diseases carried by the French, the Quapaw population drops from 5,000 to 2,000 in 20 years.

The French transfer the Louisiana territory to the Spanish in the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War.


Osage cession map, June 1808 (Arkansas History Commission)

The New Madrid earthquakes strike northeastern Arkansas, killing an unknown number of Native Americans. Shawnee chief Techumseh is said to have prophesied the event.

Arkansas Quapaws, with a population of 400 and under pressure from incursion by settlers, sell to the U.S. 90 percent of the land they claimed in 1803.

1817 1811-1812

1808 1790s 1803 The Cherokees, ousted from the Carolinas and the surrounding area by encroaching settlement from Europeans, begin to move to Arkansas, eventually occupying land near Russellville and Dardanelle.

The U.S. acquires the Louisiana territory.

Osage chief Pawhuska signs a treaty with the U.S., despite internal tribal strife, ceding land between the Arkansas and Missouri rivers.

The government establishes a reservation for the Cherokees in Arkansas, on land the Osages ceded, against the Osage understanding of the treaty of 1808, exacerbating conflict between the tribes. Also in 1817, the U.S. founds Fort Smith, with the purpose of preventing battles among the Indian tribes.

1819 1818

The U.S. designates the lands of Arkansas as a separate territory.

Quapaw treaty, November 15, 1824 (Arkansas History Commission)

Louisiana Purchase Marker, Louisiana Purchase State Park, Brinkley


a timeline of arkansas's First peoples The Cherokee Phoenix was an early publication to use the Cherokee syllabary. Front page May 21, 1828

Sequoyah, who developed a writing system for the Cherokee language, moved to Arkansas in 1824, living in the vicinity of Ilinois Bayou in Pope County before moving west of Fort Smith in 1828.

1820 Dwight Mission, near the Arkansas River on Illinois Bayou, is established to provide education and religious services for the Cherokee.

The U.S., which had taken Osage land in Arkansas and Missouri in the 1810s, establishes an Osage reservation in Kansas.

Non-Indian settlers in Arkansas number 30,000, more than doubling that population in a decade. The U.S. Congress passes the Indian Removal Act.


1825 Arkansas Cherokees removed to Indian Territory.


1835 1830

Pressured by increasing incursion by settlers on the Red River, the Caddos sell their remaining land to the U.S.

Trail of Tears, Village Creek State Park, Wynne

The Arkansas territorial government, with the cooperation of the federal government, forces Quapaws to cede remaining land, provoking them to move farther south to Louisiana.

Dwight Mission (Arkansas History Commission)


Markers and monuments, Cherokee Village, Arkansas (Arkansas History Commission)

Cherokee spoons (University of Arkansas Museum Collections)


Indian lacrosse players, U.S. Arsenal, Little Rock, 1870. (Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute)

A harsh winter and disease-ridden conditions among the Cherokees lead to hundreds of deaths on the route west, known later as the Trail of Tears, through Arkansas and other states to Indian Territory.

1838-39 The eastern Cherokees’ resistance to the Indian Removal Act and the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, which gave the tribe members two years in which to voluntarily move, ends with expulsion from their land in the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee under military force.

Having suffered from crop failures and hostile white residents in Texas, the Caddos move to a reservation in Indian Territory.


John Ross, Cherokee chief (October 3, 1790 - August 1, 1866)

When Texas becomes a state, the Caddos are granted a reservation on the Brazos River.

John Ross, also known as Koo-wi-s-gu-wi, was Principal Chief under the Cherokee Nation Constitution of 1839, serving from 1839 until his death in 1866. During his service to the Cherokee people in that role, he witnessed devastation by both the Indian removals and the U.S. Civil War.

Cherokee Wooden “Booger” mask, carved from eastern cedar (Juniper) in the 18th century. It was abandoned by its Cherokee owners on the trek to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. Booger masks portray and mock bad-mannered people. (Museum of Native American History)


Unidentified Native Americans work with leather, undated. (UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture)

1879-1884 Edward Palmer and Edwin Curtiss excavate Native American archeological sites in northeast Arkansas for the Smithsonian Institution and Peabody Museum at Harvard University, respectively, removing thousands of artifacts in the process.

1887 The Dawes Act, or Indian Allotment Act, passes in the U.S. Congress, dividing tracts of Indian land into individual parcels and assigning them to families, thus breaking up large communally held properties.

1934 After years of policies from the federal government designed to promote assimilation, the Indian Reorganization Act was passed to reverse those measures and aid tribal autonomy and civil rights.

Drawing by Henry Jackson Lewis (freed slave), published May 26, 1883 in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. (Arkansas History Commission)

Osage Club, ca. 1850s The cutout in the handle could be of French influence. The club is carved from a solid piece of wood and decorated with green paint and brass tacks. (Museum of Native American History)


a timeline of arkansas's First peoples Charlie Quapaw (UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture)

The Menard-Hodges site in Arkansas County near Lake Dumond, believed to once have been a Quapaw village, is dedicated as a National Historic Landmark.

Group of Native Americans from Indian Territory stand outside of the reserve in Fort Smith, Arkansas, 1884. (UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture)

1964 The Parkin site in Cross County, now the Parkin Archeological State Park, is designated a National Historic Landmark. Parkin Archeological State Park



Arkansas Act 59 protects archeological sites on state lands.

The Toltec mounds site, now the Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park in Lonoke County, gains National Historic Landmark status.

Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, Scott




Arkansas Act 753 makes it illegal to dig for remains and grave items such as pottery on Indian burial grounds and to sell the excavated items. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article, December 28, 1986

The Eaker site in Mississippi County is designated as a National Historic Landmark. It is considered the largest and most intact Late Mississippian Nodena site in the central Mississippi valley.


present day

Exploration and research into Native American culture continues today around the country. In Arkansas, the collections of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Sequoyah National Research Center constitute the largest assemblage of Native American expression in the world.

resources, Credits

Information on Native American Heritage in Arkansas was compiled from the following sources:

organizations and Websites


American Indian Center of Arkansas ( Arkansas Archeological Survey

DuVal, Kathleen, The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006)

Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

Sabo III, George, Paths of Our Children: Historic Indians of Arkansas (Fayetteville, Ark.: Arkansas Archeological Survey, 1992, revised ed. 2001)

(, a division of the University of Arkansas System ( and

Hampson Archeological Museum State Park


Lake Dardanelle State Park ( Parkin Archeological State Park ( Petit Jean State Park ( Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park ( Village Creek State Park ( Arkansas History Commission ( Arkansas Post National Memorial ( Arkansas State University Museum ( Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute ( The Department of Arkansas Heritage ( The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture (, a project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System

Fort Smith National Historic Site ( Historic Arkansas Museum ( Museum of Native American History ( Pea Ridge National Military Park ( Sequoyah National Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Sabo III, George and Deborah Sabo, eds., Rock Art in Arkansas (Fayetteville, Ark.: Arkansas Archeological Survey, 2005)

Individuals Dr. Paul Austin, Executive Director, Arkansas Humanities Council Lois Bethards, Executive Director, American Indian Center of Arkansas Dr. Jamie Brandon, Research Station Archeologist, Arkansas Archeological Survey Rebecca L. Brave, Cultural Program Coordinator and Librarian, Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center, Osage Nation Troy Poteete, Executive Director, Trail of Tears Association

Tribes Caddo Nation of Oklahoma ( Cherokee Nation ( Osage Nation ( Quapaw Tribe (Oh-Gah-Pah) of Oklahoma (

photo credits: Front Cover: Stouts Point on Petit Jean Mountain, photography by Josue Enriquez Introduction Page: The Little Red River and Sugarloaf Mountain Charlie Quapaw (UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture) Making of a Cherokee Basket by Virginia Stroud, 2005 (Sequoyah National Research Center) Head Effigy Vessel (Hampson Archeological State Park) Native American Percussion Instruments (Arkansas State University Museum)

(, Dr. Daniel F. Littlefield, Director

Trail of Tears Association ( Trail of Tears National Historic Trail ( University of Arkansas Museum, Fayetteville ( The Washington County Historical Society (

This booklet is not meant to be a comprehensive resource of Native American sites, information and history in Arkansas, but a selection – and a place to begin. The visitor is encouraged to further pursue the subject by exploring in depth the places identified here. Also, sign on to


Native American Heritage in Arkansas  
Native American Heritage in Arkansas