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Subject: Battle of Arkansas Post (American Revolutionary War), Ribbon work, Quapaw Indian Agency, Arkansas, Mary Castle
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Quapaw beadwork, ca. 1900s
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( Oklahoma)
English, Quapaw language[2]
Christianity (Roman Catholicism), traditional tribal religion, Big Moon and Little Moon Native American Church
Related ethnic groups
Osage, Omaha, Ponca, Kansa
Quapaw "Three Villages" Robe, Arkansas, 18th century. Musée du quai Branly

The Quapaw (or Arkansas) people are a tribe of Midwestern Native Americans who from the 17th century resided on the west side of the Mississippi River in what is now the state of Arkansas. The territory and state were named for them, as Europeans first learned their name as the Arkansea, the term used by the Algonquian-speaking Illini people. They are among the Siouan-speaking peoples west of the Mississippi.

The Quapaw are federally recognized as the Quapaw Tribe of Indians. Since removal in 1834, their tribal base has been in present-day Oklahoma. The number of members enrolled in the tribe is 3,240.[1]


The Quapaw Tribe of Indians are headquartered in Quapaw in Ottawa County, Oklahoma. The 13,000-acre (53 km2) Quapaw tribal jurisdictional area includes the Tar Creek Superfund site, which has been listed for clean-up of environmental hazards.

The Quapaw people elect a tribal council and the tribal chairman, who serves a two-year term. The governing body of the tribe is outlined in the governing resolutions of the tribe, which are a series of resolutions voted upon and approved in 1956 so that the tribe would have a written form of government (prior to 1956 the Quapaw Tribe operated on a chief system).[3] The Chairman is John L. Berrey.[1] Of the 3,240 enrolled tribal members, 892 live in the state of Oklahoma. Membership in the tribe is based on lineal descent.[4]

The tribe operates a Tribal Police Department and a Fire Department, which handles both fire and EMS calls. They issue their own tribal vehicle tags and have their own housing authority.[1]

Economic development

The tribe owns two smoke shop and motor fuel outlets; known as the Quapaw C-Store and Downstream Q-Store.[5]

They have two casinos, the Quapaw Casino and the Downstream Casino Resort, both located in Quapaw; these generate most of the revenue for the tribe.[6][7] In 2012 the Quapaw Tribe's annual economic impact was measured at more than $225,000,000.[7] They also own and operate the Eagle Creek Golf Course and resort, located in Loma Linda, Missouri.[8]


The traditional linguist James Owen Dorsey, in 1940 by Frank T. Siebert, and, in the 1970s, by linguist Robert Rankin.[1]

Classes in the Quapaw language are taught at the tribal museum.[9] An online audio lexicon of the Quapaw language created by breaking apart old recordings of Elders is available on the website Quapaw Tribal Ancestry.[2]

Other efforts at language preservation and revitalization are being undertaken. The Quapaw participated in the 1st Annual Dhegiha Gathering in 2011. The [10] The Annual Dhegiha Gathering was held in 2012 also at Downstream Casino.[11]

Cultural heritage

The Quapaws host cultural events throughout the year, held primarily at the tribal museum. These include Indian dice games, traditional singing, and classes in traditional arts, such as finger weaving, shawl making, and flute making. In addition, Quapaw language classes are held there.[12]

Fourth of July

The Quapaw hold an annual dance during the weekend of the Fourth of July. This dance started shortly after the American Civil War,[13] 2011 was the 139th anniversary of this dance.[14] Common features of this powwow include gourd dance, war dance, stomp dance, and 49s. This weekend is also when the tribe convenes the annual general council meeting, during which important decisions regarding the policies and resolutions of the Quapaw tribe are voted upon by tribal members over the age of eighteen.


The Quapaw tribe (known as Ugahxpa in their own language) are believed to have migrated from the Ohio River valley after 1200 CE, pushed from the pressure of wars by invading Iroquois from the north. The powerful Iroquois were seeking new hunting grounds, and pushed out the Siouan peoples by the 15th century.[15] They arrived at their historical territory, the area of the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers, by the mid-17th century. The state of Arkansas was named after the Quapaw, who were called Akansea or Akansa, meaning "land of the downriver people", by the Illini and other Alonguian-speaking peoples. This exonym was adopted by the French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, who had first encountered the Illini; latecomers adopted the name used by the French.

During years of colonial rule of New France, many of the French fur traders and voyageurs had an amicable relationship with the Quapaw, as with many other trading tribes.[16] Many Quapaw women and French men married and had families together. Pine Bluff, Arkansas, was founded by Joseph Bonne, a man of Quapaw-French ancestry.

French colonists established settlements in South Arkansas, as it was first part of New France. Écore Fabre (Fabre's Bluff) was started as a trading post by the Frenchman Fabre and was one of the first European settlements in South Central Arkansas. While the area was ruled by the Spanish from 1763-1789, following French defeat in the Seven Years' War, they did not have as many colonists in the area. Écore Fabre was renamed Camden, after increased American settlement following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. English speakers stumbled over French names: Chemin Couvert (French for "covered way or road") was later mispronounced "Smackover" by Anglo-Americans. They used this name for a local creek. Founded by the French, Le Petit Rocher was translate into English and renamed by Americans as Little Rock after the territory passed into United States control.

Numerous spelling variations have been recorded in accounts of tribal names, reflecting both loose spelling traditions, and the effects of transliteration into the variety of European languages used in the area. In addition, some sources listed Ouachita as a Choctaw word, whereas others list it as a Quapaw word. Either way, the spelling reflects transliteration into French.

The following passages are taken from the public domain Catholic Encyclopedia, written early in the 20th century. It describes the Quapaw from the non-native perspective of that time.

"A tribe now nearly extinct, but formerly one of the most important of the lower Mississippi region, occupying several villages about the mouth of the Arkansas, chiefly on the west (Arkansas) side, with one or two at various periods on the east (Mississippi) side of the Mississippi, and claiming the whole of the Arkansas River region up to the border of the territory held by the Osage in the north-western part of the state. They are of Siouan linguistic stock, speaking the same language, spoken also with dialectic variants, by the Osage and Kansa (Kaw) in the south and by the Omaha and Ponca in Nebraska. Their name properly is Ugakhpa, which signifies "down-stream people", as distinguished from Umahan or Omaha, "up-stream people". To the Illinois and other Algonquian tribes, they were known as 'Akansea', whence their French name of Akensas and Akansas. According to concurrent tradition of the cognate tribes, the Quapaw and their kinsmen originally lived far east, possibly beyond the Alleghenies, and, pushing gradually westward, descended the Ohio River -- hence called by the Illinois the "river of the Akansea" – to its junction with the Mississippi, whence the Quapaw, then including the Osage and Kansa, descended to the mouth of the Arkansas, while the Omaha, with the Ponca, went up the Missouri."
A map showing the de Soto expedition route through Mississippi, and Arkansas, up to the point de Soto dies. Based on the Charles M. Hudson map of 1997.

Early European contact

The Quapaw first encountered Europeans in 1541, when they met the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. He led an expedition that came across their chief town, between the Mississippi River and a lake on the Arkansas (west) side, apparently in present-day Phillips County. His party describe the village as strongly palisaded and nearly surrounded by a ditch. archaeological remains and local conditions bear out the description. He recorded the people as the Capaha or Pacaha.

The first encounter was reported as hostile, but the parties arranged peace. The town was described as having a population of several thousand. They were free of interference by Europeans for more than 130 years. In 1673, the Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette, accompanied the French commander Louis Jolliet in making his famous voyage down the Mississippi. He reportedly went to the villages of the Akansea, who gave him warm welcome and listened with attention to his sermons, while he stayed with them a few days. In 1682 La Salle passed by their villages, then five in number, of which one was on the east bank of the Mississippi. The Recollect father, Zenobius Membré, accompanying La Salle, planted a cross and attempted to give the American Indians some idea of the Christians' God.

The commander negotiated a peace with the tribe and formally "claimed" the territory for France. The Quapaw were uniformly kind and friendly toward the French. In spite of frequent shiftings, the Quapaw villages in this early period were generally reported as four in number. They corresponded in name and population to four sub-tribes still existing, viz. Ugahpahti, Uzutiuhi, Tiwadimañ, and Tañwañzhita, or, under their French transliterations: Kappa, Ossoteoue, Touriman, and Tonginga.

In 1683 the French commander, Tonti, built a post on the Arkansas, near its mouth, later known as the Arkansas Post. This began European occupation of the Quapaw country. Tonti arranged also for a resident Jesuit missionary, but apparently without result. About 1697 a smallpox epidemic killed the greater part of the women and children of two villages. In 1727 the Jesuits, from their house in New Orleans, again took up the missionary work. In 1729 the Quapaw allied with the French against the Natchez, resulting in the practical extermination of the Natchez.

The French relocated the Arkansas Post upriver, trying to avoid flooding. After losing to the British in the Seven Years' War, France ceded its North American territories. Britain exchanged territory with Spain, which took over "control" of Arkansas. It built new forts to protect its valued trading post with the Quapaw.

19th century

Shortly after the transfer of the territory to the United States in 1803 by the Louisiana Purchase, the Quapaw were officially reported as living in three villages on the south side of Arkansas River about twelve miles (19 km) above Arkansas Post. In 1818, they made their first treaty with the US government, ceding all claims from the Red River to beyond the Arkansas and east of the Mississippi.

They kept a considerable tract between the Arkansas and the Saline, in the south-eastern part of the state. Under continued US pressure, in 1824 they ceded this also, excepting 80 acres (320,000 m2) occupied by the chief Saracen (Sarrasin) below Pine Bluff. They expected to incorporate with the Caddo of Louisiana, but were refused permission. Successive floods in the Caddo country near the Red River pushed many toward starvation, and they wandered back to their old homes.

In 1834, under another treaty, they were removed from the Mississippi valley areas to their present location in the north-east corner of Oklahoma, then Indian Territory.

Sarrasin (alternate spelling Saracen), their last chief before the removal, was a Roman Catholic and friend of the Lazarist missionaries (Congregation of the Missions), who had arrived in 1818. He died about 1830 and is buried adjoining St. Joseph's Church, Pine Bluff, where a memorial window preserves his name. The pioneer Lazarist missionary among the Quapaw was Rev. John M. Odin, later the Archbishop of New Orleans.

In 1824 the Jesuits of Maryland, under Father Charles Van Quickenborne, took up work among the native and immigrant tribes of present-day Kansas and Oklahoma. In 1846 the Mission of St. Francis was established among the Osage, on Neosho River, by Fathers John Shoenmakers and John Bax, who extended their services to the Quapaw for some years. The Quapaw together with the associated remnant tribes, the Miami, Seneca, Wyandot and Ottawa, were served from the Mission of "Saint Mary of the Quapaws", at Quapaw, Oklahoma. Historians estimated their number at European encounter as 5000. The Catholic Encyclopedia noted they had suffered from epidemics, wars, removals, and social disruption. It documented their numbers as 3200 in 1687, 1600 in 1750, 476 in 1843, and 307 in 1910, including all mixed bloods.

Peter Clabber, Principal Chief of Quapaws, 1905

Kinship, religion and culture

Besides the four established divisions already noted, the Quapaw have the clan system, with a number of gentes. Polygamy was practiced, but was not common. Like their relatives, the Osage, Quapaws had a complex religion. They were agricultural. Their towns were palisaded. Their town houses, or public structures, constructed with timbers dovetailed together and bark roofs, were commonly erected upon large manmade mounds to guard against the frequent flooding. Their ordinary houses were rectangular and long enough to accommodate several families.

The Quapaw dug large ditches, and constructed fish weirs to manage their food supply. They excelled in pottery and in the painting of hide for bed covers and other purposes. The dead were buried in the ground, sometimes in mounds or in the clay floors of their houses, being frequently strapped to a stake in a sitting position and then covered with earth. They were friendly to the Europeans, while warring with the Chickasaw and other Southeastern tribes over resources and trade.

20th century

Quapaws moccasins, ca. 1900, Oklahoma History Center

By the early 20th century, their modern descendants were described as "fairly prosperous farmers, retaining little of their former habit or belief."

Of the Quapaw language proper, which belongs to the Siouan language family, little was recorded beyond some brief vocabularies and word lists. In the early 20th century, an account noted that the Dhegiha language, a branch of Siouan including the "dialects" of the Omaha, Ponca, Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw, has received more extended study. Rev. J.O. Dorsey published material about it under the auspices of the Bureau of American Ethnology, now part of the Smithsonian Institution.[17]

Natural Steps, Arkansas

The Pinnacle Mountain Community Post wrote in 1991, "Concerning the first Natural Steps inhabitants, the University of Arkansas Museum, in 1932, excavated several Indian burials near the site. In the report, entitled "The Kinkead-Mainard Site, 3PU2: A Late Prehistoric Quapaw Phase Site Near Little Rock, Arkansas", Michael P. Hoffman writes, 'The site represents the only scientific excavation conducted by the University of Arkansas between the mouth of the Arkansas River and Oklahoma in which detailed information of the Mississippian period is known... An hypothesis which developed quite early in my contact with Kinkead-Mainard site materials was that the site was one of the Quapaw phase...'"

The Arkansas Gazette wrote on April 17, 1979 that, "There was an archeological dig (in 1932) from the University of Arkansas working near the Natural Steps (Natural Steps, Arkansas). They found bodies of three Indians who had been buried there. They were buried sitting up." Pottery and other artifacts were found during the dig in the 1930s.

On August 26, 1999, the National Park Service wrote: "In 1932, human remains representing a minimum of 19 individuals were recovered from the Kinkead-Mainard site (3PU2), Pulaski County, Arkansas during excavations conducted by the University Museum. No known individuals were identified. The 117 associated funerary objects include ceramic vessels, ceramic sherds, a clay ball, lithic debris, copper beads, a copper band, a copper nugget, pigment, animal bones, a tortoise carapace, an antler pendant, antler projectile points, bone awls, shell beads, a mussel shell, and leather fragments."

"Based on the associated funerary objects, and skeletal and dental morphology, these human remains have been identified as Native American. Based on ceramic styles and construction, this site has been identified as a manifestation of the Menard Complex during the protohistoric period (1500-1700 AD). French historical documents from 1700 indicate only the Quapaw tribe had villages in the area of the Kinkead-Mainard site. In 1818, the Quapaw ceded the central Arkansas River valley, including the Kinkead-Mainard site, to the United States. Based on historical information and continuity of occupation, these human remains have been affiliated with the Quapaw Tribe of Indians, Oklahoma."[18]

Documentary film

The Quapaw tribal jurisdictional area includes the Tar Creek Superfund Site, which at one time was considered to be the worst environmental disaster in the country. This issue was keystone to the environmental documentary Tar Creek, made in 2009 by Matt Myers. Tar Creek tells the full story of the Tar Creek Superfund Site and discusses the environmental and governmental racism that led to the creation of this disaster, at the center of which are the Quapaw.

Notable Quapaw people

See also


  1. ^ a b c d 2011 Oklahoma Indian Nations Pocket Pictorial Directory, Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, 2011: 30. Retrieved 28 Jan 2012.
  2. ^ "Quapaw." Ethnologue. Retrieved 28 Jan 2012.
  3. ^ "Quapaw Tribe Governing Resolutions."
  4. ^ "Quapaw Enrollment."
  5. ^ "Quapaw Businesses." Quapaw tribal website. 2013 (retrieved 8 February 2013)
  6. ^ "Directions." Downstream Casino Resort. 2008 (retrieved 12 August 2010)
  7. ^ a b "Casino Pumps 1 Billion: Downstream Casino Economic Impact", Neosho Daily News, 19 January 2013 (retrieved 8 February 2013)
  8. ^ "Golf", Downstream Casino Resort website, 2013 (retrieved 8 February 2013)
  9. ^ "Quapaw language", Quapaw Tribal website, 2011 (retrieved 10 September 2011)
  10. ^ "Dhegiha Gathering", Dhegiha Gathering Article. 2011, Osage Tribe website (retrieved 10 September 2011)
  11. ^ "2nd Dhegiha Gathering." 2nd Dhegiha Gathering Notice. 2013, Quapaw Tribe website (retrieved 8 February 2013)
  12. ^ "Calendar", Quapaw Tribe Website, 2008 (retrieved 12 August 2010)
  13. ^ Baird, David (1975). The Quapaw People. Indian Tribal Series. 
  14. ^ "Powwows.", Tribal website. 2011 (retrieved 10 September 2011)
  15. ^ Louis F. Burns, "Osage" Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, retrieved 2 March 2009
  16. ^ Havard, Gilles (2003). Histoire de l'Amérique française. Paris: Flamarion. 
  17. ^ Pilling, Siouan Bibliography
  18. ^ Notice of Inventory Completion for Native American Human Remains and Associated Funerary Objects in the Possession of the University Museum, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas

External links

  • Quapaw Tribe, official website
  • Quapaw, Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture
  • The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma and The Tar Creek Project, EPA
  • Quapaw Indian Tribe History, Access Genealogy
  • Tar Creek, Tar Creek documentary website
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