Arkansas was home to Native Americans long before Europeans arrived. The first explorers met Indians whose ancestors had occupied the region for thousands of years. These were impressive and well-organized societies, to whom Europeans introduced new technologies, plants, animals, and diseases, setting in motion a process of population loss and cultural change that would continue for centuries.
Arkansas Indian Tribes
Arkansas Indian Tribes once numbered in the dozens. Many Arkansas tribes were relocated to Oklahoma.
Arkansas is actually from the name of an Indian tribe. At the time of the early French exploration, a tribe of Indians, the Quapaws, lived West of the Mississippi and north of the Arkansas River. The Quapaws, or OO-GAQ-PA, were also known as the downstream people, or UGAKHOPAG. The Algonkian-speaking Indians of the Ohio Valley called them the Arkansas, or “south wind.” The French Jesuits learned of a tribe probably called Quapaw, or Oo-gaq-pa, which the Algonquins pronounced Oo-ka-na-sa, and Marquette wrote Arkansoa; LaSalle wrote Arkensa; DeTonti, Arkancas; and LaHarpe, Arkansas. When the state was admitted to the Union in 1836, it was spelled Arkansas. During the early days of statehood, Arkansas’ two U.S. Senators were divided on the spelling and pronunciation. One was always introduced as the senator from “ARkanSAW” and the other as the senator from “Ar-KANSAS.” In 1881, the state’s General Assembly passed a resolution declaring that the state’s name should be spelled “Arkansas” but pronounced “Arkansaw.” The pronunciation, Ark-an-Saw, preserves the memory of the Indians who were the original inhabitants of our state, while the spelling clearly dictates the nationality of the French adventurers who first explored this area.
(Federal List Last Updated 5/16)
FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED TRIBES
STATE RECOGNIZED TRIBES(Not recognized by the Federal Governemnt)
UNRECOGNIZED / PETITIONING TRIBES
Nearly all the unrecognized tribes in Arkansas have been accused as “Suspected Fraudulent Organizations” by the American Indian Heritage Support Center.
Amonsoquath Tribe of Cherokee
Arkansas Band of Western Cherokee (formerly Western Arkansas Cherokee Tribe) Letter of Intent to Petition 04/07/1998
Arkansas Cherokee (also known as Chickamauga Cherokee of Arkansas) Letter of Intent to Petition 03/21/2008
Arkansas Cherokee Nation
Arkansas White River Cherokee (a.k.a. Chickamauga Cherokee Nation – White River Band). Letter of Intent to Petition 10/22/2003 (also in Florida)
Central Tribal Council. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/21/2003
Cherokee Nation West of Missouri & Arkansas (formerly Cherokee Nation West – Southern Band of the Eastern Cherokee Indians of Arkansas and Missouri). Letter of Intent to Petition 5/11/1998.(Arkansas and Missouri)
Cherokee-Choctaw Nation of St. Francis & Black Rivers. Letter of Intent to Petition 08/01/2006
Confederated Western Cherokees of Arkansas
Lost Cherokee of Arkansas & Missouri. Letter of Intent to Petition 02/10/1999; letter returned, marked “in dispute” between two different addresses,
Lost Cherokee of Arkansas and Missouri (I). Faction in Conway, AR.
Lost Cherokee of Arkansas and Missouri (II). Faction in Dover, AR
Neches Tribe – Cherokee Nation
Northern Cherokee Nation. Dissoved into three groups:
Chickamauga Cherokee Nation (I), also known as Chickamauga Cherokee Nation MO/AR White River Band and as White River Band of Northern Cherokee Nation of Missouri and Arkansas. Also in Missouri and Oklahoma. There is also a Chickamauga Cherokee Nation White River Band (II) in Oklahoma.
Northern Cherokee Nation of the Old Louisiana Territory. Letter of Intent to Petition 2/19/1992. Also in Missouri.
Kanasas (Awi Akta) District of NCNOLT.
Oklahoma (Ani Tsi Na) District of the NCNOLT Nation of Arkansas. Letter of Intent to Petition 9/17/1999.
Northern Cherokee Tribe of Indians of Missouri and Arkansas. Letter of Intent to Petition 07/26/1985. Also in Missouri.
The Arkansas Band of Western Cherokee (formerly Western Arkansas Cherokee Tribe). Letter of Intent to Petition 04/07/199
Old Settler Cherokee
Ozark Mountain Cherokee Tribe of Arkansas and Missouri. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/19/1999. (Arkansas and Missouri)
Red Nation of the Cherokee. Also in Kansas.
Revived Ouachita Indians of Arkansas and America. Letter of Intent to Petition 04/25/1990
Sac River and White River Bands of the Chickamauga-Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri Inc. (formerly Northern Chickamauga Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri) Letter of Intent to Petition 09/05/1991.(Arkansas and Missouri). Also see Alabama.
Western Cherokee of Arkansas/Louisiana Territories. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/05/2001.(Arkansas and Missouri)
Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri. Letter of Intent to Petition 05/01/1998.(Arkansas and Missouri)
FIRST CONTACT TO PRESENT
Tens of thousands of people were living in the area now known as Arkansas when the first Europeans arrived in the late sixteenth century. Two prominent groups in 1541 were the Parkin people and the Nodena people. The Parkin site was occupied from 1000 to 1550. Many artifacts exist from the Nodena site, established around 1350. However, the Nodena people and the Parkin people vanished shortly after the Spanish explorer De Soto passed through their territories in the summer of 1541, probably because of the spread of European diseases. It is also possible that there was a drought that had a negative impact on the native people. The next European observers to reach Arkansas, the expedition of Marquette and Joliet in 1673, saw almost no one along the Mississippi River in northeast Arkansas where many thousands had once lived. The first large villages they found were those of the “Akansea,” thought to be the ancestors of the modern Quapaw, who were living near the mouth of the Arkansas River. The Tunican people of southeast Arkansas may have escaped the epidemics because of their scant population and because the Spaniards did not go far into their territory. The Caddo people survived also, even though De Soto’s army spent many months among them. What saved them, apparently, was that they did not live in large towns where epidemics could spread quickly and easily. As the eastern lands were settled, more Indians moved to sparsely inhabited Arkansas. The Indians who lived here included the Folsom people, Bluff Dwellers, Mound Builders, Caddos, Quapaws, Osage, Choctaw and Cherokee. We still know very little about the years from 1541 to 1850, partly because very little archeology has been done on sites occupied during those years and partly because in Arkansas the first European contacts with the Indians were unusually sporadic and poorly documented. A full 130 years elapsed between the De Soto invasion and the expedition of Marquette and Joliet. When pioneer settlement began, the state’s major native groups were the southeastern Quapaws, the southwestern Caddos and the Osage, who visited the northwest to hunt. By 1835, those groups had been forced to leave, making way for settlers of European descent and for temporary resettlement of Native Americans driven from eastern states. In the late 1830s, members of eastern tribes crossed Arkansas as part of the forced exodus known as the Trail of Tears.
Tribes that are federally recognized today that are known to have had an historical association with the land we now call Arkansas, either as principle homes or hunting grounds, include:
Absentee-Shawnee Tribe, now headquartered in Shawnee, OK
Alabama-Quasartte Tribal Town, now headquartered in Wetumka, OK
Caddo Nation, now headquartered in Binger, OK
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, now headquartered in Tahlequah, OK
The Chickasaw Nation, now headquartered in Ada, OK
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, now headquartered in Durant, OK
The Delaware Nation, now headquartered in Anadarko, OK
Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma,, now headquartered in Jena, LA
Kialegee Tribal Town, now headquartered in Wetumka, OK
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, now headquartered in Choctaw, MS
Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, now headquartered in Okmulgee, OK
The Osage Nation, now headquartered in Pawhuska, OK
Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, now headquartered in Quapaw, OK
Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, now headquartered in Wewoka, OK
Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, now headquartered in Miami, OK
Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, headquartered in Okemah, OK
Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, headquartered in Marksville, LA
United Ketoowah Band of Cherokee, headquartered in Tahlequah, OK
Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, headquartered in Anadarko, OK
PRE-CONTACT ARKANSAS TRIBES
Caddo. These Indians are treated under the following heads: Adai and the Natchitoches Confederacy in Louisiana, Eyeish and the Hasinai Confederacy in Arkansas, and Kadohadacho Confederacy in Texas. Tribes of the Kadohadacho Confederacy are the only ones known to have lived in Arkansas.
Cahinnio. One of the tribes connected with the Kadohadacho Confederacy (See Texas)
Cherokee. Some Cherokee lived in this State while they were on their way from their old territories to Oklahoma, and a tract of land in northwestern Arkansas was granted them by treaty in 1817, which in 1828 they re-ceded to the United States Government. (See Tennessee.)
Chickasaw. Chickasaw passed through Arkansas on their way to Oklahoma but owned no land there. (See Mississippi.)
Choctaw. The Choctaw had a village on the lower course of Arkansas River in 1805 and they owned a large strip of territory in the western part of the State, granted to them by the treaty of Doak’s Stand, October 18, 1820. They surrendered the latter in a treaty concluded at Washington, January 20, 1825. (See Mississippi.)
Illinois. When Europeans first descended the Mississippi an Illinois division known as Michigamea, “Big Water”, was settled in northeastern Arkansas about a lake known by their name, probably the present Big Lake in Mississippi County. They had probably come from the region now embraced in the State of Illinois only a short time before, perhaps from a village entered on some maps as “the old village of the Michigamea.” Toward the end of the seventeenth century they were driven north again by the Quapaw or Chickasaw and united with the cognate Kaskaskia. (See Illinois.)
Kaskinampo. This tribe appears to have been encountered by De Soto in what is now the State of Arkansas in 1541. (See Tennessee.)
Michigamea. (See Illinois above.)
Mosopelea, (see Ofo.)
Ofo. If these are the Mosopelea, as it seems, they appear to have lived for a short time near the end of the seventeenth century in the neighborhood of the Quapaw on the lower course of Arkansas River before moving farther south. (See Mississippi.)
Osage. The Osage hunted over much of the northern, and particularly northwestern, part of Arkansas and claimed all lands now included in the State as far south as the Arkansas River. They ceded most of their claims to these to the United States Government in a treaty signed at Fort Clark, Louisiana Territory, in 1808, and the remainder by treaties at St. Louis, September 25, 1818, and June 2, 1825. (See Missouri.)
Quapaw. The Quapaw were one of the five tribes belonging to what J. O. Dorsey (1897) called the Cegiha division of the Siouan linguistic stock. They were known by some form of this word to the Omaha, Ponca, Kansa, Osage, and Creeks. Also called:
Akansa, or Arkansas, by the Illinois and other Algonquian Indians, a name probably derived from one of the Quapaw social subdivisions.
Beaux Hommes, a name given them by the French.
Bow Indians, so-called probably because the bow wood from the Osage orange came from or through their country.
Ima, by the Caddo, probably from one of their towns.
Papikaha, on Marquette’s map (1673)
Utsushuat, Wyandot name, meaning “wild apple,” and referring to the fruit of the Carica papaya.
The Quapaw were located near the mouth of Arkansas River. Before the French became acquainted with this tribe (in 1673) the Quapaw had lived on Ohio River above its junction with the Wabash, and that portion of the Ohio was known as Arkansas River by the Illinois from this circumstance. It was formerly thought that the Pacaha or Capaha met by De Soto in this part of Arkansas were the tribe in question, but it is not probable that they had left the Ohio then, and the name Capaha, the form on which the relationship is supposed to be established, is probably incorrect. In 1673 Marquette visited them and turned back at their towns without descending the Mississippi any farther. La Salle in 1682, Tonti in 1686, and all subsequent voyagers down and up the Mississippi mention them, and they soon became firm allies of French. Shortly after Marquette’s visit they were ravaged by pestilence and the Ukakhpakht and the village was moved farther downstream. A few years before 1700 the people of Tongigua moved across and settled with those of Tourima, and still later all of the towns moved from the Mississippi to the Arkansas. Le Page du Pratz (1758) encountered them about 12 miles above the entrance of White River. Sibley (1832) found them in 1805 on the south side of Arkansas River about 12 miles above Arkansas Post. By a treaty signed at St. Louis, August 24; 1818, the Quapaw ceded all their claims south of Arkansas River except a small territory between Arkansas Post and Little Rock, extending inland to Saline River. The latter was also given up in a treaty signed November 15, 1824, at Harrington’s, Arkansas Territory and the tribe agreed to live in the country of the Caddo. They were assigned by the Caddo a tract on Bayou Treache on the south side of Red River, but it was frequently overflowed, their crops were often destroyed, and there was much sickness, and in consequence they soon returned to their old country. There they annoyed the the white settlers so much that by a treaty signed May 13, 1833, the United States Government conveyed to them 150 sections of land in the extreme southeastern part of Kansas and the northeastern part of Indian Territory, to which they in turn agreed to move. February 23, 1867, they ceded their lands in Kansas and the northern part their lands in Indian Territory. In 1877 the Ponca were brought to the Quapaw Reservation for a short time, and when they removed went to their own reservation later west of the Osage most of the Quapaw went lands with them. Still later the lands of the Quapaw were allotted in severalty and are now citizens of Oklahoma.(See also Louisiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas.)
Tunica. From some names given by the chroniclers of De Soto it is probable that the Tunica or some tribes speaking their language were living in Arkansas in his time. In fact it is not unlikely that the Pacaha or Capaha, who have often been identified with the Quapaw, were one of these. In later historic times they camped in the northeastern part of Louisiana and probably in neighboring sections of Arkansas. (See Mississippi.)
Yazoo. Like the Tunica this tribe probably camped at times in northeastern Louisiana and southeastern Arkansas, but there is no direct evidence of the fact. (See Mississippi.)
PRE-HISTORIC CULTURES IN ARKANSAS
9500 BC – Archaeologists have found evidence that people were living in the area of the Mississippi River as early as 9500 BC.
5000 to 4000 BC – Native populations began to grow.
650 to 1050 A.D – The Plum Bayou people continued to live at the site until around 1050 AD, when it was abandoned for unknown reasons.
From evidence left in mounds and bluffs, including pottery and stone implements, we know that people have been living in the region that is now Arkansas for thousands of years. The ancestors of the Indians were first to inhabit the region. The abundant wildlife and fertile soil made the area a wonderful home for these people, who gradually developed from primitive hunter-gatherers living in caves to much more sophisticated farmers living in large permanent villages. One group, known as the Plum Bayou people, lived in east central Arkansas from 650 to 1050 A.D. They built eighteen platform burial mounds, some of which were aligned to coincide with celestial occurrences such as the summer solstice and fall and spring equinoxes. One of these mounds is 49 feet tall; five are still visible. The Plum Bayou people lived in permanent villages, built sturdy houses and farmed. They also gathered wild plant foods, fished and hunted. Artifacts found at the site include simple plain-ware ceramics and stone tools. The Plum Bayou people continued to live at the site until around 1050 AD, when it was abandoned for unknown reasons.
Sources of records on US Indian tribes
There have been many very notable and honored Chiefs that lived in the Arkansas Territory. Some have claimed Dangerous Man from the Cherokee legend of the Lost Cherokee resided in Arkansas for a time, however we will stick to what we know as fact, as that is usually the best policy when doing legitimate research.