Quapaw: Wikis


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Quapaw beadwork, ca. 1900s
Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States (Oklahoma)



Christianity (Roman Catholicism), traditional tribal religion

Related ethnic groups

Osage, Omaha, Ponca, Kansa

The Quapaw people are a tribe of Native Americans who historically resided on the west side of the Mississippi River in what is now the state of Arkansas. Today they live in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, where there is a 13,000-acre (53 km2) Quapaw tribal jurisdictional area, which includes the Tar Creek Superfund site.

Their language is of the Dhegiha branch of the Siouan language family. Although it is no longer commonly spoken, Quapaw is documented in fieldnotes from 19th-century linguist James Owen Dorsey, and, in the 1970s, by linguist Robert Rankin.



The Quapaw tribe (known as Ugahxpa in their own language) are believed to have migrated from the Ohio River valley after 1200 CE as a result of wars with invading Iroquois from the north.[1] They moved to 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 other Native Americans. This exonym was adopted by the French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet and others following. During years of colonial rule of New France, many of the French traders and voyageurs had an amicable relationship with the Quapaw, as with many other tribes.[2]. Many Quapaw women and French men married and had children together. Pine Bluff, Arkansas was founded by Joseph Bonne, a man of half-Quapaw and half-French ancestry.

French colonists were important in the history of 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. Later it was renamed Camden, after increased American settlement following the Louisiana Purchase. 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 became Little Rock after it passed into United States control following the Louisiana Purchase.

There were numerous variations in accounts of tribal names. Some sources listed Ouachita as a Choctaw word, whereas others list it as a Quapaw word. Either way, the word spelling reflects transliteration into French.

The Quapaw

The following passage is taken from the public domain Catholic Encyclopedia, written early in the twentieth-century. It describes the Quapaw from the 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.

The Quapaw, under the name of Capaha or Pacaha, 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.

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 Christian's God. The commander negotiated a peace with the tribe and took formal possession of the territory for France. Then, as always, 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 forms, Kappa, Ossoteoue, Touriman, and Tonginga.

In 1683 the French commander, Tonti, built a post on the Arkansas, near its mouth and the later 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 work. In 1729 the Quapaw allied with the French against the Natchez, resulting in the practical extermination of the Natchez.

Quapaws moccasins, ca. 1900, Oklahoma History Center

Shortly after the transfer of the territory to the United States in 1803, 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 Red River to beyond the Arkansas and east of the Mississippi, with the exception of a considerable tract between the Arkansas and the Saline, in the south-eastern part of the state. 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 about Red River pushed many toward starvation and they wandered back to their old homes. In 1834, under another treaty, they were removed to their present location in the north-east corner of Oklahoma. Sarrasin (alternate spelling Saracen), their last chief before the removal, was a Catholic and friend of the Lazarist missionaries (Congregation of the Missions) who 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, afterward 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 the present 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, are now served from the Mission of "Saint Mary of the Quapaws", at Quapaw, Oklahoma. From perhaps 5000 souls when first known they have dwindled by epidemics, wars, removals, and consequent demoralization to approximately 3200 in 1687, 1600 in 1750, 476 in 1843, and 307 in 1910, including all mixed bloods.

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 the kindred Osage they had a rich mythology and elaborate rituals. They were agricultural. When the Europeans first met them, they judged their architecture and general culture far in advance of that of the northern tribes. Their towns were palisaded. Their "town houses", or public structures, sometimes of timbers dovetailed together, and roofed with bark, were frequently erected upon large artificial mounds to guard against the frequent inundations. Their ordinary houses were rectangular, and long enough to accommodate several families each.

They dug large ditches, constructed fish weirs, and excelled in pottery and in the painting of skins 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 carefully covered with earth. They were uniformly friendly to the Europeans, while at constant war with the Chickasaw and other southern tribes. Early explorers described them as better built, polite, liberal, and of cheerful humour than the northern Indians.

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 dialect proper, little was recorded beyond some brief vocabularies and word lists. The Dhegiha language, including the dialects of the Omaha, Ponca, Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw, received more extended study and publication of its elements, especially by Rev. J.O. Dorsey under the auspices of the Bureau of American Ethnology (see Pilling, Siouan Bibliography).

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 in 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." [3]

See also


  1. ^ Louis F. Burns, "Osage" Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, retrieved 2 March 2009
  2. ^ Havard, Gilles (2003). Histoire de l'Amérique française. Paris: Flamarion. 
  3. ^ 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



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

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  1. a Native American people who once lived in the Arkansas river valley
  2. a member of such people
  3. the dialect of Dhegiha spoken by these people
  4. a town in Oklahoma
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