By Jim Taylor, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
This is the second article of a two-part series surveying the
history of Native Americans in Arkansas, including the loss of
their homelands and expulsion from the state's territory after
the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Arkansas' territory to the United States, the Louisiana Purchase
forever removed the fate of the future state's indigenous peoples
from the hands of the French and Spanish, who had been unable
to appropriate native lands on a large scale, and placed it into
the hands of the Americans. In addition, the acquired lands gave
the young country's leaders new options for relocating tribes
from Eastern states.
Arkansas festivals and events feature living history actors.
By the mid-1700s,
the Kadohadacho and the Quapaw were Arkansas' only native groups
of long-term residency. The Osage claimed territory within the
state but resided primarily in western Missouri. Treaties would
later give Arkansas land to two Eastern tribes, the Cherokee and
the Choctaw. (During the late 1700s and early 1800s, members of
various Eastern tribes inhabited the state for brief periods but,
except for the Cherokee, they never had tribal territorial claims
In the three
decades that followed the 1803 purchase, Arkansas' new settlers
would prove effectively inhospitable to both their native predecessors
and the relocated tribes. "As their attitudes toward the
indigenous Quapaws and the transplanted tribes made clear,"
Arkansas historian Charles S. Bolton has observed, "the new
Arkansans...were greedy for land, jealous of Indian claims, and
lacking in both charity and sentimentality."
circumstances of each tribe's removal from Arkansas by the time
of statehood in 1836 would vary, those who inhabited its territory
in the years from 1803 to 1835 found themselves not only living
on coveted land, but on borrowed time as well.
In the late
1770s, the Kadohadacho vacated their territory north of the Red
River in southwestern Arkansas in order to consolidate with allied
tribes in northwestern Louisiana. Together, the tribes would subsequently
become known as the Caddo.
move appears to have been caused by a combination of European
diseases, which had reduced their population perhaps by as much
as 90 percent from historic levels, and their resulting vulnerability
in conflicts with the more numerous Osage.
the Caddo ceded their homelands to the United States in 1835,
the only part of present-day Arkansas covered by the treaty was
Miller County, which lies south of the Red. (Arkansas' territorial
legislature had created in 1820 a larger version of the county
than now exists, but its ownership was in dispute with Spain and
then the Republic of Texas until 1841.)
an estimated 6,000 Quapaws living in villages near the confluence
of the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers shortly before Arkansas
Post, the first permanent European settlement in what would become
Arkansas, was founded nearby in 1686. They became valued defensive
allies of and trading partners with the post's French inhabitants,
even as European diseases and warfare were reducing their numbers
to about 500 by 1803.
When the United
States took control of the settlement in 1804, the Quapaw were
so weakened that the Americans found them of little economic or
military use. It was their land that drew the Americans' interest.
shows key boundaries of Native American Treaties
Under a treaty
negotiated in St Louis in 1818, the Quapaw ceded vague claims
to land north of the Arkansas as well as a vast, well-established
territory between the Red and Arkansas rivers stretching west
into Oklahoma. The treaty left them about 8,000 square miles lying
between the Arkansas, Ouachita and Saline rivers and bounded by
lines running from Arkansas Post to the Ouachita and from Little
Rock to the Saline.
were apparently satisfied with the treaty, but after Arkansas
Territory was established in 1819 the territorial government soon
made clear it was not. In 1820, the territorial legislature protested
to Congress that the land set aside for the Quapaw represented
about 20 square miles for each native. The Quapaw land, the legislators
said, was "the best soil in the Territory." The Arkansas
Gazette protested that the treaty would inhibit future pioneer
In 1821 and
again in 1822 territorial officials made the questionable assertion
to Congress that the Quapaw had expressed interest in relocating
to join another tribe. In 1823, Robert Crittenden, the territorial
secretary, informed federal officials that he had the Quapaw "in
training for a Treaty."
In 1824, a
treaty was negotiated which extinguished Quapaw land claims in
Arkansas. In exchange for their 8,000 square miles, the tribe
was promised $4,000 in merchandise, six months’ living supplies,
and $1,000 a year for 11 years. And, the Quapaw were to relocate
onto Caddo territory in Louisiana.
land we now live on belonged to our forefathers," said Heckaton,
the Quapaws' leader. "The lands you wish us to go to belong
to strangers. Have mercy -- send us not there." After residing
in the area for well more than two centuries, the Quapaw left
Arkansas Post in January 1826.
By 1830, most
had returned to Arkansas. The Caddo had been unaware they were
coming and assigned them to lands along the Red River, which repeatedly
flooded crops on which the Quapaw were dependent.
With no land
at stake, the territorial governor urged federal pity for the
Quapaw. A treaty ratified in 1834 granted them land in what is
now Oklahoma. Some moved there and some returned, temporarily,
to the Red River region.
Osage and Cherokee
in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas had for many decades been coming
into armed conflict with the Kadohadacho, the Quapaw and Europeans.
As settlers moved into Missouri after the Louisiana Purchase,
the Americans sought to limit their territory. In 1808, a treaty
was negotiated in St. Louis by which the Osage agreed to give
up their lands east of a line extending south from their Missouri
homes to the Arkansas River. In Arkansas, the line passed near
modern-day Springdale and intersected the river just east of Van
brought relative calm to northwestern Arkansas until the coming
of the Cherokee. In 1809, President Thomas Jefferson offered the
Cherokee a trade: for any land they would surrender in the eastern
United States, they would receive an equal amount in Arkansas
from the territory the Osage had vacated under the 1808 treaty.
In 1817, that
arrangement became a new treaty assigning to the Cherokee lands
located between the Arkansas and White rivers west of a line from
near Morrilton on the Arkansas to near Batesville on the White.
The treaty specified no western boundary, thus guaranteeing the
Cherokee an outlet to unsettled territory.
the Osage and Cherokee, which had been simmering, intensified
after the treaty. A large engagement occurred in 1817 when the
Cherokees raided an Osage village in northeastern Oklahoma while
its warriors were away. Sixty-nine Osage were killed, 100 were
taken prisoner. The Osage-Cherokee conflict led to the December
1817 founding of Fort Smith, a U.S. Army outpost charged with
keeping peace between the two tribes.
In 1818, an
agreement was reached in St. Louis under which the Osage sold
to the Americans the remainder of their lands (west of the 1808
treaty line) in what is now Arkansas. The hostilities continued
until 1822, however, in lands farther west and then a part of
By 1820, there
were some 3,000 Cherokee living along both sides of the Arkansas
River generally between Morrilton and the mouth of the Mulberry
River. Disputes over the boundaries of the Cherokee lands continued
until the Cherokee Treaty of 1828, which removed the tribe to
the west of a line running from the southwest corner of Missouri
to Fort Smith. That line eventually became and remains the northern
leg of Arkansas' western border.
War of 1812, the Choctaw were American allies against England
and provided military support to Andrew Jackson during his Battle
of New Orleans victory. In 1820, they agreed to a treaty, after
being threatened by U.S. negotiator Jackson, exchanging some 5.3
million acres of their homelands in southwestern Mississippi for
some 13 million acres lying between the Arkansas and Red rivers
and west of a line from near Morrilton to near the confluence
of the Little and Red rivers. Those lands had been among those
ceded to the United States under the 1818 Quapaw treaty.
treaty outraged the new Arkansans. More than a fourth of Arkansas
Territory's pioneers were then settled in the area given to the
tribe. Protesting the federal policy of relocating Eastern tribes
into Arkansas, William Woodruff, the Gazette's founder and editor,
variously referred to the Choctaws as "poor deluded wretches"
and "a fierce and savage enemy." The territorial government
lodged complaints with Congress. Meanwhile, the Choctaw repudiated
the treaty and few ever relocated onto their new lands.
period of negotiations began to establish a new eastern limit
of the Choctaws' territory. In 1825, a treaty set that boundary
as a line from immediately west of Fort Smith due south to the
Treaty ceded all Quapaw lands in Arkansas to United States
James Sevier Conway, who would later become Arkansas' first governor,
surveyed the line and gave it a slant so that it intersected the
Red some four miles west from where it should have. That line
is now Arkansas' western boundary from Fort Smith to the Red.
(In 1886, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Choctaws to be compensated
for lands they lost because of Conway's survey.)
Trail of Tears
lone remaining chapter in its relations with Native Americans
-- and somewhat ironically its most often recalled -- began with
the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The act put legal teeth into President
Andrew Jackson's policy that members of tribes from Eastern states
should be relocated westward, mostly into what is now known as
Oklahoma. (In 1834, most of present-day Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska
were officially designated Indian Territory, but it would later
be reduced to only Oklahoma.)
closed their own territory to the resettlement of tribes, Arkansans
watched -- and in some cases profited handsomely by supplying
goods and transportation -- throughout the 1830s as thousands
of uprooted Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Seminoles and Chickasaws
crossed Arkansas in a forced migration that became known as "the
Trail of Tears."
by land and steamboat, the Native Americans were en route from
their ancestral homelands to alien ground in the Indian Territory.
Adding to the natives' sorrow, many died along the way. In 1907,
Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma, marking an end
to Arkansas' time as the border of an American frontier.
VI of the Louisiana Purchase treaty, the United States had agreed
to honor existing treaties with Native Americans "until,
by mutual consent of the United States and the said tribes or
nations, other suitable articles shall have been agreed upon."
It was in the arriving at "other suitable articles"
that Native American tribes were purged from Arkansas, a state
known by a Native American name for its indigenous Quapaw people.
Research and writing by members of the Arkansas Archeological
Survey and historians Charles S. Bolton, Morris S. Arnold and
F. Todd Smith were invaluable sources of information included
in the preceding series.