Looking for Native American history exhibits and Native American heritage
sites in Arkansas? Native American artifacts have been found throughout
the Natural State, making Arkansas a great place to explore the Native American heritage.
Arkansas's Native American population was peaking when the Spanish
explorer Hernando De Soto reached the state in 1541. There were tens of
thousands of Native American people in villages near the Mississippi
River and other groups located across the state.
Recovered artifacts indicate Native American people were living in
the area by 9500 B.C., but first became widespread between 5000 and 4000
From 650 to 1050 A.D., the Plum Bayou people had a political and cultural center in east central Arkansas where they built 18 platform mounds, one 49 feet tall. Five are still visible at Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park in Scott.
Two prominent Native American 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. Not far away is Hampson Archeological Museum State Park at Wilson. The exhibits and collections offer insight into the Nodena people.
Shortly after De Soto's visit, European diseases, and possibly a
drought, decimated eastern Arkansas's villages. 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
By 1835, those Native American 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 a forced
exodus known as the Trail of Tears.
Wayside exhibits describing the role Arkansas played in the Trail of
Tears are now available to assist visitors at various locations around
the state. These can be found at North Little Rock’s Riverfront Park and
Cadron Settlement Park at Conway in central Arkansas, Pea Ridge
National Military Park in northwest part of the state, Lake Dardanelle
State Park in the Arkansas River Valley at Russellville, plus Village
Creek State Park at Wynne and Helena, both in the Delta.
Other Trail of Tears stops include Blue Spring Heritage Center in
Eureka Springs, the Fort Smith National Historic Site, the Delta
Cultural Center in Helena, Mount Nebo State Park near Dardanelle, Petit
Jean State Park in Morrilton and Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Little
Rock. The Sequoyah National Research Center on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus contains the largest accumulation of Native American expression in the world, including a Trail of Tears Park.
The Arkansas State University Museum in Jonesboro and the Museum of Prehistory and History at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville have major Native American history exhibits.