quapaw land stretched on both the east and west banks of the Mississippi
River when the Marquette-Jolliet expedition from Canada first encountered
members of this tribe in 1673. According to accounts from the explorers,
the French were invited to the village of Kappa, some miles north of the
mouth of the Arkansas River, and were offered a calumet, or peace pipe, to
smoke, an important ceremony for forging alliances. The French called the
Quapaws the “Arkansas,” the Illini word for “People of the South Wind,”
and so named the river and the countryside after them.
Trade with the French became common for the tribe, and in 1686, a fur
dealer named Henri de Tonti established a trading post at the Quapaw village
of Osotouy in order to buy pelts from them. Now, the area is home to the
Arkansas Post National Memorial near Gillett , run by the National Park
Service. The memorial sometimes hosts events involving the Quapaw Tribe,
who educate attendees about their history, beliefs and rituals.
Quapaw community was based around the family, a number of which were
grouped into clans through the male line. The clans were divided into two
groups, the Sky People and Earth People, each practicing related rituals, the
former attending to spiritual concerns and the latter to material well-being.
The Quapaws also believed in a force called
Wakondah, which held everything in balance.
Sedentary farmers, they grew corn, beans,
squash, gourds and tobacco. Women were
in charge of gardening, and butchered and
prepared the hides of animals such as deer,
bear and buffalo, which men took in hunting.
Men waged war, hunted, fished and conducted
community affairs in large "longhouses"
constructed of parallel
rows of poles connected
in an arch and covered
By the beginning of the
19th century, disease
and war had reduced
the number of Quapaws
to around 500, or
perhaps half the count
of white settlers. That population pressure on the tribe led to two forced
treaties with the United States, in 1818 and 1824, by which their territory
was reduced to a fraction and eventually consisted of a reservation in northeastern
Louisiana. Suffering under difficult conditions of severe weather and
starvation there, many Quapaws returned to Arkansas and pressed claims
against the government for possession of their homeland. Finally, with few
options and little power to wield, they signed a treaty in 1833 that granted
them reservation land in Indian Territory.
The current tribal administration, now led by an elected group called the Quapaw
Business Council, is based in the northeastern Oklahoma town of Quapaw.