Ethnic Groups

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Entry Category: Ethnic Groups - Starting with C

Caddo Nation

Caddo Indians enter written history in chronicles of the Hernando de Soto expedition, which describe encounters during the Spanish passage through southwest Arkansas. When the Spaniards crossed the threshold to Caddo country on June 20, 1542, they entered a nation uniquely distinguished by language, social structure, tradition, and way of life. Caddo people were sedentary farmers, salt makers, hunters, traders, craftsmen, and creators of exquisite pottery who buried their dead in mounds and cemeteries with solemn ritual and a belief that the dead traveled to a world beyond this. Caddo language was unlike any spoken by other groups the Spaniards met as they explored northeast Arkansas and the Southern states east of the Mississippi River. Caddo communities—called villages or towns …

Cherokee

The Europeans named the Cherokee as one of the Five Civilized Tribes. (The other four were the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole.) At the time of European contact, the Cherokee inhabited a region consisting of what is now western North Carolina and parts of Virginia, Georgia, and eastern Tennessee. Over the next two centuries, the tribe expanded through the southern Appalachians, reaching further into Georgia as well as into South Carolina, northeastern Alabama, and across the Cumberland River into Kentucky and West Virginia; some of this expansion occurred following the displacement of other tribes. By the 1780s, Cherokee migration into Arkansas had begun, largely in response to pressure to move away from Euro-American settlements in the East following the Revolutionary …

Chickasaw

Heading east, the ancestral Chickasaw crossed Arkansas looking for a new homeland at some point in prehistory. Heading west beginning in 1836, the Chickasaw crossed Arkansas again as the tribe was removed to its new home in Indian Territory. Between these two events, the Chickasaw interacted periodically with tribes living in Arkansas, most notably the Quapaw, whom they warred against during much of the eighteenth century. In all versions of the Chickasaw migration story, the people came from the west, usually from central Mexico. They were led by twin brothers Chatah and Chikasa, who followed a divinely inspired fabusa, or leaning pole. In these versions, the people necessarily must have passed through the land that became Arkansas to get to …

Chinese

The introduction of the Chinese to Arkansas can be traced back to their roots as a sojourners’ society—men who left the Chinese “motherland” ready to amass wealth in the United States before returning to their families in China. However, Arkansas did not offer vast riches like that of the fabled gam sahn, or “Golden Mountain,” among the gold mines of northern California. What Arkansas did offer was work in the cotton fields of the Delta. Following a regional conference on Chinese immigration organized by planters from Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas and held in Memphis, Tennessee, on July 13, 1869, local planters met in their own smaller conventions to begin the importation of Chinese labor. There was extensive debate on the …

Choctaw

The Choctaw are of the Western Muskogean language stock, which is also the same stock as the Chickasaw. When first encountered by Europeans, the Choctaw were located in three geographic divisions in the area that is now Mississippi and western Alabama. The three divisions each had some distinguishing cultural practices, which may indicate they had separate origins and that the Choctaw came together as a single people only in more recent times. There are two widespread traditions within the Choctaw about their origins. One is that they came from the far west and were led eastward by a sacred pole that was placed in the ground each night; one morning, the pole did not lean but stayed straight upright near …