Race and Ethnicity: Native American

Arcene, James

James Arcene, a Cherokee man, was sentenced to death for a crime he committed years before. While aspects of his short life are shrouded in legend, he was known to be sentenced to death after his conviction for a robbery and murder he had committed when he was approximately ten years old, making him, if this story is true, the youngest person on record to have committed a crime for which he later received the death penalty. Arcene’s fellow defendant was William Parchmeal. James Arcene is believed to have been born in 1862. Virtually nothing is known about his youth. The basic facts of the crime as established at the trial and afterward were comparatively straightforward, with it being determined …

Archaic Period

The Archaic Period refers to the time between 9500 and 650 BC in the Native American history of Arkansas. As was the case in other regions in North America, Arkansas’s Archaic Period was a long span of cultural development and innovation that transformed small-scale Paleoindian groups into the larger and more complex societies seen during the Woodland and Mississippian periods. Within the Archaic Period, archaeologists have identified more specific regional cultures, such as the Dalton, San Patrice, Tom’s Brook, Big Creek, and Poverty Point cultures. These do not correspond directly to the tribes that lived in Arkansas during the Archaic period but do show that Native American societies were adapting to different environments and to each other across Arkansas in …

Battle Mound Site

The Battle Mound site is a Caddo site located along the Red River in Lafayette County. The Red River landscape is an ecologically diverse region with numerous channel scars, oxbow lakes, and back swamps. With agriculturally productive soil deposits and a web of linked navigable waterways, the region has numerous prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, many being sites left by the ancestors of the Caddo Indians who lived in this area from at least as early as circa AD 900 and as late as the early nineteenth century. The most prominent feature at Battle Mound is a large north-south-aligned earthen mound with at least three platforms. The mound is the largest in the Caddo area and one of the largest …

Boudinot, Elias Cornelius

Elias Cornelius Boudinot was a mixed-lineage Cherokee lawyer, newspaper editor, and lobbyist. He was active in civic life and Democratic Party politics in Arkansas during the Civil War era, serving in the Confederate Cherokee forces and the Confederate Congress during the conflict. In the following years, he maintained close connections with leading Democratic politicians in Arkansas while engaging in legal, economic, and political activities. Elias Cornelius Boudinot was born on August 1, 1835, in New Echota, Georgia, to Elias Boudinot, who was Cherokee, and his white wife, Harriet Gold. He was one of six siblings. After the assassination of his father in 1839 in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), the Gold family raised the Boudinot children in the East. Boudinot returned …

Caddo Indian Memorial

The Caddo Indian Memorial is located on the site of a Native-American burial ground on the outskirts of Norman (Montgomery County) on Arkansas Highway 8 East. Open year round and free to the public, it contains the Elmo Clark Honor Path, which runs a quarter of a mile along the perimeter. This allows visitors easy access to the twenty-one signs that explain the culture and history of the Caddo Indians. The path runs parallel to the Caddo River and its tributary, Huddleston Creek, which form the southwestern and northwestern boundaries. In October 1988, the city of Norman had begun excavation at this site for construction of a sewage treatment plant, but digging was stopped abruptly when bones and artifacts were …

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 …

Carden Bottom

Carden Bottom (also known as Carden’s Bottom or Carden Bottoms) is a rich alluvial flood plain in northeastern Yell County created by the Arkansas River and internationally known for its rich archaeological heritage. Named for the James Carden family who settled there in the early 1800s, it is bounded by the Petit Jean River and Petit Jean Mountain, Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge, and the Arkansas River. The area’s farmers produce large crops of sorghum, soybeans, corn, winter wheat, and hay. Archaeological investigations from the early 1990s indicate that some of these acres were also farmed from 500 to 1,500 years ago by Native Americans (Woodland through Mississippian cultures). A foraging lifeway extended as far back as 11,500 years ago …

Casqui

Casqui was a Native American chief who ruled over a province in northeast Arkansas in the 1500s. He was the first Indian leader in Arkansas whose 1541 dealings with the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto are recorded in detail in the accounts of the expedition. Casqui was thus the earliest Arkansan about whom we have written historical information. In the Spanish writings, his name was variously recorded as Casqui, Casquin, or Icasqui. The explorers used his name to refer to him, the town in which he resided, and the area over which he ruled. Knowledge of Casqui himself is limited, but the narratives provide interesting details about his people and the territory under his control, as well as some of …

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 …

Cherokee Boundary Line

aka: Old Cherokee Boundary Line
The Old Cherokee Boundary Line served as the eastern border of the first land set aside for Native Americans in Arkansas. The Treaty of the Cherokee Agency of 1817 created the definition for the line as beginning at the confluence of Point Remove Creek and the Arkansas River near present-day Morrilton (Conway County). The line was then to be marked in a northeasterly direction to Shields Ferry on the White River. General William Rector, along with commissioners appointed by the Cherokee, conducted the original survey and filed a report with the Government Land Office in 1819. Rector reported a distance of seventy-one miles and fifty-five chains. Rector’s survey and report were intended to satisfy both some Cherokee residents and some …

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 …

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 …

Choctaw Boundary Line

Determining the Choctaw Boundary Line and thus the western boundary of Arkansas below the Arkansas River was a process that involved political maneuvering, treaties with the Choctaw tribe, and other negotiations. The line was not even determined for one small strip of land until 1905. The Louisiana Purchase opened up a vast territory for the United States, and a few pioneers began to move into the lands west of the Mississippi River. In 1818, the first treaty was negotiated with the Quapaw tribe for the land west of a line that ran south from the “little rock” on the Arkansas River. The formation of Arkansas Territory in March 1819 brought more settlers. The settlers considered the lands to be in …

Choctaw Scrip

Land ownership was the desire of many individuals moving west across the United States in the nineteenth century. A person who obtained the initial title for a parcel of land in the public domain states, such as Arkansas, was issued a patent—that is, a deed transferring land ownership from the U.S. government to a buyer. Patents were obtained by various methods. Perhaps the least understood method was the use of Choctaw Scrip certificates to obtain a patent. Descendants of original Arkansas land owners finding Choctaw names on their patents often believed their ancestors either bought the land directly from the Choctaw or were, in fact, Choctaw themselves. The origins of Choctaw Scrip go back to the U.S. government’s plan to …

Crenshaw Site

The Crenshaw Site was a large village and ceremonial center occupied from about AD 700 to 1400 along the Red River in Miller County in southwestern Arkansas; the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The large size of the site (estimated at approximately eighty acres), along with limited archaeological investigations, hampers reconstruction of the site’s cultural history. The prevailing archaeological interpretation of the site is that it was first occupied by the Fourche Maline culture (AD 700–900) and developed into a significant village. Numerous earthworks were constructed, including at least four (and perhaps six) mounds and a raised causeway that connected two of the larger mounds. Evidence for a sizeable population includes a midden deposit (soil …

Dalton Period

The Dalton Period extends from 10,500 to 9,900 radiocarbon years ago (circa 8500 to 7900 BC), during which there existed a culture of ancient Native American hunter-gatherers (referred to as the Dalton people) who made a distinctive set of stone tools that are today found at sites across the middle of the United States. The name “Dalton” was first used in 1948 to refer to a style of chipped stone projectile point/knife. The Dalton point was named after Judge Sidna Poage Dalton, who had found numerous Dalton sites in central Missouri. Evidence of the Dalton culture has been found throughout the Mississippi River Valley. As Dalton points were found in different regions of the mid-continent, they were given different names, …

Dehahuit

Dehahuit, hereditary chief of the Kadohadacho Caddo community of Native Americans at the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, is remembered as an effective, respected leader of the Caddo during turbulent times. The Kadohadacho (kado-ha-dach’-o) were the most prominent of several Caddo groups that lived in villages along the Great Bend of the Red River in southwest Arkansas. These Caddo are believed to have lived on the Great Bend for more than 500 years before the Europeans arrived. They remained in this homeland until just before 1800, when disease and Osage raids forced them downstream into northwest Louisiana. Other Caddo viewed the Kadohadacho as descendants of the tribe’s most ancient and prominent ancestral community. Dehahuit was recognized as the …

Delaware

Members of many tribes displaced from homelands east of the Mississippi River temporarily resided in Arkansas up until the early nineteenth century. Among these were the Delaware, who had settlements in Arkansas until around the late 1820s. The Delaware (known also as the Lenape) speak Eastern Algonquian and live today in southern Ontario, western New York, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century European explorers met their ancestors living in and around the Delaware River valley in contiguous parts of the modern states of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. In their Northeastern homelands, the Delaware maintained an agricultural economy supplemented by hunting, fishing, and seasonally collecting nuts and other edible plant foods. They lived in multifamily …

Duwali

aka: Bowl
aka: Bowles
Duwali, also known as The Bowl or Bowles due to the Quapaw meaning of his name, was leader of a group of Cherokee who lived briefly in Arkansas early in the territorial period, from about 1812 to 1818. His life story illustrates the fate of thousands of Native Americans from tribes and nations east of the Mississippi River who moved west to get away from economic and political turmoil long before the official Indian Removal events of the 1830s. These early groups had a significant impact on early territorial residents and on the Caddo, the Osage, and the Quapaw who lived, hunted, and claimed territorial rights in Arkansas when Euro-American settlers first arrived. Duwali was born about 1756 in the …

Factor, Pompey

Pompey Factor was a scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars. In 1875, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroic actions during the course of the Red River War. Factor was born in 1849 in Arkansas to Hardy Factor, a black Seminole chief and Indian scout, and an unknown Biloxi Indian woman. The descendants of runaway slaves and Seminole Indians, many black Seminole fought against the U.S. Army in the Second Seminole War (1835–1842). By the end of that conflict, most of them were captured and removed to the Indian Territory. The fear of enslavement, however, drove many black Seminole to migrate to Mexico in the 1850s. Factor’s family was among those who emigrated. Factor and …

Factory System

aka: Indian Trading Posts
aka: Indian Factory System
The Indian factory system was a system of trading posts created by an act of Congress in 1795 with the express intention of developing and maintaining Native American friendship and allegiance through government control of trade on the frontiers of the new nation. Within the present borders of the state of Arkansas, three factories were established for this purpose: Arkansas Post (1805–1810), Spadra Bayou (1817–1822), and Sulphur Fork (1818–1822). The United States took formal possession of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County) from Spanish authorities on March 23, 1804. An Indian factory (or trading post) was established in October 1805 with James B. Treat as factor (or chief trader). Most of the trade was directed to the local Quapaw. However, prior to the establishment …

Fort Smith Conference (1865)

As a diplomatic assembly of Native American delegates and U.S. government officials, the Fort Smith Conference of 1865 was designed to reestablish relations between the federal government and Native American tribes of Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) who had allied themselves with the Confederacy during the Civil War. Talks, which stretched from September 8 to September 23, 1865, informed tribal delegates that all pre-war treaty rights were forfeited upon taking up arms against the Union and that new treaties with the United States had to be negotiated. The Fort Smith Conference ultimately failed to achieve new treaties, as Native American delegates refused to consent to strict treaty stipulations and because factional squabbling between loyalist and secessionist Native Americans hampered negotiations. At …

Fort Smith Council

The gathering of Native Americans, Arkansas territorial officials, and U.S. government representatives held in 1822 at the confluence of the Poteau and Arkansas rivers—the event commonly referred to as the Fort Smith Council—was a laudable effort to establish amicable relations between Osage and Cherokee who were engaged in hostile actions that disrupted a large portion of the frontier region. The event actually had only limited success, but the face-to-face meeting of both Indian and territorial leaders, a rare event in territorial Arkansas, has become a popular fixture in stories about Arkansas’s early history. When several bands of Cherokee settled along the Arkansas River upstream of Point Remove Creek in the spring of 1812, they established their communities in a nearly …

Guedetonguay

aka: Guedelonguay
aka: Quedetongue
Guedetonguay was a Quapaw Indian leader in the mid-eighteenth century who was the most important contact between the Quapaw and French colonial officials in Louisiana. In 1752, the Quapaw lived along the lower Arkansas River near the Mississippi River. Their population had been greatly reduced, mainly through disease, since the arrival of French settlers in Louisiana. They were still considered important allies of French colonial authorities in New Orleans, however, even though they were able to muster only about 150 men to serve in military engagements and war parties. Guedetonguay was made medal chief of the Quapaw in 1752 by Paul Augustin Le Pelletier de La Houssaye, who was then commander of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County). He became the principal …

Head Pots

Head pots are a very rare and unique form of pre-historic Native American pottery found almost exclusively in northeast Arkansas and the adjacent bootheel region of Missouri. They are distinguished from other native North American pottery in that the entire vessel is molded into the general shape of a human head, as opposed to facial features such as eyes, nose, and mouth simply being applied to the surface of a bottle or jar form. Artistically, head pots vary from crude to remarkably lifelike representations. Most are somewhat smaller than the head of a normal adult, averaging about five to six inches in height. Head pots are associated with the Late Mississippian Period to the time of European contact, dating about …

Heckaton

Heckaton was the hereditary chief of the Quapaw during their long and painful removal from their homelands in Arkansas during the 1830s. At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, fewer than 600 Quapaw remained of the thousands who had lived in the region in the late seventeenth century. Most of these lived in three traditional villages near Arkansas Post (Arkansas County). Each village had its own leader, and one leader was overall tribal chief by family inheritance. A few Quapaw lived in homesteads along the Arkansas River as far north as the site of Little Rock (Pulaski County). For a decade, there were no official relations between the Quapaw and the American government. After the War of 1812, …

Indian Mounds

Indian Mounds were constructed by deliberately heaping soil, rock, or other materials (such as ash, shell, and the remains of burned buildings) onto natural land surfaces. In Arkansas and elsewhere in eastern North America, Native Americans built earthen mounds for ritual or burial purposes or as the location for important structures, but mound-building ceased shortly after European contact due to changes in religious and other cultural practices. Mississippian people in eastern Arkansas were using mounds when Spanish explorers arrived in 1541, and the Caddo in the Red River valley were still using mounds during the winter of 1691–92, when explorers from Mexico visited them. Most of the thousands of mounds built in Arkansas have been destroyed by modern development and …

Indian Removal

The evolving U.S. policy of Indian Removal shaped Arkansas geographically, economically, and ethnically. Federal removal treaties with the Choctaw in 1825 and the Arkansas Cherokee in 1828 established the state’s western boundary. Throughout the territorial period (1819–1836), Arkansas politicians were obsessed with removing Indians from the land within its shrinking borders, even the few destitute Quapaw for whom the state had been named. Yet, a cash-poor frontier economy profited enormously from government contracts when Southeast tribal groups were transported across Arkansas throughout the 1830s, along routes later collectively labeled “the Trail of Tears.” Still, the state’s political leaders complained loudly that the presence of sovereign tribes in neighboring Indian Territory stifled development in Arkansas and, especially after the United States expanded …

Indian Soldiers (Civil War)

As states began to secede from the Union and form the Confederacy, the Native American tribal nations in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) closely watched the growing conflict. In January 1861, Arkansas’s governor, Henry M. Rector, wrote Cherokee chief John Ross, asking the Cherokee Nation to support the Confederacy. Rector felt that if the Cherokee supported the Confederacy, then the rest of the tribal nations would follow. Ross replied to Rector that the Cherokee would remain neutral. All the Indian nations expressed desires to remain neutral, but soon they were forced to review their decisions and choose sides in the Civil War. Their decisions brought them to fighting on Arkansas soil, sometimes on different sides of the conflict. Albert Pike was …

Jolly, John

aka: Ah ludi ski
aka: Ooluntuskee
John Jolly, president of the Arkansas Cherokee, was a key figure in Cherokee affairs during and after their residence along the Arkansas River in west-central Arkansas. Born in Tennessee into an influential mixed-race family, he had a successful trading post on Hiwassee Island in eastern Tennessee, at the confluence of the Hiwassee River and the Tennessee River. Jolly’s brother Tahlonteskee was one of several Cherokee chiefs who voluntarily moved a group of Cherokee from their lands into the area that would become Arkansas shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Following an 1817 treaty that promised an exchange of their lands east of the Mississippi River for an equivalent area in Arkansas, Tolontuskee and his followers moved gradually from northeast …

Koroa

The Koroa are one of many “small tribes” of the southeastern United States that are mentioned briefly in historic accounts and then fade from the records during the colonial period. There is evidence that some Koroa may have resided in present-day Arkansas in the late seventeenth century, but the ancestral homeland, cultural roots, and historic fate of the Koroa remain issues of disagreement among today’s scholars. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, numerous missionaries, explorers, and colonists traveling through the Lower Mississippi River Valley made reference to Koroa (or people whose names sounded similar, like Coloa, Kourea, Currous, Akoroa) residing in a number of locations in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. There is not enough information to locate these …

Mississippian Period

The Mississippian Period is one of several broad categories (including Paleoindian, Archaic, and Woodland) that archaeologists use to subdivide the American Indian past of the Southeast and Midwest. Between AD 900 and about AD 1600, Mississippian people farmed maize extensively; lived in societies known as chiefdoms led by hereditary rulers; conducted long-distance trade in copper, marine shell, and other valuables; resided in towns, villages, and farmsteads; built monumental architecture in the form of earthen, flat-topped mounds; conducted warfare, often fortifying their towns with stockades; and shared religious and iconographic traditions. When the first Europeans (the Hernando de Soto expedition) arrived in Arkansas in 1541, the people they encountered were Mississippians. The Rise of Agriculture Perhaps fueled by a climate shift …

Native American Pottery

Indians in Arkansas began making pottery containers about 2,500 years ago, during the Woodland Period, and they continued this craft until their handmade containers were replaced by industrial counterparts made in metal, glass, and clay in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Broken pieces of Indian pottery, called sherds or potsherds, are among the most common artifacts remaining at abandoned settlements, and they provide a wide range of information today about the cultural traditions of the people who made them. Complete pottery vessels display both sophisticated craftsmanship and the complex aesthetics of their makers. Southeastern Indian pottery-making began in the area of eastern Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida about 4,000 years ago and spread gradually from there to cultures across eastern …

Native Americans

Arkansas was home to Native Americans long before Europeans arrived. The first explorers met Indians whose ancestors had occupied the region for thousands of years. These were impressive and well-organized societies, to whom Europeans introduced new technologies, plants, animals, and diseases, setting in motion a process of population loss and cultural change that would continue for centuries. The United States government forced Indians to leave their ancient homelands and attempted—during the nineteenth century—to eradicate Indian traditions altogether. Indian communities persevered and today continue to celebrate their rich cultural heritage. This heritage is an important part of Arkansas history. First Encounters The first encounters between Europeans and Indians living in what is now Arkansas took place in 1541, when Hernando de …

Nodena Site

The Nodena Site in Mississippi County is an archaeological site representing Native American life in Arkansas during the centuries before European contact. The twelve-to-fifteen-acre pallisaded village was inhabited from approximately AD 1400 to 1650. The name Nodena comes from a later plantation that encompassed the area, while the names Upper Nodena and Middle Nodena represent separate archaeological sites, as well as separate sectors of the later Nodena plantation. The Upper Nodena Site, the larger of the two, is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been listed as a National Historic Landmark. A vast collection of Nodena materials are held at the University of Alabama Museum and its regional repository, the Arkansas Archeological Survey, as well as at …

Office of Removal and Subsistence

The United States government opened the federal Office of Removal and Subsistence for territory west of the Mississippi River in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1831. The office oversaw removal and subsistence operations relating to the Native American tribes being expelled from their eastern homes, along with providing subsistence for one year after their relocation to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). During the nine years the office was in operation, almost $4.5 million passed through the hands of the officers charged with the operations of the office. The Choctaw were the first of the five Southeastern tribes to sign a removal treaty. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed by the Choctaw on September 27, 1830, and ratified by the …

Osage

The Osage lived in several villages located in southwest Missouri when Europeans began to explore and settle the lands west of the Mississippi River late in the seventeenth century. During this period, Osage hunters made frequent forays into northwest Arkansas, but, more importantly, their role as key players in economic and political affairs before the modern era touched the lives of nearly everyone living in the region. The Osage language is one of the Dhegiha dialects of the Siouan language family, closely related to languages spoken by members of the Quapaw, Omaha, Kansa (or Kaw), and Ponca tribes. Archaeologists have not identified the pre-Columbian ancestors of the historic Osage, but oral traditions and the mutually intelligible character of Dhegihan dialects …

Pacaha

Pacaha was a Native American chief who lived in northeast Arkansas during the 1500s. He is known solely from the four written accounts of the Hernando de Soto expedition, which passed through the region in the summer of 1541. One of the accounts refers to him as Capaha, but this is probably an author’s or editor’s mistake. Pacaha lived in a fortified village near the Mississippi River. The town was surrounded by a water-filled moat and a log palisade wall, with guard towers along the wall. Archaeologists speculate that the town may have been in what is now Crittenden County. When de Soto arrived, Pacaha was at war with a nearby chief named Casqui. Both chiefs ruled over several smaller …