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THE QUAPAW

Quapaw - from the tribal term Ugakhpa, meaning "downstream people", belonging to the Dhegiha subdivision of the Sioux and believed to have originally resided in the Ohio Valley. 

In the mid-1600s, French explorers, Marquette and Joliet, traveling down the Mississippi River used members of the tribe as their guides, referring to them as "Akansea" (people of the south wind); thus the name Arkansas, from which the Quapaw and their lands were named.

The Quapaw experienced a severe population reduction due to European diseases. In the late 1600s, the Quapaw were estimated to have a population greater than 5000. Over a period of 80 years, their population had dropped to 700 due to a smallpox epidemic in 1699. Sadly, because of this massive population drop, much of early Quapaw history and lore, which was passed on orally, died with its storytellers.

When the Louisiana Purchase occurred in 1803, the United States came into control of the Quapaw and their territory.

In 1818, the U.S. obtained land from the tribe encompassing southern Arkansas, Oklahoma and part of Louisiana. The only tract of land that was left to them was a small parcel on the south side of the Arkansas River. In 1824, the U.S. forced the Quapaw to yield their remaining lands, terminating all their claim to Arkansas. The Quapaw, now numbering under 500, were removed to the Red River in northwestern Louisiana and forced to join the Caddo. Residence with the Caddo was disastrous for the Quapaw. The Quapaw were not welcomed, the land was poor and starvation was rampant. Over the next six years survivors struggled back into Arkansas, their native soil, only to be reminded they had legally signed away their lands.

In 1833, the Quapaw signed another treaty and they were removed from Arkansas for the last time. The next year, led by Chief Heckaton, the Quapaw moved to northeastern Indian Territory near bands of the Shawnee and Seneca-Cayuga tribes. In Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), the Quapaw once again established themselves in traditional villages. Due to a survey error the lands on which they had established their homes belonged to the Seneca. 

Dismayed, the Quapaw broke into three bands. By 1846, one band was living with the Creeks, one remained in northeastern Indian Territory, and the other was living on the Canadian River. However, by 1859, in anticipation of the sale of reservation land in Kansas with a cash payment for distribution, three hundred and fifty-four (354) of four hundred (400) members returned to the the rightful Quapaw Reservation.

During the Civil War the Quapaw signed an agreement with the Confederacy, but ended up fighting with the Union when they fled to Kansas.

Grant's peace policy placed the reservation in charge of the Quakers. Many Quapaw, dissatisfied by this policy, left the reservation to settle among the Catholic Osage.

By 1877, the number Quapaw living on Osage land had grown larger than the group living on reservation land. The threat of losing their reservation lands became a distinct possibility. Tribal members who lived on the reservation convinced some Quapaw families who lived in Arkansas to join the reservation. Impressed by the willingness of reservation members to save their land, many of the Quapaw living in Osage territory moved back onto the reservation. By 1893, the tribe on the reservation had grown to over 200 people, up from 38 only 14 years earlier. Because of the Dawes Act and in anticipation of allotment, the Quapaw voted to allot their land among themselves. This strategic move gave each tribal member 240 acres, instead of 80 acres as specified under the Dawes Act. This allotment was ratified by the United States Congress in 1895.

The 1900s began very favorably for the Quapaw when rich lead and zinc deposits were found on their land. This led to the mining of over five million dollars worth of deposits.

Peyote religion, also began in the early 1900s. This religion was introduced by a Caddo man named John Wilson. The Peyote Religion, which later became known as the Native American Church.

The Quapaw society was based on patrilineal structure, tracing their ancestors through their fathers and adopting his father's clan. 

The Quapaw were primarily farmers, raising corn, beans, squash, gourds, melons and tobacco. Their villages contained several dome-shaped, bark-covered long housed, each occupied by several families. The Quapaw women gathered wood and wild foods, cooked and cared for the children, while the men hunted, fished, waged war and managed community and political affairs. 

Positions of political power and religious leadership were held exclusively by men.

The Quapaw Land Allotment Act of 1893
complete list of the names of the members of tribe

The Official Quapaw Website

Quapaw Flag

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Linda Simpson
Updated: 6 May 2006
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