From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Flag of the Quapaw Nation
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( Oklahoma)
English, Quapaw[1]
Christianity (Catholicism), traditional tribal religion, Big Moon and Little Moon Native American Church
Related ethnic groups
Dhegihan peoples: Osage, Omaha, Ponca, Kansa

The Quapaw (/ˈkwɔːpɔː/ KWAW-paw,[2] Quapaw: Ogáxpa) or Arkansas, officially the Quapaw Nation,[3] is a U.S. federally recognized tribe comprising about 5,600 citizens. Also known as the Ogáxpa or “Downstream” people, their ancestral homelands are traced from what is now the Ohio River, west to the Mississippi River to present-day St. Louis, south across present-day Arkansas and eastern and southern Oklahoma.[4] The government forcibly removed them from Arkansas Territory in 1834. The tribal capital is Quapaw, Oklahoma.


Algonquian-speaking people originally referred to the Quapaw as Akansa, an Illini word for “People of the South Wind”.[5] French voyageurs learned this term from Algonquians and adapted it as Arcansas.[6] The French named the river and trading post for them.[5] After the tribe migrated down the Mississippi River into present-day Arkansas, they were called Quapaw (Ogáxpa), which means the “Downstream” people."[7]

The Illinois and other Algonquian-speaking peoples to the northeast referred to the tribe as the Akansea or Akansa, meaning "land of the downriver people". As French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet encountered and interacted with the Illinois before they did the Quapaw, they adopted this exonym for the more westerly people. In their language, they referred to them as Arcansas. English-speaking settlers who arrived later in the region adopted the name used by the French, adapting it to English spelling conventions.


Beginnings (before 1682)[edit]

The Quapaw are descended from a historical group of Dhegiha speaking people who lived in the lower Ohio River valley area. The modern descendants of this language group include the Omaha, Ponca, Osage and Kaw, all independent nations. The Quapaw and the other Dhegiha speaking tribes are believed to have migrated west and south from the Ohio River valley after 1200 CE.

Scholars are divided as to whether they think the Quapaw and other related groups left before or after the Beaver Wars of the 17th century, in which the more powerful Five Nations of the Iroquois (based south of the Great Lakes and to the east of this area), drove other tribes out of the Ohio Valley and retained the area for hunting grounds.[8][9] The oral history of the Quapaw people describes that the Quapaw separated from the Omaha, Ponca, Osage, and Kaw, near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. No correlation with gun bearing Iroquois running the Quapaw into Arkansas along with the Omaha, Ponca, Osage and Kaw is described by historic or modern Quapaw sources, and appears to be an entirely modern conjecture by scholars which is unsupported by the Quapaw.[10][11][12] Similar and supporting oral history is well documented and supported by other Dhegiha tribes.[13]

The Quapaw reached their historical territory, the area of the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers, at least by the mid-17th century. The timing of the Quapaw migration into their ancestral territory in the historical period has been the subject of considerable debate by scholars of various fields. It is referred to as the "Quapaw Paradox" by academics. Many professional archaeologists have introduced numerous migration scenarios and time frames, but none has conclusive evidence.[14] Glottochronological studies suggest the Quapaw separated from the other Dhegihan-speaking peoples in a period ranging between AD 950 to as late as AD 1513.[15] Linguistic studies also support an earlier separation date, prior to the introduction of the horse, and after the initial introduction of corn.[16][17]

Map of the De Soto expedition through Mississippi and Arkansas

In 1541, when the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto led an expedition that came across the town of Pacaha (also recorded by Garcilaso as Capaha), between the Mississippi River and a lake on the Arkansas side, apparently in present-day Phillips County. His party described the village as strongly palisaded and nearly surrounded by a ditch. Archaeological remains and local conditions bear out the description. If the migration from the Ohio Valley preceded the entrada, these people may have been the proto-Quapaw. But the expedition's chronicler recorded that the Tunica language was used in Pacaha and there is evidence for a later Quapaw migration to Arkansas. It is likely that de Soto and his expedition met Tunica there.[14]

The first certain encounters with Quapaw by Europeans occurred more than 130 years later. In 1673, the Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette accompanied the French commander Louis Jolliet in traveling down the Mississippi by canoe. He reportedly went to the villages of the Akansea, who gave him warm welcome and listened with attention to his sermons, while he stayed with them a few days. In 1682, La Salle passed by their villages, then five in number, including one on the east bank of the Mississippi. Zenobius Membré, a Recollect father who accompanied the LaSalle expedition, planted a cross and attempted to convert the Native Americans to Christianity.

La Salle negotiated a peace with the tribe and formally "claimed" the territory for France. The Quapaw were recorded as uniformly kind and friendly toward the French. While villages relocated in the area, four Quapaw villages were generally reported by Europeans along the Mississippi River in this early period. They corresponded in name and population to four sub-tribes still existing, listed as Ugahpahti, Uzutiuhi, Tiwadimañ, and Tañwañzhita. The French transliterations were: Kappa, Ossoteoue, Touriman, and Tonginga.

Colonial era (1682–1803)[edit]

Robe of the Buffalo Dancers, c. 1750. Musée du Quai Branly—Jacques Chirac, Paris, France.

In 1686, the French commander Henri de Tonti built a post near the mouth of the Arkansas River, which was later known as the Arkansas Post. This began European occupation of the Quapaw country. Tonti arranged for a resident Jesuit missionary to be assigned there, but apparently without result. About 1697, a smallpox epidemic killed the greater part of the women and children of two villages. In 1727, the Jesuits, from their house in New Orleans, again took up the missionary work. In 1729, the Quapaw allied with French colonists against the Natchez, resulting in the practical extermination of the Natchez tribe.

Louisiana Indians Walking Along a Bayou (Alfred Boisseau, 1847)

The French relocated the Arkansas Post upriver, trying to avoid flooding. After France lwas defeated by the British in the Seven Years' War, it ceded its North American territories to Britain. This nation exchanged some territory with Spain, which took over "control" of Arkansas and other former French territory west of the Mississippi River. The Spanish built new forts to protect its valued trading post with the Quapaw.

During the early years of colonial rule, many of the ethnic French fur traders and voyageurs had an amicable relationship with the Quapaw, as they did with many other trading tribes.[18] Many Quapaw women and French men cohabitated. Pine Bluff, Arkansas, was founded by Joseph Bonne, a man of Quapaw-French ancestry.

19th century[edit]

Shortly after the United States acquired the territory in 1803 by the Louisiana Purchase, it recorded the Quapaw as living in three villages on the south side of the Arkansas River about 12 miles (19 km) above Arkansas Post. In 1818. as part of a treaty negotiation, the U.S. government acknowledged the Quapaw as rightful owners of approximately 32 million acres (13 million ha), which included all of present-day Arkansas south and west of the Arkansas River, as well as portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma from the Red River to beyond the Arkansas and east of the Mississippi.[19] The treaty required the Quapaws to cede almost 31 million acres (13 million ha) of this area to the U.S. government, giving the Quapaw title to 1.5 million acres (0.61 million ha) between the Arkansas and the Saline in Southeast Arkansas. In exchange for the territory, the U.S. pledged $4,000 ($80,000 in today's dollars) and an annual payment of $1,000 ($20,000 in today's dollars).[20] A transcription error in Congress later removed most of Grant County, Arkansas and part of Saline County, Arkansas from the Quapaw claim.[21]

Quapaw men's beaded moccasins, c. 1900. Oklahoma History Center.

Under continued U.S. pressure, in 1824 they ceded this also, excepting 80 acres (320,000 m2) occupied by the chief Saracen below Pine Bluff. They expected to incorporate with the Caddo of Louisiana, but were refused permission by the United States. Successive floods in the Caddo country near the Red River pushed many of the tribe toward starvation, and they wandered back to their old homes.

Sarrasin (alternate spelling Saracen), their last chief before the removal, was a Roman Catholic and friend of the Lazarist missionaries (Congregation of the Missions), who had arrived in 1818. He died about 1830 and is buried adjoining St. Joseph's Church, Pine Bluff. A a memorial window in the church preserves his name. Fr. John M. Odin was the pioneer Lazarist missionary among the Quapaw; he later served as the Catholic Archbishop of New Orleans.

In 1834, under another treaty and the federal policy of Indian Removal, the Quapaw were removed from the Mississippi valley areas to their present location in the northeast corner of Oklahoma, then Indian Territory.

In 1824, the Jesuits of Maryland, under Father Charles Van Quickenborne, took up work among the native and migrant tribes of Indian Territory (present-day Kansas and Oklahoma). In 1846, the Mission of St. Francis was established among the Osage, on Neosho River, by Fathers John Shoenmakers and John Bax. They extended their services to the Quapaw for some years.

20th century[edit]

The Quapaw, together with associated remnant tribes, the Miami, Seneca, Wyandot and Ottawa, were served from the Mission of "Saint Mary of the Quapaws", at Quapaw, Oklahoma. Historians estimated their number at European encounter as 5000. The Catholic Encyclopedia noted the people had suffered from high fatalities due to epidemics, wars, removals, and social disruption. It documented their numbers as 3200 in 1687, 1600 in 1750, 476 in 1843, and 307 in 1910, including people of mixed-race.

The following passages are taken from the public domain Catholic Encyclopedia, written early in the 20th century. It describes the Quapaw from the non-native perspective of that time.

Peter Clabber, Principal Chief of Quapaws, 1905. National Archives.

A tribe now nearly extinct, but formerly one of the most important of the lower Mississippi region, occupying several villages about the mouth of the Arkansas, chiefly on the west (Arkansas) side, with one or two at various periods on the east (Mississippi) side of the Mississippi, and claiming the whole of the Arkansas River region up to the border of the territory held by the Osage in the north-western part of the state. They are of Siouan linguistic stock, speaking the same language, spoken also with dialectic variants, by the Osage and Kansa (Kaw) in the south and by the Omaha and Ponca in Nebraska. Their name properly is Ogaxpa, which signifies "down-stream people", as distinguished from Umahan or Omaha, "up-stream people". To the Illinois and other Algonquian tribes, they were known as 'Akansea', whence their French names of Akensas and Akansas. According to concurrent tradition of the cognate tribes, the Quapaw and their kinsmen originally lived far east, possibly beyond the Alleghenies, and, pushing gradually westward, descended the Ohio River – hence called by the Illinois the "river of the Akansea" – to its junction with the Mississippi, whence the Quapaw, then including the Osage and Kansa, descended to the mouth of the Arkansas, while the Omaha, with the Ponca, went up the Missouri.[22]


The Town of Quapaw, Oklahoma serves as the tribal capital of the Quapaw Nation, which has a 13,000-acre (53 km2) tribal jurisdictional area.

The Quapaw people elect a tribal council and the tribal chairman, who serves a two-year term. The governing body of the tribe is outlined in the governing resolutions of the tribe, which were voted upon and approved in 1956 to create a written form of government. (Prior to 1956 the Quapaw Tribe operated on a chief system).[23] The Chairman is Wena Supernaw.[24] The Fourth of July weekend is also when the tribe convenes the annual general council meeting, during which important decisions regarding the policies and resolutions of the Quapaw tribe are voted upon by tribal members over the age of eighteen.

The tribe operates a Tribal Police Department and a Fire Department, which handles both fire and EMS calls. They issue their own tribal vehicle tags and have their own housing authority.[25]


The tribe owns two smoke shops and motor fuel outlets, known as the Quapaw C-Store and Downstream Q-Store.[26] They also own and operate the Eagle Creek Golf Course and resort, located in Loma Linda, Missouri.[27]

Their primary economic drivers have been their gaming casinos, established under federal and state law. The first two are both located in Quapaw: the Quapaw Casino and the Downstream Casino Resort. These have generated most of the revenue for the tribe, which they have used to support welfare, health and education of their members.[28][29] In 2012 the Quapaw Tribe's annual economic impact in the region was measured at more than $225,000,000.[29]

In 2020 they completed a third casino, Saracen Casino Resort, located in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. It was the first purpose-built casino in the state. Constructed at a cost of $350 million, it will employ over 1,100 full-time staff.[30]

In the 20th century, the Quapaw leased some of their lands to European Americans, who developed them for industrial purposes. Before passage of environmental laws, toxic waste was deposited that has created long-term hazards. For instance, the Tar Creek Superfund site has been listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as requiring clean-up of environmental hazards.



Of the 3,240 enrolled tribal members, 892 live in the state of Oklahoma. Membership in the tribe is based on lineal descent.[31]


The traditional Quapaw language is part of the Dhegiha branch of the Siouan language family. Quapaw was well documented in fieldnotes and publications from many individuals, including George Izard in 1827, Lewis F. Hadley in 1882, 19th-century linguist James Owen Dorsey, Frank T. Siebert in 1940, and linguist Robert Rankin in the 1970s. In the 21st century, there are few remaining native speakers.[32] In the early 20th century, an account noted that the Dhegiha language, a branch of Siouan including the "dialects" of the Omaha, Ponca, Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw, has received more extended study. Rev. J.O. Dorsey published material about it under the auspices of the Bureau of American Ethnology, now part of the Smithsonian Institution.[33]

Other efforts at language preservation and revitalization are being undertaken. In 2011 the Quapaw participated in the first annual Dhegiha Gathering. The Osage language program hosted and organized the gathering, held at the Quapaw tribe's Downstream Casino. Language-learning techniques and other issues were discussed and taught in workshops at the conference among the five cognate tribes.[34] The 2012 Annual Dhegiha Gathering was also held at Downstream Casino.[35] To revive the language, the tribe is conducting classes in Quapaw at the tribal museum.[36] An online audio lexicon of the Quapaw language was created by editing old recordings of Elders speaking the language.[37]

Culture and society[edit]

The Quapaw host cultural events throughout the year, which are primarily held at the tribal museum. These include Indian dice games, traditional singing, and classes in traditional arts, such as finger weaving, shawl making, and flute making. In addition, Quapaw language classes are held there.[38] The tribe's annual dance is during the Fourth of July weekend. This dance was organized shortly after the American Civil War,[39] 2011 was the 139th anniversary of this dance.[40] Common features of this powwow include gourd dance, war dance, stomp dance, and 49s. Other activities take place such as Indian football, handgame, traditional footraces, traditional dinners, turkey dance, and other dances such as Quapaw Dance, and dances from other area tribes.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The 2009 documentary Tar Creek, about the Tar Creek Superfund Site located on Quapaw tribal lands, explored what at one time was considered to be the worst environmental disaster in the country. The film discusses the alleged racism of environmental and governmental practices that led to the neglect and lack of regulation that produced the hazards of this site. It is credited with causing the lead poisoning of a high percentage of children.
  • In 2018, Infinite Productions produced a documentary titled The Pride of the Ogahpah,[41] about the development of the Downstream Casino Resort, which is operated by The Quapaw Nation.

Notable Quapaw[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Quapaw." Archived 10 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine Ethnologue. Retrieved 28 Jan 2012.
  2. ^ "Quapaw". The Chambers Dictionary (9th ed.). Chambers. 2003. ISBN 0-550-10105-5.
  3. ^ "Quapaw Nation". Indian Affairs. U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved September 30, 2023.
  4. ^ Spears, Nancy Marie (October 21, 2021). "Quapaw Nation's reservation affirmed as Indian Country under federal law". Gaylord News. Norman, Oklahoma. Retrieved September 30, 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Encyclopedia of Arkansas". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  6. ^ Bright, William (2007). Native American Placenames of the United States. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-806135984.
  7. ^ "Origin of Tribal Name | Quapaw Tribe, OK - Official Website". www.quapawtribe.com. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  8. ^ Rollins, Willard (1995). The Osage: An Enthnohistorical Study of Hegemony on the Prairie-Plains. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. pp. 96–100.
  9. ^ Louis F. Burns, "Osage" Archived 2 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, retrieved 2 March 2009
  10. ^ Nuttall, Thomas (1905). Nuttall's Journal of Travels Into the Arkansa Territory October 2, 1818-February 18, 1820. A. H. Clark.
  11. ^ Bandy, Everett (2022). O-ga-xpa Ma-zhoⁿ Quapaw Country. Quapaw Nation.
  12. ^ Henning, Dale (2004). Dhegihan and Chiwere Siouans in the Plains: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives Part Two. Plains Anthropologist Vol. 49, Number 192 Memoir 192.
  13. ^ Headman, Louis (2020). Walks On the Ground: A Tribal History of the Ponca Nation. University of Nebraska Press.
  14. ^ a b Ethridge, Robbie (2008). The Transformation of the Southeastern Indians, 1540–1760. University Press of Mississippi.
  15. ^ "Dhegihan and Chiwere Siouans in the Plains: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives". Plains Anthropologist: 394. 2004.
  16. ^ Taylor, Francis. Histories of Maize: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Prehistory, Linguistics, Biogeography, Domestication, and Evolution of Maize.
  17. ^ Bandy, Everett (2022). O-ga-xpa Ma-zhoⁿ Quapaw Country. Quapaw Nation.
  18. ^ Havard, Gilles (2003). Histoire de l'Amérique française. Paris: Flamarion.
  19. ^ Lancaster, Bob (1989). The Jungles of Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. p. 40. ISBN 1557281084. OCLC 19321691.
  20. ^ Key, Joseph (January 18, 2023). "Quapaw". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  21. ^ "Lancaster" (1989), p. 41.
  22. ^ Mooney, James (1911). "Quapaw Indians". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. Retrieved July 23, 2022.
  23. ^ "Quapaw Tribe Governing Resolutions."
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^ 2011 Oklahoma Indian Nations Pocket Pictorial Directory Archived 12 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, 2011: 30. Retrieved 28 Jan 2012.
  26. ^ "Quapaw Businesses.", Quapaw tribal website, 2013 (retrieved 8 February 2013)
  27. ^ "Golf" Archived 28 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Downstream Casino Resort website, 2013 (retrieved 8 February 2013)
  28. ^ "Directions." Archived 27 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine Downstream Casino Resort. 2008 (retrieved 12 August 2010)
  29. ^ a b "Casino Pumps 1 Billion: Downstream Casino Economic Impact", Neosho Daily News, 19 January 2013 (retrieved 8 February 2013)
  30. ^ "Quapaw Nation Cuts Ribbon on Casino Resort". KARK.com. October 20, 2020.
  31. ^ "Quapaw Enrollment"
  32. ^ Quapaw Historical Written Works, Quapaw Tribal Ancestry
  33. ^ Pilling, Siouan Bibliography
  34. ^ "Dhegiha Gathering" Archived 19 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Dhegiha Gathering Article. 2011, Osage Tribe website (retrieved 10 September 2011)
  35. ^ "2nd Dhegiha Gathering." 2nd Dhegiha Gathering Notice. 2013, Quapaw Tribe website (retrieved 8 February 2013)
  36. ^ "Quapaw language", Quapaw Tribal website, 2011 (retrieved 10 September 2011)
  37. ^ Quapaw Language
  38. ^ "Calendar", Quapaw Tribe Website, 2008 (retrieved 12 August 2010)
  39. ^ Baird, David (1975). The Quapaw People. Indian Tribal Series.
  40. ^ "Powwows.", Tribal website. 2011 (retrieved 10 September 2011)
  41. ^ Youtube: The Pride of the Ogahpah
  42. ^ Matheson, Luke (August 13, 2019). "Who Was Chief Saracen of the Quapaw Tribe?". Pine Bluff Commercial.

External links[edit]