The Quapaw Indians
by Carrie Wilson and George Sabo III
Quapaw Indians lived in four villages near the confluence of the Arkansas
and Mississippi Rivers when they were first contacted by the French explorers
Marquette and Jolliet in 1673.
Arkansea 1700, by Charles Banks Wilson.
Courtesy of the artist.
The Quapaws grew corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, gourds, and tobacco in
fields near their villages. Fruits, nuts, seeds, and roots were collected.
Deer, bear, and buffalo were hunted, and smaller mammals, wild turkeys,
waterfowl, and fish were taken seasonally. After contact with Europeans,
melons, peaches and chickens were raised.
Quapaw women wore deerskin skirts and went topless during the warm seasons.
Married women wore their hair loose, but unmarried women wore braids rolled
into coils fastened behind each ear and decorated with ornaments. Men
went naked or wore loincloths during the warm seasons. Leggings, moccasins,
and robes were worn by both sexes during the cold seasons.
The family was the basic unit of Quapaw social organization. Groups of
families related through the males were joined into clans. Clans were
named for animals, heavenly bodies, or natural phenomena like thunder.
Clan members believed they were descended from a common ancestor that
gave them a strong sense of shared identity and mutual obligation.
The 17th century Quapaw village of Osotouy, by Kugee Supernaw. Courtesy of the artist.
Villages consisted of rectangular houses arranged around an open area
or plaza. Houses were constructed of parallel rows of long poles driven
into the ground with tops bent over and tied together. Horizontal branches
were interwoven among the uprights, and the framework was covered with
bark sheets. Platforms covered with woven mats lined the interior walls
and were used for sitting and sleeping. Central hearths provided heat
and light. Each village also had a community building, built like a house
but much larger, where people could assemble for meetings and ceremonies.
Another structure, roofed but with open walls and a platform was also
built near the plaza. Here leaders conducted public ceremonies and guests
Each village had a leader who was advised by a council of male elders.
Villages managed their affairs independently, except when matters concerned
the entire tribe. In these cases, decisions were made that involved the
consent of all village leaders.
Quapaw village life was ordered by ceremonies performed for important
activities and events. Each clan had specific ceremonial duties. Some
ceremonies, like those accompanying planting and harvesting activities,
were scheduled according to season. Naming ceremonies, marriages, curing
rituals, adoptions, and funerals were performed as needed.
The Quapaws were close allies of the French in colonial Louisiana. During
the subsequent Spanish regime, the Quapaws helped defend the colony from
invasion by Indians allied with the English. The Quapaws tried to maintain
their policy of peaceful coexistence when the United States purchased
the Louisiana territory in 1803, but they were forced to surrender their
Arkansas lands to the U.S. government in 1818 and 1824. A Quapaw reservation
was established in 1839 in northeastern Oklahoma. Today, there are about
2,000 Quapaws, most of whom live near Miami, Oklahoma.
Baird, W. David
Quapaw Indians: A History of the Downstream People. University of
Oklahoma Press, Norman.
Quapaws. Chelsea House Publishers, New York and Philadelphia.
Davis, Hester A. (editor)
Before the Americans. Arkansas Archeological Survey Research Series
No. 40. Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Sabo III, George
of Our Children: Historic Indians of Arkansas. Arkansas Archeological
Survey Popular Series No. 3. Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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