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« Back to 1988 Spring Issue Articles
Arkansas River Valley's Quapaw Are Tall and Handsome
QUAPAW VILLAGE ON THE LOWER ARKANSAS – The Quapaw Indians, a tall and handsome people, have lived near the mouth of the Arkansas River for a long time before this year 1500 A. D.
The Indians are not sure exactly where they came from. Some say they came from the north traveling over the land. Others claim they came down the Mississippi River from many, many miles upstream where it joins another mighty river, the Ohio. Regardless, over the last 100 years, the Quapaws have established their control of the area where the Arkansas River joins the Mississippi River.
In this region, the Quapaw have developed several large villages. These villages include several hundred people living in long houses that are covered with bark. Clay is used to fill the holes in the bark and make the houses watertight. The people farm and raise squash, beans, and corn on the fertile land of the Arkansas River valley and its tributaries, the smaller rivers that flow into the Arkansas. Land is plentiful and the Quapaw burn off an area, plants it, and farm it for a few years. Then a new area is selected and the process is repeated. Meat is obtained by hunting and fishing.
Both men and women decorate their bodies with paint. They frequently wear beads made from shells obtained from far to the south, at the Gulf of Mexico. These beads are worn around their necks, wrists, and ankles. Occasionally, one of the leaders is seen with an ornament on his forehead made of copper obtained from far to the north.
The Quapaw are excellent pottery makers. They have pioneered in this part of the world the use of paint on pottery vessels, and they frequently make beautiful vessels with red, white, and black paint. Many of these pots have a swirl pattern, which is modified to suit the particular piece.
Dogs are common in the villages on a large bluff, near the center of the state. This is located where the river has natural steps in the bluff, making for easy access up and down the river bank.
Some of the Quapaws have even moved upriver farther to where the Fourche La Fave River comes into the Arkansas River. This particular group has encountered many Caddo Indians and is living at peace with the Caddo in a large village there.
The Quapaw seem destined to rule much of the area of Arkansas unless disease or some other factor occurs. Because of their organizational skills, intelligence, and well-suited villages, they can control the Arkansas River. However, their only weapons are the bow and arrow, axes, and other hand tools.
They have never experienced much disease and therefore would be very susceptible to diseases that might be brought in by invaders. Only the future will tell what will happen to the Quapaw Indians that now control the Arkansas River Valley.