Arkansas History Hybrid
Native Americans in Arkansas
Native Americans in Arkansas, what do we really know about them and their presence in Arkansas? Thanks to history books and some other resources we know some things about Native Americans, but those history books don’t specifically talk about their presence in Arkansas. Thanks to our textbooks, instructor, and some other resources we can find out more about the Native Americans and their presence in Arkansas and even some of the tribes that lived in or around the state. To do that we need to jump back before Arkansas became a state, and well Arkansas. Let’s start first with some background on Native Americans in Arkansas before the Europeans arrived.
Arkansas was actually home to Native Americans long before the Europeans arrived. The first explorers met Indians whose ancestors had occupied that region for thousands of years. Before the Europeans arrived and introduced new technologies to the Native Americans, those who already inhabited the land were impressive and well-organized societies. The Europeans introduced new technologies such as plants, new animals, and something that would set in motion population loss and even some cultural changes that would continue on for centuries to come. Later on the U.S. government would force the Indians to leave their ancient homelands and their settlements and they would even try to eradicate them all together in later centuries. Some Indian communities would be preserved and would be able today to continue their rich cultural heritage. To some individuals and myself, this heritage and the tribes themselves are an important part of Arkansas history. Now let’s go to their first encounter with Europeans and what all would take place during that time.
Here it is 1492 and Columbus has discovered America, now is time when the king and queen of Spain would send another explorer to explore the lands that Columbus had founded. One explorer in particular, Hernando De Soto would play a major role in the Native Americans in what would later be called Arkansas. This brings us to 1541 when the first of many encounters the Europeans and Native Americans living in what is now Arkansas would have. This encounter would be take place when Hernando De Soto’s army would camp on the Eastern side of the Mississippi River. While there a tribe approached him and presented him and his men with a gift of fish and plum loaves, but this encounter would end in a tragic way. The Spaniards would be alarmed by the number of them and fire on them and end up killing about five or six of the Native Americans. So begins the history of the relations between the Europeans and Arkansas Indians.
Although Spanish chronicles neglected to describe most Indian rituals, they did comment on the ceremonious receptions which they were sometimes greeted with as they would approach or enter an Indian village. Gifts of food and hides were offered as symbols of trust and mutual support. The Spanish failed to recognize these symbols, and this failure became apparent to the Indians as the Spanish began to seize additional food supplies and enslaved the Indian men, women, and even children. De Soto’s army spent more than two years in Arkansas, marching from one populous village to another. De Soto and his army came to find out that the largest populations of Indians were concentrated in the major river valleys. The results of his expedition in Arkansas were in a word, catastrophic. The Spanish did horrible things to the Indians, they brutally punished anyone resisting demands for food and services. This “resistance” resulted in the death of hundreds of Indians, they Spanish even destroyed their villages and agricultural fields. De Soto’s army departed in 1543, after that there were no further written accounts describing the Arkansas region were produced until 1673 with the voyage of Marquette and Joliet down the mighty Mississippi. These...
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