Thursday, April 20, 2023

Q is for Quapaw


#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter Q

One of the many ugly chapters in the history of America was the U.S. government's Indian Removal process that began is the early 1800s when the government began pushing the Native Americans westward. After the Louisiana Purchase, explorers deemed the part of the country east of the Mississippi to be fertile and habitable and the country west of the Mississippi to be desert and uninhabitable by white people. 

Many tribes fled westward as white settlement advanced toward and across the Mississippi River. Some tribes voluntarily relocated and many more were forced out. In less than 50 years, more than 60 tribes were willingly or forcibly relocated to what was then called Indian Territory, and in 1907, it was admitted into the Union as the state of Oklahoma. Currently, one in 12 residents of Oklahoma are Native American.

According to oral tradition, a large group known as Dhegiha Sioux lived east of the Mississippi near the confluence of the Ohio River (and one of my favorite stops along the way when I travel to Nashville). The group split into two smaller groups. One group moved north and consisted of the Omaha, Kansa, Ponca, and Osage tribes. The other group, the Quapaw Tribe, moved south.

Tribal history tells that the Dhegiha people were moving westward and came upon the Mississippi River. There was a dense fog, so the people created a rope by braiding grapevines together, but while they were using it to cross the river, the vine broke. The Omaha people continued to travel against the current, which is what the word "Omaha" means. The Quapaw Tribe was said to float downstream after the vine broke. Their name was derived from the word "Ogahpah" which meant "downstream," and they traveled on down the Mississippi to its confluence with the Arkansas River. 

The Quapaw lived in the Lower Mississippi Valley region until their removal by the U.S. government after the Louisiana Purchase. Their relocation to northern Louisiana is now referred to as the Quapaw Trail of Tears. In 1834, they were relocated again, this time to the northeastern corner of Indian Territory.

The last Quapaw hereditary chief, known as Tallchief, died in 1918 with no male successor. His daughter continued as a spiritual leader until her death in 1972. Since the 1950s, they have been governed by a business committee. There are currently approximately 2,000 members of the Quapaw Tribe, with 25% of them living within 30 miles of their national headquarters in Quapaw, Oklahoma. The Tribe assists members with such things as childcare, education, healthcare, housing, mental health services, and family support services. They host Powwows and other cultural events, and they are generous with their financial donations and grants to not-for-profit groups in the surrounding area.

And yes, before you ask, they DO have a casino, along with a resort hotel, event center, restaurants, and a spa, and you can stand in three different states (Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri) at the same time on the grounds of the resort. The name they chose now makes perfect sense to me: Downstream Resort Casino.

If you would like to read about another ugly chapter in the story of the Native Americans in northeastern Oklahoma, please read this post I made for the 2014 A to Z Challenge: P is for Picher.


  1. I remember learning about the Trail of Tears in probably 5th grade and feeling so sad about it.