Celebrating Native American Heritage: Where to Visit

Native American Heritage Month

As November is Native American Heritage Month, the UACCM Diversity and Inclusion Committee is inviting students, faculty, staff, and the community to explore the rich history of Native Americans in Arkansas. Many cultural heritage sites are standing examples of a rich civilization of the Caddo, Chickasaw, Osage, Quapaw, Tunica, and Cherokee tribes.

These sites are available for the public to visit and explore Native American heritage. These include past villages, burial sites, or locations associated with the Trail of Tears. 

Arkansas Post National Memorial Park

Location: Gillett
In the late 17th century, French explorer Henri de Tonti established Arkansas Post at the Quapaw village of Osotouy. The settlement, which exchanged hands between the French and Spanish, benefited from the fur trade, thus increasing the settlement’s commercial importance for European and Native Americans. During the American Revolution, British forces with their Chickasaw allies attacked the settlement then under Spanish control. Along with Spanish soldiers, the Quapaw joined to repel the raid.

Cadron Settlement Park

Location: Conway
Details: Once a popular trading post for Cherokee fur trappers, the settlement was a stopping point on the Trail of Tears a forced relocation of Native Americans to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). But the Cherokee’s removal proved detrimental to the settlement, as the fur industry soon crashed in the area. The settlement declined along with the river activity. A nearby cemetery holds the plots of dozens of Native Americans—many unmarked—while demonstrating further archeological evidence of the Cherokee’s presence in the area. Today, the settlement is a popular heritage tourism site.
log house
Cadron Settlement Park. Image Courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons.

The Drennen-Scott House

Location: Van Buren
Details: Built by Van Buren city founder John Drennen in 1834, the Drennen-Scott House is a treasured historical resource and predates statehood. But its relationship to Native Americans is undeniable. Drennen served as an Indian agent for the Cherokee during the Trail of Tears. Due to his position and role of distributing settlement payments, it’s likely that many Cherokee on the Trail of Tears passed this house.

Fort Smith Historic National Site

Location: Fort Smith
Details: Established first as a fort in 1817, the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears met here before entering present-day Oklahoma. The site includes exhibits panels, various educational programming, and an overlook of the Trail of Tears.
multi-story, brick building
Fort Smith Historic National Site, 1933. Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Jacob Wolf House

Location: Norfork
Details: Built in 1829 as the Izard County Courthouse—thus making it the oldest public building in Arkansas—a museum operates there today. Programming includes information about Native American culture as the house served as a stop on the Trail of Tears.

Museum of Native American History

Location: Bentonville
Details: Opened in 2006, the Museum of Native American History houses over 10,000 artifacts of Native American culture. There is no admission cost, making its collections accessible to as many people as possible. Permanent exhibits cover an impressive range of history starting from the Paleo Era to the Pre-Columbian Era to more modern times. Once you’re done visiting this museum, then you can pop on over to the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art.

Old State House

Location: Little Rock
Details: While the first state capital building in Arkansas was under construction during the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee did pass through Little Rock. Its facades of white stucco is hard to miss, and all evidence points that the Greek Revival structure would have been visible on the Cherokee’s designated routes. Today, the building is home to the Old State House Museum. 
state capitol
Old State House, 1933. Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Parkin Archeological State Park

Location: Parkin
Details: This state park preserves a 17-acre Native American village from the Mississippian Period of 1000 to 1550. The park includes tours, exhibit panels, trails, and access to the St. Francis River.

Pea Ridge National Military Park

Location: Garfield
Details: The Battle of Pea Ridge occurred here on March 6-7, 1863, with 23,000 soldiers engaged in combat in the Civil War. Many argue that it was the most pivotal battle in the Trans Mississippi Theater, but the conflict was also significant in Native American history. Native Americans from Indian Territory fought with the Confederate Army and included members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, and the Chickasaw tribes. It was first time Native Americans engaged in conflict on this magnitude since the Trail of Tears.
painting of battle
The Battle of Pea Rige print. Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Petit Jean State Park

Location: Morrilton
Details: Among the plethora of historical and natural resources at the park, Petit Jean is also home to the Rock House Cave. This archeological site is home to astounding Native American-made cave rock art.

Toltec Mounds

Location: Lonoke County
Details: Sometime from 650 AD to 1050 AD, Native Americans built the mounds near the banks of the Arkansas River. While historians and archeologists are not sure which tribe had built the mounds, later Native Americans used the site for ceremonies and burials. Today, it is one of the most important cultural heritage sites in the state and the site of a state park. Archeological digs at the mounds has unearthed a plethora of artifacts from Native American tribes. 
mounds of earth
Toltec Mounds. Image Courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons.

Village Creek State Park

Location: Wynne
Details: Today, the park is 7,000 acres of beautiful scenery that includes the trails—while some being the same ones used in the Trail of Tears.


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