Arkansas's First People

As part of American Experience's We Shall Remain, Arkansas's First People is a 5-part series featuring unique perspectives on American Indian cultural legacy, archeological data, and interviews with modern tribal representatives of those who had and still have an impact on Arkansas.

Episode 1: Ancestors
Early people known as Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian Indians begin the story of this land with the objects and artwork they left behind. Tools made of stone and animal bones surface in farm fields and on riverbanks. Beautiful clay vessels that have stayed intact for centuries and curious pictures painted and pecked onto cave walls reveal the ingenuity, intelligence and humor of people who came before. As the descendants of these people begin to settle and form permanent homes, the evidence of their societies laid claim to magnificent monuments such as the sky-reaching mounds dotting Arkansas.

Click here to view the Toltec Mounds Virtual Tour

Episode 2: Nations
As European explorers continue to cross the Mississippi River, out of the mysterious past of the mound builders, diverse, communal groups known as the Caddo, the Quapaw and the Osage live in the mountains, valleys and plains of Arkansas. The modern descendants of these great people explain their tribal views and cultures. Watch Rough Clips

Episode 3: Removal
Because of the ever-expanding United States of America, indigenous tribes were forced to move to what is dubbed 'Indian Territory' by way of the heartbreaking, multi-route Trail of Tears. This time of removal is still evident along the geography of the southeast. In the conversations of the tribes affected and preservation groups maintaining the routes, the memory of this greedy period of United States history is kept alive so that it may never happen again. Watch Rough Clips

Episode 4: Warriors
While trying to survive during the conflict of the Union and the Confederacy, Indian militias are formed to fight in Civil War battles such as Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern). Little is said in textbooks about this involvement. In times of military combat, Native people have always been at the forefront of volunteering for the United States military regardless of past aggression. Watch Rough Clips

Episode 5: Preservation
Myths about American Indians are still present. Advertising and entertainment are filled with the mysterious and ridiculous. Indian nations, academic scholars, park interpreters and civic organizations debunk the myths and show the true world of the Native people who are still part of the land we call Arkansas. They are your family, neighbors, friends and co-workers. Watch Rough Clips

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