Member of an American Indian people who probably originated in the Ohio Valley, but had migrated to the Mississippi–Arkansas river confluence (northern Arkansas) by the mid-16th century. They speak a Siouan-Dhegiha dialect. A settled agricultural culture, they lived in palisaded villages and built earth mounds for their temples and graves. In the 1700s they acquired horses and hunted buffalo like the Plains Indians. After ceding their land in the early 19th century, they eventually moved to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The Quapaw now have an estimated population of 2,000, many of whom live in Oklahoma. Income has been generated from rich deposits of lead and zinc on their lands.
The Quapaw are related to the Kaw (Kansa), Osage, Omaha, and Ponca, sharing the same Siouan dialect. Traditionally they lived in bark-covered, rectangular, dome-topped longhouses that were arranged around a central open space. They grew maize (corn), beans, squash (pumpkins), melons, and tobacco; gathered nuts and berries; hunted with bows and arrows; and fished.
Religion was based around belief in the Wakontah, an all-pervading spiritual force; shaman, or medicine men, acted as intermediaries between the Wakontah and the Quapaw. Quapaw society was patrilineal, clanship passing through the father. The clans were divided into ‘earth’ people, who dealt with day-to-day material matters; and ‘sky’ people, who had spiritual duties. Each village was led by a number of hereditary chiefs who had to consult with a council of elders when making important decisions. Relations with other groups were generally peaceful, they traded goods with neighbouring peoples, and became allies of the French.
In 1818 the Quapaw gave up most of of their land to the US government in return for a small reservation on the lower Arkansas River. Forced to sell this in 1824, they joined the Caddo tribe for a short while on the Red River in northwestern Louisiana. However, floods destroyed their crops and they suffered starvation and disease. Eventually they tried to return to Arkansas, but were moved to Indian Territory in 1833 where they were given a reservation; some later chose to live among the Osage. In 1893 the Quapaw allotted their reservation lands and the Quapaw Agency was established.