Native Americans of Carroll County, AR

Long before the arrival of 19th century settlers and modern day tourists, the area defined by the boundaries of present day Carroll County was home to another group of hardy people who had already learned to harvest and appreciate it's abundant natural resources. Native American artifacts dating back to 1700 BC have been discovered near present day Blue Spring Heritage Center, just west of Eureka Springs. The Caddo Tribe, well known for its earth mound-building, dancing, and artistic skills, was one of the earliest tribal groups recorded in the area, living in the foothills of the Ozarks Mountains and as far south as Texas. Principal tribal agriculture consisted of pumpkin, maize, and sunflowers. They were eventually pushed to the West by invading tribes such as the Osage, who had been driven west themselves by frequent wars with the Iroquois of the Ohio River. Early white settlers near the southern border of the county also experienced peaceful contact with the Shawnee, who had a village at the mouth of Clear Creek not far from the present day location of Harrison, AR.

The Osage Tribe, dating back to roughly 650 AD, were reportedly one of the most active tribes in Carroll County, Arkansas. Calling themselves the Wah-Zha-Zhe, which roughly translates to "the upstream people", members of the Osage nation combined the traditional roles of both Woodland and Plains tribes - when they weren't hunting the Ozark highlands and making semi-annual excursions to the Great Plains for buffalo, they cultivated corn, squash, beans, and pumpkins in local village farms. It would be the Osage that would often befriend the French explorers and trappers of the 17th century who ventured into Carroll County and the Arkansas Ozarks. Other Native American tribes that may have lived in Carroll County at one time or another include the Illiniwek, Ponca, Quapaw, Omaha, and Kaw.

In 1804, the United States appointed Jean Pierre Chouteau, a wealthy French-Creoole fur trader as official agent to the Osage. This resulted in the Treaty of Fort Clark, the first case of the Osage ceding some of their land in the Ozarks to the United States. Ultimately, three separate Osage treaties would be signed, ceding lands lying within the current states of Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, and eventually pushing the Osage into Kansas, where they lost approximately fifty percent of their population due to famine and hardship. Having lost all of their Ozark lands to American settlers and the temporarily relocated Cherokee Nation, the remaining Osage tribespeople would later purchase their own reservation in the Cherokee Outlet of the Oklahoma Territory, where many of their descendants still live today.

The Trail of Tears

In 1823, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Indians could occupy land within the United States, but could not hold title to those lands. Southern states were eager to procure land inhabited by Native Americans, and President Andrew Jackson's 1830 Indian Removal Act was designed to open those lands to white settlers. Just prior to its acceptance into Statehood, the Arkansas Territory acted as a temporary holding ground for thousands of Native Americans that were displaced by the Indian Removal Act. The first tribe from the East to be relocated to Indian Territory (modern day Oklahoma) under the act was the Mississippi Choctaw. They were soon followed by the Creek and Chickasaw. Historical records mention a Cherokee camp north of present day Berryville in 1833. By 1838, the remaining Cherokee were forcibly moved along the "Trail of Tears", some passing near present-day Eureka Springs in Carroll County at Blue Spring. By the time their scattered tribe had reached its destination, some 4,000 Cherokee had perished. Many had died before the journey had even commenced, having battled disease and starvation in concentration camps in Tennessee.

Their Seminole brethren would not be coerced so easily, ambushing the 110 U.S. army troops who attempted to forcibly remove them, and killing all but three of the soldiers. Seeing this as an act of war, the Florida militia began to mobilize volunteers and stock weapons and ammunition while families fled the territory in fear. Seminole war parties raided farms and plundered sugar plantations along the coast, and by the time the war ended in 1842, the U.S. Government had spent over $20 million battling the elusive Seminole resistence. The Seminole Nation was then forcibly sent to live with the Creek in the Indian Territory. Those that escaped into the Florida Everglades were not pursued. Thus ended much of the large-scale displacement of the American Indian from lands East of the Mississippi.