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Arkansas: The Downstream Place

The US purchased this state from the French.

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The Territory of Arkansas became the 25th state of the Union on June 15, 1836. “Arkansas” is a French interpretation of the Native American Sioux tribe’s word “acansa,” which means downstream place. It is a land of rivers, mountains, and historical landmarks. The first inhabitants resided there thousands of years ago; from ancient civilization through to the first European settlers, Civil War, and today, Arkansas has a rich history.

The Early Years

Thousands of years ago, the land was populated by the Bluff Dwellers, who lived in caves in the Ozark Mountains. As the centuries passed, other indigenous tribes began to make the land their home, including the Caddo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Osage, and Quapaw.

The first European didn’t arrive until 1541 when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto visited what is today called Hot Springs. It was another 100 years, though, before the first European community was established. Frenchman Henri de Tonty built the Arkansas Post settlement in 1686 and later became known as the “Father of Arkansas.”

Becoming Arkansas

The United States, under President Thomas Jefferson in 1803, bought land from France in what is called the Louisiana Purchase for $15 million. This purchase included the land of Arkansas. In 1819 the land became a separate territory, and in 1836 it became the 25th state.

By the time it reached statehood, the US Congress had withdrawn all land titles of the local Native Americans and tribes were forced into what was called Indian Territory, the future state of Oklahoma.

Arkansas was a slave state, meaning some of the settlers owned slaves. When the Civil War began in 1861, Arkansas became the ninth state to secede from the Union and join the Confederate States of America. Several battles were fought here during that time, including the Battle of Helena, the Battle of Pea Ridge, and the Red River Campaign.

The Civil Rights Movement hit the state hard in 1957 when nine black American students were denied entry into Little Rock Central High School. The Supreme Court ruling in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka outlawed segregation in public education. However, Governor Orval E. Faubus resisted the court order that instructed him to mix black and white students, and federal troops were deployed to the campus to enforce the integration. On September 25, weeks after the first troops arrived, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the soldiers to escort the pupils to school, and the nine black students attended their first full day of non-segregated education.

Interesting Facts

  • Little Rock is the capital of Arkansas.
  • Nicknames: The Natural State and The Land of Opportunity.
  • State motto: Regnat populous, or “The people rule.”
  • Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, Ouachita National Forest reigns as the oldest national forest in the South. The Ouachita Mountains are unusual in that their ridges run east to west as opposed to north to south.
  • From 1874 to 1967, every Arkansas governor was a member of the Democratic Party.
  • Former president Bill Clinton was born in Hope. He was elected governor in 1978.
  • The World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest is held annually in Stuttgart.
  • Sam Walton founded his Wal-Mart stores in Bentonville.
  • The Arkansas River is the longest tributary to flow into the Mississippi-Missouri river system. It is 1,450 miles long.
Kelli Ballard

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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