Sacred places for many tribes are scattered across the country, oftentimes away from a tribe’s current home. Forced relocation, caused most of this, and for the Quapaw Tribe, the will have a say in protecting these areas around their original homeland of Arkansas.
On January 15, the tribe and the Arkansas National Guard signed a Memorandum of Understanding that would protect and enhance sacred places “and other historical and cultural resources in the state of Arkansas, where the Quapaws lived for hundreds of years prior to Arkansas’ statehood,” according to a tribal press release.
The MOU was signed by Quapaw Chairman John L. Berrey, and Major General William D. Wofard, Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard. It says, “The Arkansas National Guard will provide for the tribe’s meaningful involvement in the development and implementation of the Statewide Arkansas Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan (ICRMP). The Arkansas National Guard will develop and implement strategies in consultation and collaboration with the tribe, to avoid, minimize or mitigate adverse effects to cultural resources as specified in the statewide ICRMP.”
The Quapaw lived in Arkansas near the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers and consisted of four villages, according to arkarcheology.uark.edu. History states the tribe was first contacted by the French explorers Marquette and Jolliet in 1673. The tribe remained in the area even after the United States purchased the Louisiana territory in 1803. But in 1818 and 1824, the tribe was forced to surrender its lands in Arkansas to the U.S. government and was relocated. The Quapaw reservation was established in 1839 in northeastern Oklahoma and today, almost 2,000 Quapaws live near Miami, Oklahoma.
This MOU is not the first one the tribe has made according to Berrey, similar agreements have been made with the Army Corps of Engineers in Arkansas and other states as well.
"It is especially important to us in Arkansas because that was our original homeland long before we were moved to northeast Oklahoma in the 1800s," Berrey said in the release. "There are hundreds of years of historical sites, known and unknown, featuring Quapaw artifacts, villages, hunting and farming grounds, and burial sites of our ancestors. We hope to identity and preserve as many of them as possible, and this agreement with the Arkansas National Guard will help greatly."