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Quapaw Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Quapaw Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Quapaw site for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Quapaw pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Quapaw Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Quapaw"? What does it mean?
Quapaw is pronounced "quaw-paw." It comes from their own tribal name, which means "downstream people." The Quapaws have also been known as the Alkansea or Arkansas Indians after a tribal town named Acansa, which meant "southern." That is where the name of the state of Arkansas came from.

Where do the Quapaws live?
The Quapaw Indians are original people of Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The Quapaw tribe was forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1800's along with many other tribes, and most Quapaw people are still living in Oklahoma today.

How is the Quapaw Indian nation organized?
The Quapaws live on a reservation, which is land that belongs to them and is under their control. The Quapaw Nation has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Quapaws are also US citizens and must obey American law. In the past, each Quapaw band was led by a chief and a tribal council. Today, the Quapaw tribe is governed by councilmembers who are elected by all the tribal members.

What language do the Quapaw Indians speak?
The Quapaw people speak English today. In the past, they spoke their native Quapaw language. Although there are no native speakers of Quapaw any more, some young people are working to learn their ancient language again. If you'd like to know an easy Quapaw word, "Hawé" (pronounced hah-way) is a friendly greeting.

What was Quapaw culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Quapaw Tribe. On their site you can find information about the Quapaw people in the past and today.

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How do Quapaw Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Quapaw children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Here is a picture of a hoop game played by Plains Indian kids. A Quapaw mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Quapaw tribe?
Quapaw men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Quapaw women were farmers and also built their families' homes. Only men became Quapaw chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

What were Quapaw homes like in the past?
The Quapaw Indians lived in settled villages of small, square houses. Quapaw houses were made of plaster and rivercane walls with thatched roofs. Here are some pictures of Indian houses like the ones the Quapaw used. Today, Quapaws live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Quapaw clothing like? Did the Quapaws wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Quapaw women wore long deerskin dresses. Quapaw men wore breechclouts, leggings, and buckskin shirts. Here is a website with Indian breechclout pictures. The Quapaws wore moccasins on their feet, and in cold weather, they wore long buffalo-hide robes. A Quapaw lady's dress or warrior's shirt was fringed and often decorated with porcupine quills, beadwork, and tribal designs. Here is a site about the symbolism of Plains Indian war shirts, and some photos and links about Native American clothing style.

Quapaw Indian leaders occasionally wore the long American Indian headdresses that Plains Indians are famous for, but more often, Quapaw men shaved their heads except for a scalplock (one long lock of hair in back) and wore a porcupine roach on top. Here are some pictures of a scalplock haircut. Quapaw women wore their hair either loose or braided. The Quapaws wore Native American tattoo designs and also painted their faces for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.

Today, some Quapaw people still have moccasins or a buckskin dress, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.

What was Quapaw transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
The Quapaws knew how to make dugout canoes from cypress trees, but more often they traveled by land, especially once they acquired horses. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe, so originally, the Quapaws used dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to help them carry their belongings.

What was Quapaw food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Quapaws were farming people. Quapaw women worked together to raise crops of corn, beans, and squash. Men hunted deer and small game, fished in the rivers, and took part in seasonal buffalo hunts. Here is a website with more information about Great Plains Indians food.

What were Quapaw weapons and tools like in the past?
Quapaw hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Quapaw men fired their bows or fought with war clubs and spears. Here are pictures and information about the Native American bow and other traditional weapons.

What other Native Americans did the Quapaw tribe interact with?
The Quapaws traded regularly with other tribes of the Great Plains and the Southeast, such as the Chickasaw and Tunica. Quapaw pottery was especially valued by other tribes.

The Quapaws also fought wars with other tribes. Plains Indian tribes treated war differently than European countries did. They didn't fight over territory but instead to prove their courage, and so Plains Indian war parties rarely fought to the death or destroyed each other's villages. Instead, their war customs included counting coup (touching an opponent in battle without harming him), stealing an enemy's weapon or horse, or forcing the other tribe's warriors to retreat. Some tribes the Quapaws frequently fought with included the Chickasaw and Osage.

What are Quapaw arts and crafts like?
Quapaw artists are famous for their Native pottery, basket weaving, and pipe carving. Once glass beads became available, Quapaw artists also became skilled at beadwork. Here is a photograph of Quapaw beadwork.

What kinds of stories do the Quapaws tell?
There are lots of traditional Quapaw legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Quapaw Indian culture. I do not know of any Quapaw legends available online, but this Omaha Indian legend, about a two-faced ogre, is similar to one told by the Quapaws. The Omahas and Quapaws are kinfolk and long-standing allies, and many of their traditional stories are similar.

What about Quapaw religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Quapaw life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Quapaw people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Quapaw traditional religion or this site about Native American spirituality in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
If you want to know more about Quapaw culture and history, a good source for kids is The Quapaws. Older kids may like the more in-depth book on Quapaw history, The Rumble of a Distant Drum. You can also browse through our recommendations of books about Native American tribes in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Quapaw Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Quapaws

Quapaw Indian Tribe
An overview of the Quapaw people, their language and history.

Quapaw Language Resources
Quapaw language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Quapaw Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Quapaw tribe past and present.

Quapaw Words
Quapaw Indian vocabulary lists.

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