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Sequoyah Research Center

North Little Rock, Arkansas Site Report, page 1

Amanda L. Paige, Research Assistant
Fuller Bumpers, American Native Press Fellow
Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., Director

Note: The Site Reports of the ANPA are intended for use by the general public. Permission to reprint them in their entirety is required by the authors.

Introduction

The North Little Rock site was little more than the north side of the Arkansas River opposite Little Rock when the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830. Only a few farms and a ferry occupied the landscape that would become one of the most important sites related to Indian removal. During the next decade and a half, as the Removal Act was executed, thousands of Indians were removed from their ancestral lands east of the Mississippi to new areas west of Arkansas. The existing travel routes ensured that a majority of these tribal people traveled by the North Little Rock site on the river or passed through it, either to cross at the ferry and go southwest to the Red River country, or to take the Military Road to the northwest toward Fort Smith. Through the site moved more than 40,000 tribal people who were moved west as a result of the enforced removal policy of the federal government. From the time the Choctaw removal began in late 1831 until the end of the 1830s, large groups of Indians were common on the roads and at the North Little Rock site: Choctaws, Muscogees, Chickasaws, and Cherokees. Steamboats passing by the site carried contingents of those tribes as well as of the Florida Indians, who were removed almost entirely by water. The presence of such large numbers of removal parties at the site made it the most important terminal on the removal routes through Arkansas. Indeed, it can be safely said that what is now North Little Rock and its surrounding area (including Little Rock), was the site of more concentrated activities related to the removal of the five large southeastern tribes than any other place along the projected Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. In addition, a large share of the millions of dollars the government spent on removal of the southeastern tribes found its way into Arkansas and proved to be the catalyst for the growth and development of major transportation systems as well as the general economy of the state.

Because the North Little Rock site was at the intersection of the major land and water routes used in removal, it provides an excellent context for illustrating the historical significance of removal for not only the Cherokees, specifically addressed in Public Law 100-192 (1987), but for the other four tribal nations and the American Nation as well. What follows is a presentation of historical evidence and interpretation that will help National Park Service personnel develop an interpretive plan that will present the North Little Rock site as one of the most important sites accessible to visitors along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. Presented first is a description of the physical features of the site and its surroundings; second, a description of land and water routes that brought removal parties to, and took them from, the site; third, a detailed historical documentation of Indian removal through the site; fourth, an analysis of conditions of travel on the routes in Arkansas; fifth, evidence of cultural survival on the trail; sixth, descriptions of tribal individuals who passed through the site; and seventh, an analysis of the economic and social impact of removal in Arkansas.

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Updated 12.15.2010