A detailed timeline of Quapaw History can be found here.
The Quapaw people settled in the area where the Arkansas River met the Mississippi, and the meandering of the two massive rivers had deposited nutrient-rich soil conducive to farming. They settled into four villages at the mouth of the Arkansas River. This is where the Quapaw stayed until they were pushed out by European-Americans several hundred years later.
Like many other native tribes, the Quapaw experienced a severe population reduction due to European diseases. The tribes were susceptible to many types of diseases because they had never been exposed to them. Also, they were all genetically very similar and had similar immune systems. So, when the diseases hit, the natives were highly affected by them. Some estimates say that there was a 95% drop in population all over the continent. In other words, for every 100 Native Americans, only 5 survived.
In the late 1600s, the Quapaw were estimated to have a population greater than 5,000. Over a period of 80 years, their population had dropped to 700 due to a smallpox epidemic in 1699. Even today the Quapaw Tribe doesn't have as many members as it did in the early 1600s. By 1720, the Quapaw had abandoned one of their villages because there simply were not enough people to maintain all four of their original villages.
The French were the first Europeans to contact the
Quapaw. They had colonies in the northeastern part of North America and
were interested in finding a trade route to the Pacific Ocean. Two
French explores, Jaquis Marquette and Louis Joliet, followed the
Mississippi River in 1673, hoping that it might lead to the Pacific
Ocean. Their Illini Indian guides referred to the Quapaw tribe as
Akansea: People of the south wind. This was the name the Illini Indians
had given them in their own language, and that was how the French had
written it down on their maps, thus being the origin of the name for the
state of Arkansas.
In 1682, Robert De La Salle and Henri De Tonti were the next
Frenchmen to contact the Quapaw. When they arrived at a Quapaw town,
they spoke Illinois (an Algonkian language, the same language family
spoken by tribes near French colonies in the northeast) to an Illinois
captive and asked who the people in the town were. The captive responded
in Algonkian that these people were the Akansa.
La Salle, interested in having an ally in an area he felt might become
important in the struggle for dominance of the continent, established
relations with the Quapaw. The Quapaw were happy to become allies with a
powerful colonizing nation who could supply them with weapons. The
Quapaw were faithful to their French allies in the tumultuous century
that followed, when the major Europeans powers were vying for control of
the continent. The European powers often used their native allies to
attack both their enemies and tribes allied with them. This struggle
ended with an English victory over the French in the Seven Years' War
(also known as the French-Indian War), when France ceded all land east
of the Mississippi to the Spanish in 1762. For all intents and purposes,
the French, whom the Quapaw had faithfully aided, were no longer a
presence in the Americas.
The time of Spanish rule was marked by Spanish and
English competition for the allegiance of the Quapaw. While withdrawing,
the French warned the Quapaw not to attack the English. The British
recognized, as had the French, that the Quapaw would be valuable allies.
They tried to win the Quapaw over with gifts and high-quality trade
goods. As for the Quapaw, they were at first hesitant to deal with the
British. For many years their allies, the French, had told them bad
things about the English. Also, their bitter enemies, the Chickasaw,
were allied with the British. Despite these differences, the Quapaw
favored the English over the Spanish because the English had cheap
high-quality trade goods.
No longer encouraged by the French to make war on tribes allied with the
British, the Quapaw ended their long rivalry with the Chickasaw in
1784. This treaty started a welcome period of peace between the Quapaw
and their neighbors.
Sold to America
In 1801, the area the Quapaw lived in returned to French
ownership, due to Napoleon, who had conquered most of Europe at the
time. Napoleon wanted to build a North American empire but, in 1803,
recognized the futility of his dream and sold the Louisiana Territory to
the United States of America. The Louisiana Purchase occurred when
Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States.