Arkansas PBS > Programs > Arkansas's First People

Arkansas's First People

As part of American Experience's We Shall Remain, Arkansas's First People is a 5-part series featuring unique perspectives on American Indian cultural legacy, archaeological data, and interviews with modern tribal representatives of those who had and still have an impact on Arkansas.


Part 1: Ancestors

Early people known as Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian Indians begin the story of this land with the objects and artwork they left behind. Tools made of stone and animal bones surface in farm fields and on riverbanks. Beautiful clay vessels that have stayed intact for centuries and curious pictures painted and pecked onto cave walls reveal the ingenuity, intelligence and humor of people who came before. As the descendants of these people begin to settle and form permanent homes, the evidence of their societies laid claim to magnificent monuments such as the sky-reaching mounds dotting Arkansas.

Part 2: Nations

As European explorers continue to cross the Mississippi River, out of the mysterious past of the mound builders, diverse, communal groups known as the Caddo, the Quapaw and the Osage live in the mountains, valleys and plains of Arkansas. The modern descendants of these great people explain their tribal views and cultures.

Part 3: Removal

Because of the ever-expanding United States of America, indigenous tribes were forced to move to what is dubbed ?Indian Territory? by way of the heartbreaking, multi-route Trail of Tears. This time of removal is still evident along the geography of the southeast. In the conversations of the tribes affected and preservation groups maintaining the routes, the memory of this greedy period of United States history is kept alive so that it may never happen again.

Part 4: Warriors

While trying to survive during the conflict of the Union and the Confederacy, Indian militias are formed to fight in Civil War battles such as Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern). Little is said in textbooks about this involvement. In times of military combat, Native people have always been at the forefront of volunteering for the United States military regardless of past aggression.

Part 5: Preservation

Myths about American Indians are still present. Advertising and entertainment are filled with the mysterious and ridiculous. Indian nations, academic scholars, park interpreters and civic organizations debunk the myths and show the true world of the Native people who are still part of the land we call Arkansas. They are your family, neighbors, friends and co-workers.

We Shall Remain

The Arkansas PBS (AETN) was chosen, with several other PBS member stations from across the country, to create a community coalition to help tell the history of the indigenous people of the United States of America. The Arkansas's First People Advisory Council includes the Arkansas Archeological Survey, the Sequoyah Research Center, Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Tech University Museum, the American Indian Center of Arkansas, and the Trail of Tears Association.

In April 2009, American Experience's We Shall Remain and these special groups of Native peoples, scholars, and civic organizations will bring American Indian perspective to real stories from our nation's past and present through different types of media, including a library initiative; television and radio broadcasts; various print promotions and community events. This is the first project of its kind and is unmatched in its ambition.

Arkansas's First People will be the Natural State's contribution to this unique program. This multi-faceted project will give voice to Native peoples who had and still have an impact on Arkansas. The stories span pre-contact mound cultures to the sovereign nations who now reside in neighboring Oklahoma. Images of cultural legacy, archeological data, and interviews with modern tribal representatives will change stereotypes of these diverse peoples.

Through AETN and the Arkansas Department of Education's Internet Delivered Education for Arkansas Schools (, Arkansas teachers will be able to access an online professional development course using the broadcast episodes of Arkansas's First People, extra video clips, gallery images, and a resource list. Links to the individual American Indian tribal Web sites will also be available. All of these components will be unique supplements to classroom instruction for Arkansas students.

AETN will hold special community engagement events for Arkansas's First People and We Shall Remain. These will include premiere screenings, an atrium exhibit, a Native writer book program and workshops. Each of these events will have components designed to stimulate the viewer's imagination, connect to the content and provide a new way of seeing Native people. This project is alive in the sense that with the use of these different elements, it will make the viewer want to investigate further.


Historic Arkansas Indian Nations

The Caddo Nation, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma and the Osage Nation lived in Arkansas prior to their forced removal by the United States government.

American Indian Nations

Arkansas Agencies and Organizations

Arkansas state and national agencies and non-profit organizations have committed themselves to restoring and maintaining the heritage of Arkansas's First People.

National Agencies and Organizations

These national agencies are curators of many of our national treasures that portray the history of Native Peoples.

Virtual Tours

Last Updated 28 Feb 2020