Colonial History of the United States starts from its history and that of the land territory that was occupied by the European settlers for a long period until it gained independence in 1779[1]. This new world is what is referred today as the United States. Several colonies were coming to this country for many reasons including political, social, economical and religious. Spain as one of the colonizers established very many colonies in the United States and was equipped with skills like ship navigation in the ocean. Most of their ships were built in Italy[2].

The Europeans never knew the Arkansas until the 1540s that is about fifty years when Christopher Columbus the first European colonizer set foot in the land. This was in the western hemispheres and it marked the beginning of the European exploration. During the colonial period, the region underwent several unique and dramatic demographic changes. To begin with, the Spanish explorers crossed to Arkansas in the 1540s[3]. They found out that Arkansas was a land blessed with a variety of resources ranging from rich farming lands, wild game timber among others. But during this time, there were very few people occupying the land and the resources were under utilized by the inhabitants. Later on, the Spanish colonizers were joined by the French.

Being in a mud rush, one could actually wonder why there was this rush in colonizing this piece of land. The French and the Spanish claimed superiority over those who were residing in Arkansas and they believed that they were more civilized than the Arkansas people[4]. They, thus, viewed themselves as bringing civilization to Arkansas. They are, therefore, known to have brought developments like electricity, cars and other developments in the land that is currently the United States.

The main reason for the explorer’s visit Arkansas was not solely for promotion of immigration, but also to take the share of the wild game that was abundant in the region. By the time the colonial era was over, the Arkansas was occupied by very many different races from different parts of the world. The Indian natives of Arkansas were joined by the French, Dutch, German, Anglo-Americans, and other small tribes from across the continent. The Columbus people were migrating in larger numbers compared to other races of the world. They were moving from one island to another using short route instead of long routes that are now known as crossings. In 985AD, Bjarni and later Leif Erikson who were living in Greenland ventured into this new land where they stayed for most of their life time and recently archeologists bumped into their Norse artifacts where it was evident that they went to Arkansas for timber which was never found in Greenland[5]

The first Europeans to set foot on Arkansas were the Hernando De Soto. They were a Spanish expeditionary force and they crossed over the Mississippi River along with Columbus. Cannibal natives were first evident in 1492, when Columbus aboard Santa Maria ran aground during the night. The locals helped them without stealing anything from them. Columbus was amazed at the native’s helpfulness and assured his queen and king of their safety. The natives of the local village Guacanagari welcomed the strangers. Since their ship was wrecked, Columbus left behind Spaniards who built a fort ship from the wrecks. Columbus wanted to force the natives found to obey their new orders. During their stay and at the time they were headed back, they murdered two natives who they claimed were evil and they ate men. The two natives murdered he believed were from Caribe Island. That was the unfounded myth about cannibalism. They only came from the sailor’s imagination which interrelated with European mythodology. Columbus came up with savage cannibals as people with one eye in the middle of their forehead[6]. He described the cannibals as having dog-like noses and they drunk blood from their victims after cutting their throats.

After two years, they had reached the place that is called today the Mouth America. While moving along the river, they were capturing and putting into captives most of the Indians they found along the way. They had an objective of finding gold from the North America kingdom at Aztecs of Mexico. The Spanish, on the other hand, were very disappointed on finding that there was no gold in the land. It was just occupied by many villagers and the villages were surrounded by large fields of maize. They, thus, ambushed the village killing several natives, stealing their maize and disrupting the people’s political systems. Queen Isabel of Spain was able to recognize Christopher Columbus’ boldness and magnificent courage in putting his life on the line. She was able to override the advice of her advisers that were doubtful of Columbus. Since she knew nothing about geography and navigation, she had better judgment and, thus, she gave her support to Columbus. Making a move further south in Antilles Columbus encountered cannibalistic Caribs who killed most of his men.

This expeditious group later on travelled along the Mississippi River until they reached the Arkansas River. They were still under the leader Moscoso who was also the governor of the expedition. They left for Northern Spain and no one ever visited the Arkansas land for over 13 decades until 1673, when another expedition from Illinois who were missionaries and also traders came in led by Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet[7]. This group never went far, because they feared for their lives since the Arkansas were strongly protected and they protected their territories too. The missionaries, thus, went back to their officials and offices that were in the colony of New France. Nine years later, the French formed a bigger expedition to go back and fulfill their unfinished business.  They were equipped men comprising of 23 French men and 31 Indians all set up in a mission to search and find the source of Mississippi[8]. Their journey was a success since they were able to find the source of the Mississippi River. They, therefore, went back to report to their officials who came later to claim the whole of the Mississippi River valley and thus the river belonged to France. Exploration of these American lands increased rapidly with these different European countries acquiring and establishing business posts and doing business with each other.

The French La Salle still not satisfied with whatever they had grabbed, planed to attack and colonize the regions surrounding the North of the Mississippi River. In the year 1684, La Salle moved in to search for the source of Mississippi with colonialists with a charter awarded by the king of France[9]. They, however, did not succeed and, therefore, decided to settle in Texas Gulf coast, because they did not find Mississippi welcoming. At Texas La Salle faced many challenges, many of his colonialists were killed and he was also assassinated by the Indians. But during this period most of the Indians were captured by the Spanish. This was done by the only three of La Salle’s friends who survived the wrath of the Indians. They later travelled north to Arkansas, where they followed almost the same route that was followed by the Moscoso 140 years before them[10]. Joutel was one of the three and was the brother to La Salle. Joutel arrived in Arkansas and discovered the Arkansas post, which Tonti had established. Tonti was La Salle’s long time friend and partner, and they were, therefore, welcome. Tonti had a mission of establishing trade between him and the QuaQua who he believed will be one time his major hunter.

Pierre Le Moyne discovered and founded the Louisiana in 1699 and by this time the Arkansas post had been abandoned.  In 1719, about 20 years after Louisiana was founded, the colonists continued to explore towards the western regions and by this time Jeanne Bernard de la Harpe had explored the red and the Arkansas River and also the upper Red River[11]. He went further and established another post at garrison which was the only trading post at the upper red and Ouachita until the year 1780s.

By the end of the 17th century, missionary were following the explorers paths to Arkansas were a few stayed in Arkansas and others died due to disease epidemics that also killed the natives of the Quaqua[12]. There were several epidemics that the missionaries faced among them were the small pox. The missionaries also faced resistance from the Quaqua natives who never wanted to be converted to Christianity. The missionaries, thus, left Arkansas for about 25 years because they feared being killed by the Quaqua community. Father Paul du Poisson attempted to convert them and was successful because he traded with them and at the same time converted them. Father Poisson contributed toward the alliance of the Quaqua and the French, who led to the beginning of the Natchez war in 1729, where the Natchez lost to French.

Arkansas post was revived once again and placed near the Tonti. By this time, father Poisson had arrived in Arkansas and made this post remained until 1749, when it was relocated to the Red Bluffs where Arkansas Post National Museum is located now. Initially, the post was moved down to the mouth of Arkansan River due to the French Indian war in 1754 – 1763[13]. It was moved so as to get the garrison support on military and commercial activities on the Mississippi River. In 1721, John Law Scotsman and his joint stock company, Compagne d’ Occident gained the control of Louisiana through a charter given by the king of the French. This charter required that Compagne d’ Occident to give land to individuals for the sole purpose of establishing concessions or for plantations and to recruit colonists. John Law received the largest chunk of land for establishing a concession, which was located at the lower river of Arkansas[14]. This concession gave a rebirth to the Arkansas post. By this time, trade was the dominant feature, but the French people were mainly practicing hunting and trading the games meat. This was mostly for wild animals like buffalo; their skins were shipped to New Orleans. During these trading periods the area also experienced intermarriages and, thus, Indians were marrying the French. Coureurs de Bois also married a woman from another race.

The other remaining settlers were mainly practicing hunting and were trading on hides and other animal parts and products. The French latter learnt of the existence of Bears in Arkansas in 1712[15]. They also discovered that the Bear oil was valuable since it was used for protection against mosquitoes and also could be used as cooking oil. This oil could also be used to cure rheumatism. The French, therefore, hunted the bear with the help of the QuaQua and shipped their products to New Orleans.

Many traders were rushing to join the QuaQua who had already discovered the technology of processing different animal parts. They traded out these with the French and other races. This trade also resulted into intermarriages and, thus, different cultures mixed. In Arkansas, the intermarriages were between French and the Indians. They were called the Coureurs de Bois and included French men who were trading with the Indians. By the end of 17th century these relationships had reached as far as the great lakes, Ohio and the Mississippi river valleys (Escobar, 1994). The Canadians were not left out in the mingling with Indians as there was heavy immigration of men only to Arkansas. There was no Canadian women immigration and thus intermarriages were just between the Indian women and the Canadian men. By 1760 the Great Britain had beaten and overthrown the French and took control of Canada, this war ended in around 1763 and the treaty of Paris was formed.

A few Africans and the mulattoes were brought to Arkansas to work as slaves, but the majority was Africans though there were also some Indians brought in. Later on Spanish outlawed the enslavement of Indians. The Spanish continued increasing their boundaries by building many posts in and around Arkansas until 1797, when the treaty of San Lorenzo was signed, which was the boundary of the Spanish Louisiana and the United States, this treaty was called the Pinckney’s Treaty. The boundary agreed upon was at the Mississippi River. In the year 1803, a treaty was signed between the United States and France, which was for the purchase of Louisiana and in 1804 Campo De la Esperanza was transferred to the United States[16]. 13 days after this transfer Lieutenant James officially possessed the Arkansas post for the United States of America.

There was heavy trade in animals’ part and with time animals were being depleted. Americans joined the Europeans later in this pre existing trade. Indians were mainly trading pelts and they were doing this in exchange for the European goods. The Indians were mainly interested in prestigious goods since it brought prestige in their society. The goods that they traded in for prestige were ornaments and other wears. Others were saying that Indians had utilitarian aim for trading since as early as those years they were claimed to be technology superior. One thing that was very clear in this trade was that the Europeans were purely profit oriented, while Indians were not profit oriented since they relied on the gifts brought to them for exchange of their goods. The Europeans, therefore, extended their influence by use of these gifts to the Indians. They held many ceremonies and gave gifts to chiefs who later distributed to the other Indians.


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