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SEMC 2022 : Northwest Arkansas

We Acknowledge:

We acknowledge that this year’s Southeastern Museums Conference takes place on land which has been continually inhabited by Indigenous peoples for the past 14,000 years. We recognize the past, current, and future Quapaw, Caddo, and Osage peoples as well as the many Indigenous caretakers of this land and water. We acknowledge and honor the past, present, and future lives of Indigenous peoples in Northwest Arkansas and appreciate the enduring influence of the vibrant, diverse, and contemporary cultures they represent As an organization dedicated to creating a culture of belonging, it is our responsibility and aim to understand and continually share knowledge about the complicated history of colonial[1]ism in the spaces we now occupy, the peoples who were here before us, and the enduring presence and diversity of Indigenous peoples in our region. Through shared knowledge and exchange we commit to building meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities. By offering this acknowledgement we seek to pay our respects to the memories of those whose lives were lost, to celebrate the vibrant living culture of Indigenous people today, and to affirm the importance of Native Sovereignty and truth-telling as we move forward.

Local Land Acknowledgements
The Diversity of Northwest Arkansas

The following page offers a few insights into Northwest Arkansas' diverse history and culture. You'll find tidbits of history as well as links to sites of interest. We have included sites that focus on diverse histories, art, and experiences. In addition, we have included some welcoming spaces, community organizations, and minority-owned businesses that may be of interest to attendees.  

Indigenous History

Early indigenous peoples in what is today known as Arkansas were responsible for the building of monumental mounds that abound across the state. Around the time of European arrival the Caddo, the Quapaw, and the Osage inhabited the region. 

  • The Caddo were mentioned as early as the 1500s in Hernando de Soto’s chronicles of Spanish incursions into the region. Groups of mounds served as ceremonial centers where the chenesi, a spiritual leader, lived and communicated with the Ayo-Caddi-Amay, “The Great Leader Above.” In 1835 Caddo leaders were coerced into signing a treaty that ceded all land in the newly organized Arkansas Territory.  Though the governmental home of the Caddo today is in Oklahoma, many Caddo continue to return to Arkansas to keep the memory of their culture and heritage alive. Caddo Nation listing in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Caddo Nation Website.

  • The Quapaw, O-ga-xpa Ma-zhoⁿ, were led to the Arkansas region by Chief Pa he kah around 1650 and it was along the Arkansas River that French explorers visited five villages in 1673. Two divisions of the tribe – Earth and Sky – lived among each other in these villages. All members of the tribe “shared responsibility for the calumet, the sacred pipe that connected the people to Wakondah, the powerful, sacred force that blessed all things with life.”  The tribe’s population was decreased dramatically following a 1698 smallpox outbreak. In 1824 Quapaw leaders were pressured to sign a treaty cede the land they had been promised in an 1811 treaty along the Arkansas River. They were moved to an area in Caddo territory but a quarter of the tribe returned to Arkansas in 1826 under the leadership of Sarasin and by 1830 all of the Quapaw returned to Arkansas. The Quapaw later signed the Treaty of 1833 and were designated lands in the northeastern corner of Indian Territory, but many Quapaw refused to relocate. Quapaw listing in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Quapaw Nation Website.

  • Osage, 𐓏𐒰𐓓𐒰𐓓𐒷 𐒼𐓂𐓊𐒻 𐓆𐒻𐒿𐒷 𐓀𐒰^𐓓𐒰^, territory stretched from what is today southeastern Colorado to the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and from northern Missouri down to central Louisiana. Northwestern Arkansas was part of the Osage’s traditional hunting grounds and their political power greatly influenced the area. Like the Quapaw, the belief in Wakondah guided Osage spiritual practices and their social structure was also informed by the creation story that divided the universe between Earth and Sky. The Osage grew crops in their main villages and seasonally moved throughout their territories to hunt before returning to the main village to harvest and store crops, process the spoils of traditional buffalo hunts, and craft traditional tools, materials, clothing, and furnishings. Treaties in 1808, 1818, 1811, and 1825 pushed the Osage further and further away from their traditional lands into regions of Eastern Oklahoma where they clashed with Cherokees who were increasingly settling along the Arkansas River. Osage listing in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Osage Nation Website.Northwest Arkansas is on the forcible removal trail commonly known as the ‘Trail of Tears.’ Starvation, cold exposure, and disease killed over four thousand people during the forced relocation. In addition to the Caddo, Quapaw, and Osage tribes, many indigenous people were brought through and/or forcibly resettled in this region including those belong to the nations of Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Chickasaw, Seminole, as well as Woodland peoples without any tribal affiliation.

  • The information included here has been sourced from the websites listed below and Monica Kumar, Inclusion Strategist. 

Explore these links to learn more about Northwest Arkansas Indigenous history. 

Sites Highlighting Indigenous History and Culture

  • The Ridge House

    • Sarah Bird Northrup and her children stayed here after her husband, John Ridge, was assassinated. John Ridge, a prominent Cherokee, was a leading signer of the Treaty of New Echota in 1835.

  • Fitzgerald's Station

    • Cannon Detachment (supervised by US Government) and Taylor Detachment (Supervised by Cherokee Nation) passed through NW Arkansas. Other Trail of Tears detachments might have passed Fitzgerald's but documentation is lacking so far.

  • Museum of Native American History​

    • The Museum of Native American History’s mission is to educate future generations about the lives of the First Americans. The museum provides a cultural hub to amplify the voices of their legacy.


Osage tribe members meet with President Coolidge, 1924.

Image by Mick Haupt
Image by Ashley Lane
Black History
  • The Black history of Northwestern Arkansas is inextricably linked to both the white and Indigenous history of the region. Enslaved men, women, and children arrived with other pioneers and helped establish early towns in the state. Many skilled Black artisans were responsible for creating essential items like furniture, metal tools, cast iron cookware, and more. According to the digital project A Nation Divided: Arkansas and the Civil War, by “1860, Arkansas was home to more than 110,000 slaves, and one in five white citizens was a slave owner. The majority of these held only a few slaves. Only twelve percent owned twenty or more slaves, the benchmark of “planter” status.” Most of these plantations were concentrated in the southern and eastern areas of the state, but slavery was present in the northwestern portion of the state as well. 

  • After the Civil War, newly freed Black people spread across the state. In 1868 a school for Black students was established in Fayetteville and became the first public school in the state. After the 1871 establishment of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, the city drew many more formerly enslaved people seeking job opportunities in the college town. 

  • The Fayetteville School Board voted to begin integration of the local high school in the fall of 1954, following the decision in Brown vs Board of Education. Though the Charleston school district was actually the first to integrate students that fall, their efforts to keep the integration out of the news meant that Fayetteville became the focus of national news and was reported as the first Southern district to integrate.

Explore these links to learn more about Northwest Arkansas Black history.

Sites Highlighting Black
History and Culture


  • East Mountain Cemetery

    • Learn more about the efforts to preserve and restore this cemetery in this article.

  • George Washington Carver National Monument - Diamond, MO (1.5 hours from Fayetteville)

    • The young child known as the "Plant Doctor" tended his secret garden while observing the day-to-day operations of a 19th century farm. Nature and nurture ultimately influenced George on his quest for education to becoming a renowned agricultural scientist, educator, and humanitarian.

  • Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail - Little Rock, AR (3 hours from Fayetteville) 

    • The Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail is an ever-growing collection of sites in Little Rock that were significant to the Civil Rights Movement. Created by the Anderson Institute of Race and Ethnicity at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the trail starts just outside the Old State House and will eventually stretch all the way to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. ​

Other Art and Culture Institutions 
  • Arkansas Women's Hall of Fame - The Arkansas Women's Hall of Fame depends on members of the public to nominate extraordinary women for induction. Nominations are accepted from organizations or individuals throughout the state. A diverse group of Arkansas citizens is recruited to act as a Selection Committee. Started in 2015, annual nominations are reviewed by a committee in March.

    • Recent Inductees (2020-2022 inductees): Dr. Margaret Louise Sirman Clark, Cynthia L. Conger, Hispanic Women's Organization of Arkansas, Sissy Jones, Junior League of Little Rock, Mary Brown "Brownie" Williams Ledbetter (1932-2010), Dorothy Morris, Carolyn Pollan (1937-2021), Amy Rossi, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973)​

Image by Brad
Image by Chad George
Resource Lists
  • Northwest Arkansas Equity - Includes resource lists that are vetted both in-house and by trusted organizations and partners. Resources include Apparel & Gifts, Arts & Entertainment, Health & Emergency Resources, HIV & AIDS Resources, Legal Services, LGBTQ Owned Businesses, Local Resources, Media & News Resources, National Resources, Professional Services, Realtors, Program Partners, Religious Organizations, Restaurants & Bars, Statewide & Regional Resources, Transgender Resources, Travel & Lodging, Wedding & Event Planning, Wellness & Beauty, Youth & Young Adult Resources, and Student Organizations

  • Northwest Arkansas Diversity - A guide to diverse businesses and organizations in Northwest Arkansas

  • Curated Instagram List of Black-Owned NWA Businesses

  • Minority- and Woman-Owned NWA Businesses - A database of businesses provided by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission

  • Black-Owned Businesses in NWA  - List from Experience Fayetteville but including businesses beyond just Fayetteville. 

Businesses and Civic Orgs
  • Big Gay Market - Northwest Arkansas' first and only 🌈 all-queer 🌈 maker’s market - Est. 2021 

  • Chick'n Headz - Fayetteville, AR

  • KDKS Chicken & Waffles - Food Truck

  • Mary's Vegan Kitchen - Fayetteville, AR

  • Memes' Caribbean Flavour - Rogers, AR

  • ALLIRT Clothing - Centerton, AR - ALLIRT is a wellness & clothing brand focused on helping others access their highest potential and, as a result, highest quality of life.​​

    • ALLIRT (pronounced /əˈlərt/) as an acronym means Abundance, Life, Love, Individuality, Rebellion, & Truth.  These six attributes embody our aim to represent and empower those committed to greatness through awareness, acceptance, art, and the realization that we all have a universal purpose to create. 

  • Big Box Karaoke - Fayetteville, AR - Private karaoke suites, food, and a patio. 

  • Black Heritage Preservation Commission - Fayetteville, AR 

Image by Amanda Ware
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