The North Little Rock Site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail: Historical Contexts Report

American Native Press Archives
University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Research for this report was funded in part by a Challenge Cost Share agreement
with the Long Distance Trails Office of the National Park Service, Santa Fe, New
Mexico. No part of the text relating to the Choctaws, Muscogees, Seminoles, or
Cherokees may be duplicated or otherwise used except by permission of the
authors or as provided for by the “Special Provision” section of the
agreement. No part of the Chickasaw appendix may be used
without the written permission of the authors.

Submitted to the National Park Service June 15, 2003
Revised, without Park Service input, August 4, 2003

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 Choctaws, Muscogees, Florida Indians, Chickasaws, and Cherokees 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. During removal more than 40,000 tribal people moved through the site. 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, Florida Indians, 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 Arkansas.

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