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NATIVE AMERICAN FLAGS

The Quapaw

The Quapaw, or Ogahpah, or Ugakhpa, people are so-called because they formerly lived along the west banks of the Mississippi River, south of most other Siouan speaking tribes. The word Ogahpah means "downstream people". The Quapaw were given another name by the Algonquin and the French. The name they applied to the Quapaw meant "Bow people of the south wind". The term was Arkansas. It is from this nation that both the river and the state derive their names.

In the original homeland of the Quapaw grew a bush called the Osage Orange whose wood was excellent for making bows. The French dubbed this land "aux arcs" or "at the place of the bows". This term has since been corrupted into Ozarks, the name of the mountain chain running through Arkansas and southern Missouri (ENAT, 209-210).

During the colonial era, the Quapaws avoided war with the Europeans, living in a region visited by few white men of any colonial power. However, by the early 1800s the Quapaw were force to cede much of their homeland to the ever increasing white settlers. By 1824, they had agreed to move to what is now Texas along the Red River. Because the Red River frequently flooded their new home, the Quapaw returned to Arkansas. By 1833, with the white population complaining, the federal government forced the Quapaw to move to the Indian territory. In 1867, they were again forced to sign over the bulk of their lands. Today, the Quapaw retain only a small parcel of historic trust lands of less than 13,000 acres.

Fortunately, both lead and zinc deposits were found on the territory remaining in the hands of the Quapaw in 1905. This mineral wealth has allowed the Quapaw nation to provide a reasonable lifestyle for its members.

Until recently, the flag of the Quapaw nation was dark blue and bore the tribal seal in the center. Above the seal was the word "O-Gah-Pah", the name of the Quapaw in their Siouan tongue. Below the seal was the term "Quapaw Tribe". All lettering was in white.

The seal (seal provided by Annin & Co., Roseland, NJ) of the Quapaw represents an Indian shield and bears an American bison in the center standing upon a green base before a light blue sky. The Quapaw followed the lifestyle of the Plains Indians in the past and the bison was the essential creature in their world. Ringing the bison is a dark red and white rough edging representing the rawhide material from which the shield was originally made. Hanging from the four principle corners of the shield are eagle feathers. The four feathers, as with many other Native American peoples, recall the four directions, east, south, west and north.

Recently, the original flag was altered. Dropped was the designation "Quapaw Tribe", leaving only the tribe's name in its native tongue. The field of the flag was also changed. Now only the hoist (the side nearest the pole) is dark blue. The fly end (that farthest from the pole) now appears as red. Neither the date of this change, nor the symbolism of the addtion of the red color are known, it is known that the change had to have occurred since 1995 when the Quapaw Tribal Headquarters confirmed that their flag was only blue.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603