The city of Little Rock may have been founded in 1821, but people lived here for thousands of years before European settlers “discovered” it. The land Little Rock sits on is the ancestral home of the Caddo, Osage, and Quapaw peoples, and even the word “Arkansas” is derived from the name Algonkian-speaking Indians of the Ohio River Valley gave to the Native Americans who inhabited this area.
Here are the best places in Little Rock to learn about the Indigenous Americans that first called this place home.
Toltec Mounts Archeological State Park
As you stroll along the trails of this state park, it’s easy to imagine yourself walking among the Plum Bayou people who called this site home during the 800s. The site features multiple Indian mounds and ongoing archeological research sites.
Quapaw Line Markers
On August 24, 1818, the Quapaw Line was drawn to separate the Quapaw tribe’s land to the west and the land available for settlement to the east. Though the Quapaw were eventually forced to give up their land, the line remained an important marker in the young city. Today, the line is marked by stone markers in Riverfront Park and small discs in streets and sidewalks throughout the city.
Historic Arkansas Museum
This museum chronicles the history of Arkansas before it became the 25th state in 1836. Here you’ll find the “We Walk in Two Worlds” exhibit that explores the lives of Arkansas’s first people through almost 160 artifacts including pottery, clothing, and weapons.
La Petite Roche Plaza
The Quapaw line began at La Petite Roche, the rock that gave Little Rock its name. Today, what remains of that rock is enshrined in Riverfront Park’s La Petite Roche Plaza. The plaza also includes historical plaques that give insight into the city’s history. Just east of the plaza is Riverfront Park’s History Pavilion where interpretative panels trace the way the Arkansas River has shaped the city over time.
Sequoyah National Research Center
The Sequoyah National Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock seeks to acquire and preserve the writings and ideas of Native North Americans by collecting their written words, artworks, and other forms of expression. The center is closed due to COVID-19, but many of their archives are available online. When reopened, visitors can enjoy multiple interpretive displays for visitors, including an exhibit on Native Americans who fought for America during times of war.
Trail of Tears Park
When the Choctaw and Chickasaw peoples were forced off their land and made to move west along what is now known as the Trail of Tears, their route took them along the Old Southwest Trail, a route that follows present day's Asher Avenue through central Little Rock. Where Asher Ave. meets the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Trail of Tears Park commemorated this forced march with commemorative displays in a peaceful setting.
If you’re interested in exploring other aspects of Little Rock’s history, check out our tours of historic churches, sculptures, murals, and political history.