O-Gah-Pah

Would you believe me if I told you that (O-Gah-Pah) is how you pronounce Quapaw?

Hi peoples of the interwebs! And happy Thankful Thursday!

Well, that fun little introductory fact is true. If you’re pronouncing Quapaw in the Quapaw language anyway. Do you know who or what a Quapaw is? Probably not, so let me tell you. And I’ll even tell you why it makes me thankful along the way.

My maternal family comes from the lands of Oklahoma, at least that’s what I thought until this last week. I wasn’t wrong, my great grandmother is from Oklahoma. But the Quapaw people did not always reside there.

They started out in the Ohio valley. Our tribe’s legend has it that when the larger tribe of Dhegiha was leaving the Ohio valley they had to cross the Arkansas river. And to cross this river as a collective people the tribe decided to braid a bunch of grapevines together and everyone was to hold on. But if you know anything about rivers, they can be pretty swift and who knows how strong this braided rope was. That being said, the rope snapped! There was a group of people at the end of the rope who floated down the river and became known as the Quapaw tribe, meaning downstream people.

If that little story hasn’t made it clear, the Quapaw are a Native American tribe here in the United States. And if you have ever seen a picture of me (little white girl), I understand your confusion as to how I could possibly be from a Native American tribe. Well, I had that question answered this week in writing an essay on our tribe’s history.

But let me first explain why I would even care to write this essay. It wasn’t for a class, although I might write about them now in the future given the chance or reason. It was to receive funding from the tribe itself for school (the reason for this being a Thankful Thursday post). Although I have received funds in the past, and failed miserably (hence the year break from school, and two semesters of paying for school completely on my own) the tribe has since requested all students write a history paper first, and what a great idea this is! I learned so much about our tribe, and specifically where my family comes from.

I don’t know if this happened in other tribes as well, but in my tribe many of the true Quapaw people didn’t want to live on the reservation. However, our tribe could only keep the reservation land if they maintained a nation on the land, according to the Treaty of 1833. But by 1880, this became an issue with 80% of the tribe living in Osage country and only a mere 49 people on the reservation, the solution was kind of radical in my opinion: adopting people into the tribe. This is when my family became a part of the Quapaw tribe. The first group of people adopted into the tribe was a Quapaw/French 1/2 breed band (as the tribe’s history calls it). Within this band of people was a family with the surname of Ray, my great grandmother’s maiden name. So I asked her if we were French, she said yes and it turns out on the list of our tribe’s original land allottees are my great great great grandmother and father’s names, as well as their siblings I believe.

Maybe one day I’ll write a more comprehensive history similar to the one I wrote for my funds request, but for now I just wanted to share how cool it is to be able to see my direct family lineage. Not only am I thankful for belonging to a tribe which is so helpful now, all members receive equal benefits, but to belong to a tribe that has such an inclusive history! We also adopted some homeless Native tribes along with the French mixed band of people. I would argue that if it weren’t for our tribe’s inclusive nature, we may not have survived as we did through things like smallpox and measles outbreaks or mass starvation.

(If you’re really curious, here’s a link to my tribe’s site http://quapawtribe.com/ )

What’s made you thankful this week? What are you looking forward to in this semester? Have you ever looked into your family’s history? What surprised you? What were you excited or sad to learn? Tell me the things! I love stories :]

❤ that one girl

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