Osage Indian Attacks on the Ouachita

Written by Dr. Tim Hudson

 

A complex sequence of events following de Soto’s brutal foray across the southeastern portion of our continent in the early 1540s resulted in the virtual depopulation of the Ouachita Valley of northeastern Louisiana by 1700. The earliest French explorers found the mere remnants of the once populous Ouachita Indians living along the river in a single village near modern Monroe, but they soon vanished. After the Natchez War of 1729-1731, numerous nearby Native American nations coexisted with the French trappers on hunting expeditions in the Ouachita Valley of northeastern Louisiana and southern Arkansas. By the mid-1700s, French traders operated along the rivers and bayous, establishing a camp to trade with the Indians on the bluffs above the Ouachita River, opposite the mouth of Bayou Bartholomew and near the site of what is now Ouachita City. Although the majority of these nations enjoyed peaceful relations with the Europeans, a particularly warlike band of Osage Indians caused problems for the French and Spanish. Based around the headwaters of the Ouachita River in west/central Arkansas, Osage war parties threatened all those hunting in the Ouachita and Red River Valleys of northern Louisiana. An early explorer described these particular Osage as “a lawless gang of robbers, making war with the whole world.” In early 1773, the Osage killed five French traders on the Ouachita, possibly at or near the Ouachita City camp. In 1783, the Osage attacked a hunting party from the Spanish Poste d’Ouachita (modern Monroe) on the Ouachita River, scalping several of the party. In 1787, another Poste d’Ouachita hunting party camped near Ouachita City. Most of the party went in search of game, leaving behind two men along with an Indian woman and her child. In their absence, the Osage attacked the camp, butchering and mutilating the men, woman, and her child. This prompted the Spanish authorities to fund the construction of Fort Miro to protect against Osage incursions. The fort and the influx of the peaceful Choctaw neutralized the Osage threat to the Ouachita Valley. Although the settlers remained fearful of additional Osage attacks until the 1810s, no additional attacks ever materialized along the Ouachita.

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Dr. Tim Hudson is the mathematics department head at Southeastern Louisiana and an avid historian on Union Parish. Hudson is a Union Parish native and graduate of Farmerville High School.

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