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Before We Were Here - Saracen

Saracen was a leader of the Quapaw Tribe during the removal period when the U.S. government forced the Quapaw people to move from Arkansas to Louisiana. He was in good standing with the U.S. Government due to his ability to speak English and tales of his heroic deeds. He was also an American-appointed chief; however, he was not recognized as one within the tribe because he did not have hereditary claims to the title.


According to legend, Saracen saved two white children from a Chickasaw raiding party. Upon learning of the children’s abduction, Saracen vowed to return the children back, unharmed, to their parents. Alone in the dead of night, Saracen found the raiding party’s location. He roared the Quapaw War Cry and the Chickasaw fled, leaving the children behind. The tale of Saracen’s heroism spread around present-day Arkansas and put him in good standing amongst the settlers.


Saracen’s fame preceded him, put him in a favorable light with the settlers, and gained their trust. He acted as a mediator between the Quapaw and the U.S. Government and negotiated treaties between the two entities.


Saracen was the child of a Quapaw woman and a French soldier. However, being part white did not prevent him from experiencing the same poverty levels as the rest of the Quapaw and other Indian Tribes living in Arkansas.



Despite receiving praise from settlers and being appointed chief by the U.S. government, he reluctantly ceded land and left Arkansas during the removal period; a time when settlers sought to remove the Quapaw people from Arkansas in the 1820s. Saracen helped collaborate and form a treaty in 1824 that gave the Quapaw Tribe annuity and land from the Caddo Tribe in Northern Louisiana along the Red River.


During their time on Caddo land, the Quapaw Tribe experienced floods that destroyed their crops and led to starvation. Saracen led a quarter of the tribe back to Arkansas to plea for a return to the territory. U.S. President John Quincy Adams allowed the members to stay in Arkansas, but in return, they barred the Quapaw Tribe from purchasing land with money obtained from the 1824 treaty. However, Saracen convinced the governor of the Arkansas territory, George Izard, to let them buy agricultural implements.


The rest of the tribe, led by Chief Heckaton, was allowed to move back in 1830 but could only do so along the Arkansas River. The Quapaw Tribe finally received annuity payments in 1832 that had been denied eight years following the 1824 treaty signing. During this time, the Quapaw Tribe remained in the swamps along the Arkansas River.


Although Saracen’s grave marks his death to be in 1832, he signed another treaty in 1833. The 1833 treaty forced the Quapaw Tribe to relocate to the northeastern corner of Arkansas and present-day Oklahoma. Saracen would later lead 300 Quapaw members back to the Red River in Louisiana, where the U.S. Government sent the annuity payments. He eventually returned to Jefferson County, Arkansas, until his death. While the date of his death is unknown, his death took place approximately between 1833 and 1839.


Reference:

Bandy, E. (n.d.). Saracen. Quapaw Nation. Retrieved October 5, 2021, from https://www.quapawtribe.com/598/Saracen.


Key, J. P. (2008, September 19). Sarasin (?–1832?). Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved October 5, 2021, from https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/sarasin-1756/.