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The state's name

KUAR Arkansas’s Amazing Place Names # 2

State Name

When French missionaries came down the Mississippi in 1673, Indians in Illinois

warned them of a people we now call the Quapaw, but which the French heard

pronounced as Akansa or Akamsee.

With time, an ‘r’ worked its way into the first syllable, and either an ‘s’ or a ‘w’ got

added to the end. When Congress created the Territory of Arkansaw in 1819, it

was spelled with an ‘w’.

But William Woodruff, publisher of the Arkansas Gazette, spelled Arkansas with

an ‘s’, and that led to the official spelling with statehood in 1836.

Early citizens also disagreed about the pronunciation of the name, some holding

with arKANsas and some with ARkansaw.

The pronunciation was finally settled by the state legislature in 1881.

Disagreement about how to spell the possessive form continued for another

century, and whether we are Arkansans, Arkansawyers, or Arkies is still a matter

of contention.

Daniel Boice, University of Arkansas at Monticello