The Arkansas River begins at Tennessee Pass in the Rocky Mountains, on the eastern side of the Continental Divide in West Central Colorado and then wends its way 1,450 miles across Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, ending just north of Arkansas City; here it empties into the Mississippi River.
The Arkansas River is the 36th longest river in the world and the third longest in America (Missouri first, Mississippi second). Incidentally, in Kansas they pronounce it the Ar-KANSAS River, which brings us to the subject of this article: Are we Arkansawyers or ARE we Kansans
Some archaeologists believe the Quapaw Nation, for whom Arkansas is supposedly named, developed from already existing cultures in the lower Mississippi River Valley between Blytheville and Parkin/Marion, Ark.
However, oral tradition of the Quapaw claims they migrated with other nations of the Ohio River Valley, separating near a "stream," possibly the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
Some of the tribes, like the Kansa and Osage, went up the Missouri, "going upstream or against the current" (Omaha in their language); the Quapaw and possibly others went to the Mississippi, "going downstream or with the current" (Ugakhpa).
Ugakhpa, say Oo-gaq-pa, ("downstream people") was translated to French by Algonquian interpreters as Oo-ka-na-sa ("south wind people"), which is considered to be the root word for their later European name that has been spelled (among many ways) Akansea, Akansa, Arkanscas, Acansa, or as French explorer La Harpe wrote c. 1722: Arkansas. But as late as 1824, American maps carried the name as Arkansa.
Although admitted to the Union in 1836 as Arkansas, it took state legislation in l88l to prescribe the pronunciation: AR-kan-SAW. Presumably, people from a state pronounced AR-kan-SAW should be called AR-kan-SAWYERS, but AR-KANSANS can't seem to agree.
Incidentally, the original confusion about pronunciation is said to have stemmed from the Arkansa (or Quapaw) being referred to in the plural, Arkansas, like Kansas (people from the Kansa Nation). Some say the final "s" should be omitted as it is in Wichita, Omaha, etc.
Oh, well, it's probably all a social pecking order deal.
Our neighbors in Missouri pronounce their state Missoura in the west and Missouree in the east.