The Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto was the first European to set foot in Arkansas, arriving in 1541. Evidence left in mounds, bluffs, pottery and stone implements suggests that people had been living here thousands of years prior to De Soto’s visit. The Indians who lived here before the European expansion include the Folsom people, Bluff Dwellers, Mound Builders, Caddo, Quapaws, Osage, Choctaw and Cherokee. Arkansas became incorporated into the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and became Arkansas Territory in 1819. By 1836, Arkansas was the 25th state to join the union. Arkansas grew steadily over the next 24 years under it’s plantation economy and, by 1860, had risen to 435,000.  In 300 years, Arkansas has grown from a vast wilderness to a thriving state with a population of 2.8 million. Advancements in farming, lumbering, manufacturing, tourism and government have gained Arkansas a viable place in the international market.


Many places named in our state, including Arkansas, are French pronunciations of Indian words. Early French explorers gave the territory its name, a corruption of Akansea, which is a phonetic spelling of the Illinois word for the Quapaw. This phonetic heritage explains why “Arkansas” is pronounced so differently than “Kansas” even though they share the same spelling. During the early days of statehood, Arkansas’ two U.S. senators were divided on the spelling and pronunciation of our state. One was always introduced as the senator from “ARkanSAW” and the other as the senator from “Ar-KANSAS.” In 1881, the state’s General Assembly passed a resolution declaring that the state’s name should be spelled “Arkansas,” but pronounced “Arkansaw.”  The pronunciation preserves the memory of the Indians who were the original inhabitants of our state, while the spelling clearly dictates the nationality of the French adventurers who explored this area. Arkansas is now known officially as “the Natural State.”  You are now an Arkansan.

Organized in 1989 by Debra Fiser, M.D., Former Dean, College of Medicine, the caucus continues to provide programs to help women rise through the ranks of academic medicine.  The women’s caucus, a nationally recognized and awarded organization for creating leadership, networking, professional development and mentoring opportunities for all College of Medicine women faculty and residents.  All are encouraged to attend WFDC events.  For more information click here.