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Exploring Arkansas April 2009

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Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park-wildlife viewing, Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources, Ft. Smith National Historic Site
You wouldn't normally expect to find wildlife viewing opportunities at an archeological park, but that's not the case at Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park near Scott. A hidden gem in the southern part of the state near Smackover, is the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources which portrays the 1920's oil boom in that area. Fort Smith National Historic Site is a special place where you can walk where Mexican War and Civil War soldiers drilled, pause along the Trail of Tears and witness where justice was served.

TRANSCRIPT

NORMALLY YOU WOULDN'T THINK OF AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK AS BEING A WILDLIFE VIEWING AREA BUT BEING SITUATED ALONG THE OXBOW LAKE AND NOT TOO FAR FROM THE GRAND PRAIRIE, WHILE LIFE VIEWING OPPORTUNITIES ARE ABUNDANT. THIS IS WHERE WE BEGIN THE SHOW AT TOLTEC STATE PARK. THEN WE'LL TAKE YOU THE ARKANSAS MUSEUM AFTER NATURAL RESOURCES AT SMACKOVER THAT TALK OF THE OIL BOOM AND FINISH OUT AT A NATURAL SITE. THAT'S EXPLORE THE MOUNDS AND WILDLIFE AT TOLTEC MOUNDS STATE PARK. THIS NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK IS ONE OF THE LARGEST AND MOST IMPRESSIVE LAND SITES IN THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER VALLEY. 18 MOUNDS WERE CONSTRUCTED BY BUSH BUSHEL AND BASKET LOADS OF SOIL FROM 1300 TO 1500 AD. THERE ARE NATIVE AMERICANS THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN LIVING HERE. WE DON'T KNOW THEIR NAMES BECAUSE THEY WERE PREHISTORIC. THEY LIVED AND EXISTED HERE PRIOR TO ANY EUROPEAN CONTACT AND THE ONLY THING WE KNOW OF THEM IS THROUGH ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE. WE DON'T KNOW THE NAME THEY CALLED THEMSELVES, FOR EXAMPLE. ARKOLOGISTS HAVE GIVEN THEM A NAME, THE PLUM BAYOU CULTURE, BUT WE KNOW THEY WERE OCCUPYING THE SITE AND IT HAD A GREAT SIGNIFICANCE TO THOSE PEOPLE. THIS WAS THE CULTURAL CENTER AND THE CAPITAL, IF YOU WILL, OF THEIR CIVILIZATION. IT WAS THE HIGHEST OF THE CHIEFS AND THE HIGHEST OF THE MEDICINE MEN AND PRIESTS THAT LIVED IN THIS SITE. THESE FOLKS AND THEIR IMMEDIATE FAMILY IS ALL THAT WE BELIEVE THAT LIVED RIGHT IN THIS SITE. THOSE PEOPLE HAD INFLUENCE OVER A MUCH GREATER NUMBER OF PEOPLE, THE ENTIRE PLUM BAYOU CULTURE THAT LIVED IN PRESENT DAY PULAXII COUNTY AND SURROUNDING AREA. AT CERTAIN TIMES OF THE YEAR THROUGH  ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENC, WE KNOW THOSE PEOPLE WERE HERE WHETHER FOR POLITICAL, CULTURAL OR RELIGIOUS REASONS, THEY WOULD HAVE BIG FEST VALUES OF SOME -- FESTIVALS OF SOME TYPE AND THIS WAS THE CENTER WHERE EVERYONE CAME.

THE WAY THE MOUNTAINS ARE SITUATED, THERE'S A PURPOSE.

THIS IS VERY MUCH A PLANNED CITY, IF YOU WILL. WE SOMETIMES DON'T GIVE THE NATIVE AMERICANS FULL CREDIT FOR THEIR ENGINEERING KNOW HOW, BUT THESE MOUNDS ARE LAID OUT IN A VERY SPECIFIC MANNER AND DISTANCES BETWEEN THE MOUNDS. THE ALIGNMENT OF THE MOUNDS IS SUCH THAT IT SERVED AS AN EARTH CALENDAR, AN EARTHEN CALENDAR WHERE THROUGH SOLAR ALIGNMENTS, YOU CAN FOLLOW THE DIFFERENT MONTHS OF THE SEASON. IN PARTICULAR, THE SPRING AND FALL EQUINOX AND THE SOLSTACE.

AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY PROVED THESE MOUNDS WERE NOT BUILT BY THE TOLTECS OF MEXICO BUT  ANCESTORS OF NATIVE AMERICANS. OF THE THREE MOUNDS THAT REMAINT TALLEST, 49 AND A HALF FEET IN HEIGHT, IS ALSO THE LARGEST IN THE STATE REFERRED TO AS MOUND A, IT'S LOCATED ALONG OXBOW LAKE OF ARKANSAS RIVER CALLED MOUND LAKE. THE SAME LAKE PROVIDED NATIVE AMERICANS HERE WITH WATER FOR COOKING, BATHING AND AS A RESOURCE FOR FOOD AND TRAVEL. THIS IS ALSO AN IDEAL AREA FOR WILDLIFE VIEWS, ESPECIALLY MIGRATORY WATER FOWL. A BOARDWALK LEADS YOU OUT TO THE WATER TO AN OBSERVATION DESK AND MAIN WILDLIFE VIEWING AREA.

THE WILDLIFE YOU FIND TODAY ON A TYPICAL VISIT IS IN SOME WAYS THE SAME AND SOME WAYS DIFFERENCE THAN THE WILDLIFE THE NATIVE AMERICANS WOULD HAVE BEEN EXPERIENCING. IN WAYS THAT THEY'RE THE SAME, LIKE THE WATER FOWL CAN BE FOUND ON THE LAKE WHEN YOU'RE ON THE BOARDWALK, SOME OF THE DUCKS AND OTHER WATER FOWL THAT YOU'LL SEE ON A TYPICAL VISIT TO TOLTEC MOUNDS WOULD HAVE BEEN COMMON PLACE FOR THE NATIVE AMERICANS TO SEE. THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN INTERESTED IN THOSE NOT ONLY FOR THEIR BEAUTY, BUT ALSO FOR THE POTENTIAL MEAL THAT THEY COULD PROVIDE. SAME WAY FOR ARKANSAS DUCK HUNTERS, THEY STILL SEE A MEAL ON THE TABLE WHEN THEY SEE A FLOCK OF DUCKS. THESE ARE PROTECTED BEING IN THE STATE PARK AND CERTAINLY IF YOU COME OUT ON A VISIT, YOU CAN SEE THOSE TODAY IN THE SAME WAY THE NATIVE AMERICANS WOULD HAVE SEEN THEM. OTHER WILDLIFE THAT YOU CAN'T SEE TODAY THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN SEEN BY THE NATIVE AMERICANS IS -- ON A DAY LIKE TODAY, THE SKY COULD LITERALLY BE BLACKED OUT BY A FLOCK OF PASSENGER PIGEONS IF THEY HAD BEEN FLOIING OVERHEAD. THEY WERE LITERALLY BLOCKING OUT THE SUN LIKE AN ECLIPSE. THEY WERE HUNTED TO EXTINTION IN IF 1800S. THEY WERE A COMMON BIRD AND THEY SERVED AS A MEAL NOR  -- FOR THOSE NATIVE AMERICANS. THROUGH ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE, WE KNOW THEY WERE CONSUMING THOSE BIRDS TO PROVIDE NOURISHMENT, BUT THEY'RE EXTENGT TODAY.

PAY A VISIT TO TOLTEC MOUNDS ARCHITECTURE LOGICAL PARK NEAR SCOTT AND EXPLORE THE NATIVE AMERICAN PAST OF MORE THAN A THOUSAND YEARS AGO. FLSH

THE ARKANSAS MUSEUM OF NATURAL RESOURCES NEAR SMACKOVER MAY LOOK LIKE YOUR TYPICAL RUN OF THE MEAL MUSEUM ON THE OUTSIDE, ALONG WITH AN OIL DERRICK IT'S JUST A STARTER INTO THIS AREA'S PAST. ♪

YOU HAVE MAYBE SOME LOUISIANA AND TEXAS, THEY ARE VERY SURPRISED WHEN THEY PULL UP AND SEE THIS FACILITY. FROM THE HIGHWAY, IT DOESN'T LOOK AS BIG AS IT REALLY IS. YOU SEE THIS LARGE FACILITY, BUT YOU REALLY DON'T REALIZE JUST HOW LARGE IT IS AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA  WHAT SO EVER WHAT'S INSID. THE PEOPLE THAT COME TELL THEIR FRIENDS AND WE GET A LOT OF BUSINESS BY WORD OF MOUTH, YOU'VE GOT TO SEE THIS PLACE.

AND GOT TO SEE IT YOU DEFINITELY DO. WHAT YOU'LL EXPERIENCE HERE IS UNLIKE AT ANY OTHER MUSEUM.

IT'S BEEN SAID THAT SMACKOVER WAS ONE OF THE WILDEST BOOMS IN THE COUNTRY. WE DON'T REALLY KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE CAME THROUGH BECAUSE IT WAS A TRANSIENT COMMUNITY. WHEN OIL WAS DISCOVERED IN 22, 1922, WE HAD ABOUT 100 PEOPLE. IT WAS A SMALL COMMUNITY WHEN OIL WAS DISCOVERED THERE. BUT WHEN OIL WAS DISCOVERED, IT INSTANTLY, THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE CAME. SOME PEOPLE SAY THAT SMACKOVER COULD HAVE HAD UPWARDS OF 25, 26,000 PEOPLE. HOWEVER, WE DON'T KNOW BECAUSE THERE WAS NO CENSUS TAKER, NO ONE TAKING A COMPLETE COUNT OF HOW MANY PEOPLE. WE COULD HAVE HAD UP TO 40, 45,000 PEOPLE. WE REALLY DON'T KNOW. PEOPLE WOULD COME IN AND WORK FOR A LITTLE BIT AND GO ON. THEY WERE CALLED BOOMERS AND THEY WOULD GO TO THE NEXT BOOM OR DO THE NEXT TYPE OF JOB. ESPECIALLY COLLEGE-AGED BOYS WOULD WORK FOR THE SUMMER AND BE GONE. ♪ [ENGINE NOISE].

WHAT THROUGH WHAT REPRESENTS AN OVERSIZED DRILL HOLE, YOUR UNIQUE TIME TUNNEL EXPERIENCE BEGINS. TO DISCOVER THE OR ENGINES OF OIL, YOU ARE TAKEN ON A 200 MILLION YEAR VOYAGE BACK IN TIME IN A HIGH TECH ENVIRONMENT OF A TIME CAPSULE BEGINNING AT THE BOTTOM OF AN OLD JURASSIC SEA. IT REVEALS THE CREECH  THAT IS LED TO THE EVENTUAL FORMATION OF OIL. WHEN YOU STEP OFF YOUR TIME MACHINE YOU'LL BE CATAPULTED ON TO MAIN STREET BACK IN THE HEY DAY. I THINK I'LL CHECK OUT THE HORSE SHOE CAFE HERE. IN THE SMALLOVER JOURNAL NEWSPAPER OFFICE YOU CAN WITNESS FIRST HAND THE BUSTAL OF THE NEWS DURING THE DAY. YOU CAN ALMOST FEEL THE FEVER AND QUIEMENT OF THE RESIDENTS. EVERYONE WAS TALKING OIL. HOLIDAY COULDN'T HAVE CREATED A MORE ELABORATE AND REALISTIC SETTING. IN FACT, IT IS SO REAL, YOU ACTUALLY FEEL AS IS YOU HAVE INDEED TRAVELED BACK IN TIME TO THE 1920S. THIS MUSEUM HAS WON 30 SOME ODD AWARDS INCLUDING ARKANSAS MUSEUM OF THE YEAR TWICE.

I DON'T THINK PEOPLE REALIZE IN A SMALL COMMUNITY LIKE SMACKOVER THAT A FACILITY LIKE THIS EXISTS. HOWEVER, WE DON'T JUST SERVE ONE PARTICULAR -- YOU KNOW, ONE PARTICULAR TOWN. WE ARE HERE TO FOCUS ON ARKANSAS' NATURAL RESOURCES, PRIMARILY OIL AND BRINE. WE HAVE WON NUMEROUS AWARDS FOR OUR EXHIBITS, PROGRAMS, CONSERVATION ABOUT ARTIFACTS AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE PROUD OF, PROVIDING PEOPLE WHAT THEY NEED AS FAR AS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR HISTORY AND PRESERVING THAT HISTORY.

A HISTORY THAT YOU CAN PHYSICALLY STEP INTO HERE AT THE ARKANSAS MUSEUM OF NATURAL RESOURCES. THERE'S JUST ONE THING, THOUGH.

HELLO? HELLO? THELMA, HOW DO I GET BACK TO THE 21st CENTURY? ♪ [TRAIN ENGINE].

IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST U.S. MILITARY POSTS ESTABLISHED IN THE LOUISIANA TERRITORY. OVERLOOKING THE SITE WHERE THE ARKANSAS AND POTEAU RIVERS MEET, THE U.S. ARMY OPTED THIS FOR A FORT. WHEN SOLDIERS ARRIVED HERE IN 1817 THEY NAMED THE SITE FORT SMITH AFTER THEIR COMMANDING OFFICER THOMAS SMITH. TODAY HERE AT THE FORT SMITH NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE YOU CAN WALK WHERE CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS DRILLED, PAUSE ALONG THE TRAIL OF TEARS AND WITNESS WHERE JUSTICE WAS SERVED.

THE FIRST BOARD HERE WAS THE WOOD STOCKADE THAT LOOKED LIKE THE TYPICAL MILITARY FORT BACK EAST. THE CITY OF FORTH SMITH GREW UP AROUND IT AND THE INFLUENCE OF LIQUOR AND OTHER INFLUENCES ON THE SOLDIERS DISRUPTED THE MILITARY OPERATIONS. THEY MOVED OVER TO INDIAN TERRITORY. IT BECAME EMPTY HERE. OF COURSE, THE CITIZEN THAT IS MOVED TO FORT SMITH WERE A LITTLE UPSET BECAUSE ALL THEIR INCOME MOVED AWAY FROM THEM SO THEY PETITIONED CONGRESS AND BUILT THE SECOND FORT SMITH WHICH WAS A SUBSTANTIAL MILITARY FORT, ESPECIALLY FOR OUT WEST. THEY HAD A STONE WALL AROUND IT, BIG BRICK BUILDINGS, IT WAS A FAIRLY INCREDIBLE PLACE. BY THAT TIME MOST OF THE HOSTILITIES WERE FARTHER OUT WEST AND IT BECAME MORE OF A SUPPLY BASE. SUPPLIES WOULD COME UP RIVER WHICH WAS PRETTY WELL -- WATER LEVELS WOULD ALLOW THEM TO COME UP THIS FAR PRETTY REGULAR, AND FROM HERE IT WAS LOADED ON TO WAGONS AND WENT FARTHER WEST. DURING THE CIVIL WART UNION -- WHEN THE WAR STARTED CONFEDERATES CAME UP, THE UNION LEFT AND THE CONFEDERATES STAYED HERE AND LAUNCHED THEIR OPERATION. LATER ON AS THE WORLD PROGRESSED, THE UNION CAME AND CHASED THEM OUT AND THEY STAYED HERE. IT BECAME A UNION BASE FOR OPERATIONS FOR THE REST OF THE WAR. IT WAS A LITTLE BIT ALMOST LIKE VIETNAM. THE UNION CONTROLLED HERE. OUT IN THE COUNTRYSIDE IT WAS ANYBODY'S GUESS WHO WAS IN CHARGE. SO IT WAS A ROUGH TIME DURING THE CIVIL WAR IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY.

PROBABLY WHAT THIS HISTORIC SITE IS MOST WELL KNOWN FOR IS THIS MAN, JUDGE ISACC PARKER. FOR 21 YEARS HE HELD THE BENCH OF THE U.S. COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS. HE WAS FAMOUS FOR HIS SWIFT, WESTERN STYLE JUSTICE AND BECAME KNOWN AS THE HANGING JUDGE.

HE'S BECOME THAT WAY IN THE 20TH CENTURY, ANYHOW. DURING THE PERIOD WHEN HE WAS HERE, HE WAS A BELOVED MEMBER OF THE COMMUNITY, ON THE SCHOOL BOARD, HOSPITAL BOARD, STARTED THE FIRST ARKANSAS STATE FAIR IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY. AND SO HE WAS AN UPSTANDING CITIZEN HERE AND NOBODY THOUGHT OF HIM AS SO MUCH AS A HANGING JUDGE OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. IT WAS WHEN LITERATURE AND OTHER STORIES STARTED IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY THAT ALL CAME ABOUT.

PARKER SENTENCED MORE PEOPLE TO HANG THAN ANY OTHER JUDGE IN AMERICAN HISTORY. 160. BUT LESS THAN HALF OF THOSE, ONLY 79, ACTUALLY WALKED UP THE   THE GALLOWS TO MEET THEIR FATE. IT IS ALSO PART OF THE TRAIL OF TEARS NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL. IT INTERPRET IT IS IMPACT OF THE REMOVAL OF THE CHEROKEE, CHOCTAW, CHICKASAW, MUSKOGEE OR CREEK, AND SEMINOLE.

ARKANSAS HAS HAD MEMBERS OF ALL FIVE TRIBES THAT WERE RELOCATED FROM THE SOUTHEAST COME UP THE ARKANSAS RIVER. HERE WAS THE LAST STOP BEFORE INDIAN TERRITORY ON THE RIVER. IF THE TREATY SAY THEY WOULD GET SO MUCH SUPPLY BEFORE THEY ENTERED INDIA TERRITORY, THIS IS WHERE THEY WERE ISSUED. LATER ON FORT SMITH BECAME THE TRADING CENTER AND FOLKS CAME HERE TO GET SUPPLIES AND MATERIALST CITY OF FORTH SMITH, NOT THE FORT. THAT'S WHY  IT WAS A NICE LANDIG SPOT HIGH ON THE BLUFFT SOLDIERS STAYED HERE, ISSUED SUPPLIES AND WENT UP THE RIVER OR CROSSED HERE. OBVIOUSLY THE TRIBES FARTHER OVER IN OKLAHOMA WENT AS FAR AS THEY COULD ON THE RIVER AND THEN HAD THE WALK.

WITH SUCH VARIED HISTORY HERE, AREA SCHOOL GROUPS ARE CONSTANTLY PRESENTED WITH A UNIQUE OUTDOOR CLASSROOM.

THIS WAS THE FIRST FORT BILL HERE IN FORTH SMITH AS FAR BACK AS 1817. SO THE STONES THAT YOU SEE THERE WERE PUT THERE BY SOLDIERS DRESSED LIKE I AM. NOW, THE SOLDIERS THAT CAME HERE WERE CALLED RIFLEMEN AND THEY WERE THE ELITE SOLDIERS. THEY WERE KIND OF LIKE ARMY RANGERS OR GREEN BERETS. HAVE YOU HEARD OF THEM? NO. SPECIAL FORCES? THESE GUYS WERE LIKE THAT. THE BEST SOLDIERS THE MILITARY HAD. THEY SENT THEM HERE TO KEEP THE PEACE BETWEEN TWO DIFFERENCE INDIAN TRIBES, THE CHEROKEE AND OSAGE. HAVE YOU HEARD OF EITHER OF THEM? VERY GOOD.

THIS WAS THE SITE WHERE MECHANICS CAN AND CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS DRILLED, STUDENTS GET TO EXPERIENCE A LOT OF WHAT THAT WAS LIKE.

THE THING IMPORTANT HERE EVERYBODY NEEDS TO KEEP IT STRAIGHT UP THAT WAY WHEN YOU TURN YOU DON'T BUNCH  -- DON'T HIT YOUR BUDDY IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD. I'M GOING TO TAKE US DOWN TO THE RIVER AND IF YOU START GETTING TIRED, LET ME KNOW. I'LL SHOW YOU HOW TO CARRY YOUR RIFLE A DIFFERENT WAY.

LEFT RIGHT LEFT, LEFT, LEFT.

COMPANY, HALT. OKAY. NOW, WHEN I TELL YOU TO ORDER IRONS, YOU GRASP YOUR MUS KET HERE. PUT YOUR HAND HERE AND BRING IT DOWN TO YOUR RIGHT SIDE. OKAY. NOW, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE TO CARRY AROUND A REAL MUSKET HEAVIER THAN MINE ALL DAY LONG? IT WOULD GET TIRING AFTER AWHILE. ANOTHER THING ABOUT RIFLE REGIMENT, THEIR WEAR GREEN. IT WAS CONSIDERED AN OUTDOORSMAN COAT. A LOT OF HUNTERS WHERE CAMOUFLAGE NOW, THIS WAS THE EQUIVALENT TO THAT. THEY HAD YELLOW TRIM BECAUSE THAT WAS THE COLOR OF THE RIFLE REGIMENT. IT BLENDED IN WITH THE WOODS AND YOU WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO SEE THEM AS WELL.

HAVING AN EXPERIENCE LIKE THIS, STUDENTS GAIN A GREATER INSIGHT INTO ALL THE STEPS INVOLVED TO PREPARE A MUZZLE LOADER TO FIRE.

CAST ABOUT. THAT WAS ACTUALLY THE ORDER TO PUT IN FRONT. PRIME, YOU POUR YOUR POWDER DOWN AND WITHDRAW RAMMER AND RAM DOWN THE CARD RIDGE.  CARTRIDGE. YOU COME BACK UP TO SHOULDER ARM. AT SHOULDER IRON, YOU WAIT FOR THE ORDER TO MAKE READY, COCK IT AND TAKE AIM, STEP INTO IT AND FIRE. TAKE AIM, FIRE. [KIDS SCREAMING AND LAUGHING].

AS ONE MIGHT GUESS, A HISTORY LESSON IN THIS TYPE OF SETTING MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD IN THE STUDENTS' RETENTION FACTOR AND MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL.

THIS EXPERIENCE AND HAVING STUDIED ABOUT IT AND ALREADY KNOWING ABOUT IT BEFORE YOU GO BACK TO SCHOOL SO YOU KNOW MORE.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GOING THROUGH ALL THESE STEPS TO FIRE OFF A MUSKET OR RIFLE?

I WOULDN'T HAVE WANTED TO BE IN A WAR.

SO CHECK OUT ALL THE HISTORY THERE IS TO EXPERIENCE HERE AT FORTH SMITH NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE. FOR MORE ON THIS DESTINATION PLUS MANY OTHERS AND TO VIEW MAPS OR TO ORDER A COPY OF AN EPISODE, VISIT OR WEBSITE W WW.AETN.ORG. WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME ON ANOTHER EXCITING ADVENTURE OF EXPLORING ARKANSAS.

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