• Rifle Regiment arriving at Belle Point, 1817. Artwork by Michael Haynes

    Fort Smith

    National Historic Site AR,OK

Mission and Significance Statements

Mission Statement

The mission of the Fort Smith National Historic Site is to preserve and protect the cultural and natural resources at the site of two western frontier military forts and the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas; through education, instill awareness appreciation and understanding of the resources and historical and cultural diversity, primarily as it relates to Federal Indian Policy; and to provide a clean, safe, and accessible park to all visitors.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of the Fort Smith National Historic Site is to preserve, protect, and interpret the sites of two western frontier military forts and the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas in accordance with National Park Service policies, rules, and regulations.

Significance Statement

Fort Smith National Historic preserves the sites of two frontier forts on the boundary of Indian Territory and the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas. The site represents over 80 years of activity by the United States to attempt to administer justice for Native Americans and control the nature of westward expansion and settlement through both the U.S. Army and the Federal Court System. It is the only National Park site that interprets the Federal Court system, crime and punishment in the 19th century West, the U.S. Marshals' history on the frontier, as well as the settlement of Indian Territory and how the nature of Federal Indian Policy throughout the entire 19th century affected that process. It specifically addresses the forced removal of Indians from East to West through its designation as a unit of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.

Did You Know?

Portrait of Anna Dawes

A woman was responsible for the building of a modern federal jail at Fort Smith, AR, in 1888. Anna Dawes, daughter of Sen. Dawes of MA, visited the "Hell on the Border" jail in 1885 and wrote an article describing its conditions. When read in Congress, money was quickly approved for a new jail.