You’ve likely found yourself engaged in discussions about why it’s “ArkanSAW” instead of “ArKANSAS.” History has a simple answer.
French explorers settled in the 1600s and referred to the native Quapaw people as “Arkansas,” or “People of the South Wind.” French language dictates the “s” ending a word is almost always silent, hence the “Arkansas” of today.
Pronunciation was ultimately decided in 1881 as a compromise between two senators who couldn’t agree which was correct. The General Assembly declared spelling would remain “Arkansas,” but we should all say “Arkansaw” moving forward. They even passed a law to enforce the latter.
– Kristie Coggins, The 100 Companies