Ozark is the name of a city, a county, a mountain plateau, and a culture in Arkansas and Missouri, as well as border areas of Kansas and Oklahoma. The Ozark region is bordered by five rivers: Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas, Grand and Neosho. The name apparently comes from French Aux Arc, by the bend, but this may be folk etymology. The area of the Ozarks consist of the Springfield Plateau, the Salem Plateau, and the Boston Mountains.

The native people of the Ozark mountains were called Rock Shelter people or bluff dwellers, because they sought refuge in the shade of the mountains. Plains Indians like the Cherokee, Choctaw, Fox, Kickapoo, Sack and Osage lived in the area by the time settles of European descent showed up in the 1800s.

The area was an isolated one, and life there was harsh. Because of this a particular culture and identity sprang up. The Ozarkers kept to themselves and managed themselves, left almost entirely alone until World War I. A notable exception is the Civil War, which brought fighting to the area and became the source for many legends.

The people of the Ozarks were therefore self-sufficient. They grew their own food, worked their own clothes and shoes, and made their own furniture and utensils. To this day many artisans carry on the tradition of crafting oak furniture, baskets and quilts, to mention some examples.

The language, too, was something the people kept for themselves. Their speech preserved old patterns of English, such as the term play pretty for toy, dating back to the time of Elizabeth I. They also developed their own style of mountain music, still played today. Try to imagine the harmonica, banjo, fiddle or dulcimer - you can hear it, I'm sure.

Several centres and parks have been established to cherish the history and nature of the Ozarks. In the Ozark Folk Center outside Mountain View, Arkansas, traditions and music are kept alive for visitors to experience. National parks such as the Ozark National Forest and the Mark Twain National Forest distinguish themselves mainly because of several rivers and caves.

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