Poteau ( POH-toh) is a city in, and county seat of, Le Flore County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 8,520 as of the 2010 census.
In 1719, Bernard de la Harpe led a group of French explorers through this area and gave the river its present name. The present day city was founded in 1885, its name being derived from the nearby Poteau River. During the late 1700s, there was a large French outpost at Belle Point (Ft. Smith). From there, they would travel up the Poteau River to the base of Cavanal Mountain where a secondary post was established. Because of this, the river was named the "Post River", or Poteau River, and the outpost was simply called the post, or "Poteau". A group of French explorers gave the river its present name during the early 18th Century. Poteau is a French word meaning post.
The Poteau Chamber of Commerce has written that the community was founded in 1885 as a few houses and Bud Tate's general store. At the time of its founding, Poteau was located in Sugar Loaf County, a part of the Moshulatubbee District of the Choctaw Nation.