The History of Oklahoma refers to the history of the state of Oklahoma and the history of the land that the state now occupies. Most of Oklahoma (all but the Panhandle) was acquired in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, while the Panhandle was not acquired until the U.S. land acquisitions following the Mexican-American War.
Before Statehood[edit | edit source]
The Indian Relocation[edit | edit source]
Prior to becoming a state in 1907, Oklahoma was designated the Indian Territory by the U.S. government. This was done in order to provide a place for the Native Americans to relocate to as the United States expanded westward towards the Mississippi River in the 1800s.
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was signed by President Andrew Jackson within a year of taking office. This act gave the President the power to negotiate treaties for removal with Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi River. The treaty called for the Indians to give up their eastern land for land in the west. Those who wished to stay behind were allowed to stay and become citizens in their state. For the tribes that agreed to Jackson's terms, the removal was peaceful; however, those who resisted were eventually forced to leave. 
The northern Indian tribes included the Shawnee, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Sauk, and Foxes. Because of their size and fragmentation, relocation was easier than that of the southern tribes, which were much larger and more organized.
The Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Cherokee tribes (the Five Civilized Tribes) living in the Southern United States were considered civilized because of their adoption of Western customs and in the case of the Cherokee, the development of a written language, as well as having good relationships with their neighbors. 
The Choctaw signed relocation treaties in September 1830, notably the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Those Choctaws that decided to stay in Mississippi were soon forced off of their ancestral lands and moved west. 
The Creek also refused to relocate and signed a treaty in March 1832 to open up a large portion of their land in exchange for protection of ownership of their remaining lands. The United States failed to protect the Creeks, and in 1837, they were militarily removed without ever signing a treaty. 
The Chickasaw saw the relocation as inevitable and signed a treaty in 1832 which included protection until their move. The Chickasaws were forced to move early as a result of white settlers and the War Department's refusal to protect the Indian's lands. 
In 1833, a small group of Seminoles signed a relocation treaty. However, the treaty was declared illegitimate by a majority of the tribe. The result was the Second and Third Seminole Wars. Those that survived the wars eventually were paid to move west. 
The Cherokee were tricked with an illegitimate treaty, the Treaty of New Echota of 1833. The Cherokee were given two years to move west or else be forced to move. At the end of the two years only 2,000 Cherokees had migrated westward and 16,000 remained on their lands. The U.S. sent 7,000 soldiers to force the Cherokee to move without the time to gather their belongings. This march westward is known as the Trail of Tears in which 4,000 Cherokee died. 
Post-Civil War Period[edit | edit source]
After the American Civil War, in 1866, the federal government forced the tribes into new treaties. Most of the land in central and western Indian Territory was ceded to the government. Some of the land was given to other tribes, but the central part, the so-called Unassigned Lands, remained with the government. Another concession allowed railroads to cross Indian lands. In 1862 Stand Watie was elected principal Chief of the "Southern Cherokee Nation". Furthermore the practice of slavery was outlawed. Some nations were integrated racially and otherwise with their slaves, but other nations were extremely hostile to the former slaves and wanted them exiled from their territory.
In the 1870s, a movement began by people wanting to settle the government lands in the Indian Territory under the Homestead Act of 1862. They referred to the Unassigned Lands as Oklahoma and to themselves as Boomers. After Watie's death in 1871 the Southern Cherokee Nation was moved to Kentucky. In the 1880s, early settlers of the state's very sparsely populated Panhandle region tried to form the Cimarron Territory but lost a lawsuit against the federal government. This prompted a judge in Paris, to unintentionally create a moniker for the area. "That is land that can be owned by no man," the judge said, and after that the panhandle was referred to as No Man's Land until statehood arrived decades later.
In 1884, in United States v. Payne, the United States District Court in Topeka, ruled that settling on the lands ceded to the government by the Indians under the 1866 treaties was not a crime. The government at first resisted, but Congress soon enacted laws authorizing settlement.
Congress passed the Dawes Act, or General Allotment Act, in 1887 requiring the government to negotiate agreements with the tribes to divide Indian lands into individual holdings. Under the allotment system, tribal lands left over would be surveyed for settlement by non-Indians. Following settlement, many whites accused Republican officials of giving preferential treatment to ex-slaves in land disputes.
Oklahoma and Indian Territories[edit | edit source]
Land runs[edit | edit source]
The United States entered into two new treaties with the Creeks and the Seminoles. Under these treaties, tribes would sell at least part of their land in Oklahoma to the U.S. to settle other Indian tribes and freemen. This land would be widely called the Unassigned Lands or Oklahoma Country in the 1880s due to it remaining uninhabited for over a decade.
In 1879, part-Cherokee Elias C. Boudinot argued that these Unassigned Lands be open for settlement because the title to these lands belonged to the United States and "whatever may have been the desire or intention of the United States Government in 1866 to locate Indians and negroes upon these lands, it is certain that no such desire or intention exists in 1879. The Negro since that date, has become a citizen of the United States, and Congress has recently enacted laws which practically forbid the removal of any more Indians into the Territory".
On March 23, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison signed legislation which opened up the two million acres (8,000 km²) of the Unassigned Lands for settlement on April 22, 1889. It was to be the first of many land runs, but later land openings were conducted by means of a lottery because of widespread cheating—some of the settlers were called Sooners because they had already staked their land claims before the land was officially opened for settlement.
In 1893, the government purchased the rights to settle the Cherokee Outlet, or Cherokee Strip, from the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Outlet was part of the lands ceded to the government in the 1866 treaty, but the Cherokees retained access to the area and had leased it to several Chicago meat-packing plants for huge cattle ranches. The Cherokee Strip was opened to settlement by land run in 1894. Also, in 1893, Congress set up the Dawes Commission to negotiate agreements with each of the Five Civilized Tribes for the allotment of tribal lands to individual Indians. Finally, the 1898 Curtis Act abolished tribal jurisdiction over all of Indian Territory.
After Statehood[edit | edit source]
20th century[edit | edit source]
In the early 20th century, the oil business began to get underway. Huge pools of underground oil were discovered in places like Glenpool near Tulsa. Many whites flooded into the state to make money. Many of the "old money" elite families of Oklahoma can date their rise to this time. The prosperity of the 1920s can be seen in the surviving architecture from the period, such as the Tulsa mansion which was converted into the Philbrook Museum of Art or the art deco architecture of downtown Tulsa.
For Oklahoma, the early quarter of the 20th century was politically turbulent. Many different groups had flooded into the state; "black towns", or towns made of groups of African Americans choosing to live separately from whites, sprouted all over the state, while most of the state abided by the Jim Crow laws within each individual city, racially separating people with a bias against any non-White race. Greenwood, a neighborhood in Northern Tulsa, was known as Black Wall Street because of the vibrant business, cultural, and religious community there. The area was the site of the 1921 Tulsa Race War, one of the United States' deadliest race riots.
The Oklahoma Socialist Party achieved a small degree of success in this era (the small party had its highest per-capita membership in Oklahoma at this time with 12,000 dues paying members in 1914), including the publication of dozens of party newspapers and the election of several hundred local elected officials. Much of their success came from their willingness to reach out to Black and American Indian voters (they were the only party to continue to resist Jim Crow laws), and their willingness to alter traditional Marxist ideology when it made sense to do so (the biggest changes were the party's support of widespread small-scale land ownership, and their willingness to use religion positively to preach the "Socialist gospel"). The state party also delivered presidential candidate Eugene Debs some of his highest vote counts in the nation.
The party was later crushed into virtual non-existence during the "white terror" that followed the ultra-repressive environment following the Green Corn Rebellion and the World War I era paranoia against anyone who spoke against the war or capitalism.
The Industrial Workers of the World tried to gain headway during this period but achieved little success. The Ku Klux Klan was also particularly active but was virtually eliminated following a major campaign by the state government in the 1950s.
Dust Bowl Era[edit | edit source]
During the height of the Great Depression, drought and poor agricultural practices led to the Dust Bowl, when massive dust storms blew away the soil from large tracts of arable land and deposited it on nearby farms and ranches, distant states, the Atlantic Ocean, and even occasionally Great Britain. The resulting crop failures forced many small farmers to flee the state altogether. Although the most persistent dust storms primarily affected the Panhandle, much of the state experienced occasional dusters, intermittent severe drought, and occasional searing heat. Towns such as Alva, Altus, and Poteau each recorded temperatures of 120°F (49°C) during the epic summer of 1936.
Advances in agro-mechanical technology simultaneously enabled less labor-intensive crop production. Many large landowners and planters had more labor than they needed with the new technology, and the federal Agricultural Adjustment Act paid them to reduce production. Plantation owners throughout the American South and much of eastern and southern Oklahoma released their sharecroppers of their debts and evicted them. With few or no local opportunities available for them, many emancipated, but destitute blacks and whites fled to the relative prosperity of California to work as migrant farm workers and, after the onset of World War II, in factories.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, photographs by Dorothea Lange, and songs of Woody Guthrie tales of woe from the era. The negative images of the "Okie" as a sort of rootless migrant laborer living in a near-animal state of scrounging for food greatly offended many Oklahomans. These works often mix the experiences of former sharecroppers of the western American South with those of the exodusters fleeing the fierce dust storms of the High Plains. Although they primarily feature the extremely destitute, the vast majority of the people, both staying in and fleeing from Oklahoma, suffered great poverty in the Depression years. Some Oklahoma politicians denounced The Grapes of Wrath (often without reading it) as an attempt to impugn the morals and character of Oklahomans.
After World War II[edit | edit source]
The term "Okie" in recent years has taken on a new meaning in the past few decades, with many Oklahomans (both former and present) wearing the label as a badge of honor (as a symbol of the Okie survivor attitude). Others (mostly alive during the Dust Bowl era) still see the term negatively because they see the "Okie" migrants as quitters and transplants to the West Coast.
Major trends in Oklahoma history after the Depression era included the rise again of tribal sovereignty (including the issuance of tribal automobile license plates, and the opening of tribal smoke shops, casinos, grocery stores, and other commercial enterprises), the building of Tinker Air Force Base, the rapid growth of suburban Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the drop in population in Western Oklahoma, the oil boom of the 1980s and the oil bust of the 1990s.
As Oklahoma's Centennial celebrations draw closer, major efforts are being undertaken by state and local leaders to revive Oklahoma's small towns and population centers, which had seen major decline following the oil bust.
Oklahoma City Bombing[edit | edit source]
In 1995 Oklahoma became the scene of one of the worst acts of terrorism ever committed in U.S. History. On April 19, 1995, in the Oklahoma City bombing, Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, including 19 children. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were the convicted perpetrators of the attack, although many believe others were involved. Timothy McVeigh was later sentenced to death by lethal injection, while his partner, Terry Nichols, who was convicted of 161 counts of first degree murder received life in prison without the possibility of parole.
References[edit | edit source]
- ^ a b c d e f "Indian removal" (in English). PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2959.html. Retrieved 2006-06-06.
- ^ "Five Civilized Tribes" (in English). http://www.shadowwolf.org/five_civilized_tribes.html. Retrieved 2006-06-06.
- ^ "Treaty with the Seminole, 1866" (in English). Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties Volume II, Treaties. Oklahoma State University. http://digital.library.okstate.edu/kappler/Vol2/treaties/sem0910.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-08.
- ^ "Treaty with the Creek, 1866" (in English). Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties Volume II, Treaties. Oklahoma State University. http://digital.library.okstate.edu/kappler/Vol2/treaties/cre0931.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-08.
- ^ "Unassigned Lands" (in English). Oklahoma Historical Society. http://www.ok-history.mus.ok.us/enc/unassigned.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-08.
- ^ "Elias Boudinot 1879 Map of Indian Territory" (in English). Tulsa Genealogical Society. http://home.earthlink.net/~dawise/Boudinot-1879.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-09.
[edit | edit source]
- Oklahoma Online Atlas
- The Official Web Site of Oklahoma|
- State Facts
- Tourism Official Website
- Photos and books about Oklahoma, hosted by the Portal to Texas History
|This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at History of Oklahoma. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.|