You always hear a lot about Texas, probably because it’s so big, and so much of our history is wrapped up in the Lone Star state, but what do you actually know about Oklahoma?
Note: Hang on until the end of this article and find out how you could win 3 books set in Oklahoma.
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado first explored the region for Spain in 1541. The U.S. acquired most of Oklahoma in 1803 in the Louisiana Purchase from France, and the Western Panhandle region became U.S. territory with the annexation of Texas in 1845. Set aside as Indian Territory in 1834, the region was divided into the Twin Territories: Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory, on May 2, 1890. November 16, 1907, the two territories were combined, and Oklahoma became the 46th state in the U.S.
Oklahoma is roughly shaped like an ax, or short-handled tomahawk, which seems quite appropriate considering it most of it used to be Indian Territory. The name Oklahoma is from the Choctaw Indian words "okla" meaning people and "humma" meaning red.
Oklahoma ranks 27th in population among our 50 states, but is the 20th largest state in size. Most people envision this state as prairie flatlands or gently rolling hills, which much of it is, but did you know that Black Mesa, in the panhandle, stands at an elevation of 4,973 feet, almost as high up as Denver? And speaking of mountains, were you aware that Oklahoma has four separate mountain ranges? Surprise! Surprise!
The Indian Territory became the dumping grounds for the Indian Removal, a policy pursued intermittently by American presidents early in the nineteenth century, but aggressively pursued by President Andrew Jackson after the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
Most people have heard the story of the thousand of Indians from the Five Civilized tribes who were forced to leave their homes, plantations, and lands of their ancestors to move against their will to Indian Territory. Thousands died on the Trail of Tears, while others fought and died in their efforts to keep their land, but those who survived eventually settled in the Indian Territory.
In 1884, United States District Court in Topeka, Kansas, 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.
On April 22, 1889, the first day homesteading was permitted, and 50,000 people swarmed the area surrounding the first of 5 Land Rushes—or races for the land—in hopes of winning a single quarter-section(160 acres) of the two million acres being given away in the Unassigned Lands. People who tried to sneak onto the land before the noon starting gun were called Sooners, hence the state's nickname and also the name of the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning football team. Go OU!
The Cherokee Strip was opened to settlement by land run in 1893. 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. This brought about the end of tribally owned land and established individual ownership of smaller sections of land, which could then be sold if the owner wished. Finally, the Curtis Act of 1898 abolished tribal jurisdiction over all of Indian Territory. Little by little, the land was taken from the Indians and more and more white, blacks, and Europeans settled there.
There is so much more I could write, but I hope this gives you a brief glimpse of Oklahoma and it’s very unique history. It’s hard to believe much of this transpired just 130 years ago. While states in the original 13 colonies have enjoyed hundreds of years of life on American shores, Oklahomans just celebrated the state’s centennial 3 years ago.
I’m not a Native American(so far as I know), but I am a loyal Native Oklahoman. I was born in what used to be the Creek Nation and have lived all my life in Oklahoma, except for one year. I have no proof, but family stories say that my dad’s mother rode in the first land run.
One thing I’m proud of, my Oklahoma historical romance trilogy was buried a few years ago in the Tulsa Time Capsule, which will be opened 47 years from now. I won’t be here then, but I hope my children and grandchildren will be proud when the capsule is opened and my books are removed. Anyway, I’ve yammered long enough.
Here are some interesting tidbits of Oklahoma trivia if you care to read more:
Saying Howdy in Native American languages:
*Apache (Chiracahua): Hadínyaa? (pronounced "hah-deen-yah")
*Cherokee: (pronounced "oh-see-yo")
*Comanche: Maruawe! (pronounced "mah-ruh-ah-way")
*Creek: Hesci! (pronounced "heese-chee")
*Potawatomi: Bozho! (pronounced "bo-zho")
Johnny Bench baseball player, Oklahoma City
Garth Brooks singer, Tulsa
Iron Eyes Cody Cherokee actor
Gordon Cooper astronaut, Shawnee
Ralph Ellison writer, Oklahoma City
James Garner actor, Norman
Owen K. Garriott astronaut, Enid
Vince Gill singer, Norman
Woodrow Wilson Woody Guthrie singer, composer, Okemah
Ike, Taylor, Zac Hanson music, Tulsa
Paul Harvey broadcaster, Tulsa
Tony Hillerman author, Sacred Heart
Ron Howard actor, director, Duncan
Ben Johnson actor, Pawhuska
Jennifer Jones actress, Tulsa
Shannon Lucid astronaut, Bethany
Mickey Mantle baseball player, Spavinaw
Reba McEntire singer, McAlester
Shannon Miller Olympic gymnast, Edmond
Patti Page singer, Clarence
Brad Pitt actor Shawnee
Tony Randall actor, Tulsa
Oral Roberts evangelist, Ada
Dale Robertson actor, Oklahoma City
Will Rogers humorist, Oologah
Dan Rowan comedian,
Maria Tallchief ballerina, Fairfax
Jim Thorpe athlete, Prague
Jeanne Tripplehorn actress, Tulsa
Ted Shackleford actor, Tulsa
For a chance to win a set of my 3 Oklahoma historical books, leave a comment and answer the following questions: (No fair using your computer to find the answers. If you don’t know, give your best guess.)
1. OK was the 46th state to join the Nation. What 4 states joined afterward?
2. The first parking meter in the nation was installed in this OK town.
3. The only town in the U.S. to be bombed during WWII.
4. Which OK town claims to be the Cow Chip capitol of the world?
5. Oklahoma has the largest Native American population of any state in the U.S. Many of the 250,000 American Indians living in Oklahoma are descended from the 67 tribes who inhabited the Indian Territory. How many of those tribes still house their headquarters in Oklahoma?
I’ll check back in a few days and post the answers and the winner.
Now available for pre-order:
Second Chance Brides, book two in the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, Releases September 1.
The Anonymous Bride, Book one in the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, is now available.
Visit me at my website and sign my guestbook for another chance to win a free book. www.vickiemcdonough.com