This 1895 Atlas map depicts Oklahoma Territory in pink and Indian Territory in yellow
What's In a Name? The Many Faces of Oklahoma History

People unfamiliar with southwestern history can get mightily confused with the
different names given to the state of Oklahoma. And because it is a relatively young
state, many don't even know the copious history that exists, anyway. Unlike any other
state in the Union, Oklahoma's history can be readily identified by the various legal
names it has carried over the years.

Becoming American
The area that is now Oklahoma had both Spanish and French claims to it, but ultimately
the Americans gained the land through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 (the Louisiana
Purchase boundary was deemed to go a bit south of the Red River into Texas, and this
is why the first
American settlements of Texas occurred along the Red River, not at
Austin's colony.  However, the 1819 Adams-Onis Treaty defined the boundary better).
The Oklahoma panhandle was not included in the Adams-Onis Treaty and remained
"no-man's land" up until Oklahoma Organic Act of 1890.

Indian Territory
The Louisiana Purchase made the land that would become Oklahoma a border state,
and  was considered a kind of buffer between the Aglo east and the Spanish west.
Maybe that's why Andrew Jackson decided that the area would become the new
homelands for expelled Indian tribes in the East; in any event, he designated the land
"Indian Territory" and throughout his administration several tribes were expelled from
their homes. The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Creek - who had
been designated the "Five Civilized Tribes" - thus made the hard journey west to an
unfamiliar and very different landscape. The tribes had known large hardwood forests
and lush bottom lands. Indian Territory was rocky, dry, and brushy.

Some of the Native Americans set up life in their new lands that approximated their
old ways, but many members had become "Americanized" through the years and
continued that behavior. As they had been expelled from southern states, all of the
tribes owned slaves, but the slaves' treatment differed considerably in each group.
They also brought with them cotton culture.

Civil War
The Civil War along the Red River merits a whole other section; suffice to say, the
South lost, and as Indian Territory had been deemed by the Union as Confederate
sympathizers. Of course, that was not completely true; there were Unionists and
Confederates not just within the territory, but among the tribes as well. It was literally
brother fighting brother in some instances. Most of the Indians did not own slaves or
have plantations, and they resented having to fight for those who did.

After the war, the federal government voided all previous treaties with the Five
Civilized Tribes, even though half of the tribes had remained loyal. The 1866 Treaties
with each of the Five Civilized Tribes stipulated that, among other conditions, the
tribes allow their lands to the west to be redistributed for an new influx of
dispossessed Indians. The tribes were also to release land to the railroad right of way.
The breakdown of Indian Territory had begun.

Oklahoma Territory
When the railroads, speculators and new tribes entered, the old communal land
holding ways of the Native Americans were ignored. The new tribes were forced to
homestead a certain number of acres through the Dawes Severalty Act. The left-over
acreage was then free game for speculators, bankers, and railroad and industry
promoters, and they promoted settlement by calling on white homesteaders.

The first Land Run on the unassigned lands - in the middle of the state, where
Oklahoma City now lies - occurred by presidential Proclamation on April 22, 1889.
Congress decided to protect the eastern part of the territory by establishing the
Oklahoma Organic Act (1890), which designated that the east remain "Indian Territory"
and the west become "Oklahoma Territory." Oklahoma Territory was considered white
man's land.

The End of Indian Territory
The Dawes Commission Act of 1893 was lauded as an attempt to get Indian Territory to
act more "American" - meaning, to lose their communal ways and become private
property holders. The Act, which passed as a rider to an Indian appropriations bill,
stipulated that all Indians had to register with the Indian Bureau to claim benefits
(many did not for fear of persecution), and that the land of the Five Civilized Tribes
would be redistributed by allotment. The remaining acreage would then be opened for
settlement via a land lottery. By 1906, the lands were allotted, the open lands grabbed
up, and the "last frontier" was now settled. It was time for statehood.

Oklahoma or Sequoyah?
Indian Territory had proposed to be its own separate state, named Sequoyah, but
Congress didn't buy it. Instead, Theodore Roosevelt signed the Enabling Act, which
made the territories eligible for statehood - but only as one unit. The territorial
government did not even recognize Indian nationhood anymore.

After the Constitutional Convention of 1906 in Guthrie, to which all counties within
Oklahoma and Indian territories sent delegates, the new state was founded. Oklahoma
was admitted into the Union as the 56th state on September 17, 1907.

The history of the creation of Oklahoma is one of deceit, opportunity, and dreams. Of
all the states in the Union, it surely is the most fascinating story - and the most tragic.
The abandoned Altus railroad depot (with Thurber
brick sidewalk)
An overgrown remnant of the Old Military Road
through
Boggy Depot, Shawnee Cattle Drive stop
and Civil War ghost town
The backside of downtown Idabel
The busy train station at Davis, with modern
elevators in the background, indicates the hold
railroads still have over the state.
Oil became a booming business for Oklahoma after
statehood. For the most part, Native American tribes
were paid for the oil. But all lost substantial amounts
of their lands. The Osage oil fields north of
Oklahoma City were so rich that unscrupulous men
married Osage women, then murdered them, to
obtain their oil leases.
A Brief History on Names
Trail blazer Black Beaver assisted Creeks and
Wichitas during the Civil War. Portions of the road
he forged would later become the route for the
Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas.
Questions or comments?
E-mail me:
robin@redriverhistorian.com