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Oklahoma

State History

Native Americans

Before Europeans arrived in Oklahoma, Native American tribes lived throughout the land. These tribes included the Ute, Comanche, Osage, Quapaw, Wichita, and the Caddo. The Caddo and the Wichita lived in the southern part of the state and had similar customs and history. The Quapaw and the Osage lived in the eastern part of the state and spoke a similar language. They grew corn and hunted buffalo. The Comanche and the Ute were pure hunters who lived mostly off of buffalo. They followed the buffalo herds and lived in portable homes called teepees.


American Bison
Bison on the Tallgrass Prairie Nature Preserve
by Reservoirhill
Europeans Arrive

The first European to arrive in Oklahoma was Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1541. Like most Spanish explorers he was searching for gold, but did not find any in Oklahoma. Over one hundred years later, French explorer Robert de La Salle arrived. He claimed the land for the French who then established fur trading posts along the rivers in the region.

Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, the United States bought a large region of land west of the Mississippi River from the French for $15 million. It was called the Louisiana Purchase and included Oklahoma. Explorers such as Zebulon Pike and Captain Richard Sparks were sent out by President Thomas Jefferson to map out the new territory. In 1819, Oklahoma became part of the Arkansas Territory.

Indian Territory and the Trail of Tears

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act requiring the Indian tribes in the Southeast to give up their land and move to the west. Oklahoma was set aside as Indian Territory. Many tribes moved to the new territory including the Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole, Choctaw, and Cherokee. Some tribes were forced to march to the new territory under harsh conditions. When the Cherokee were forced to march from the Southeast to Oklahoma in 1838, around 4,000 Cherokee died along the way. Today, this march is called the Trail of Tears.

Oklahoma Land Rush by Unknown

After the Civil War, Oklahoma became part of the American frontier. Cattle ranchers used Indian lands to graze their cattle. It was a land of cowboys and Indians.


People racing to claim new land
People racing to claim new land

In the late 1800s large sections of Oklahoma were unoccupied. Despite making promises to the Indian tribes that the land was theirs, the United States decided to allow settlers into the land. In 1889, a large section of 2 million acres was opened to the public. Homesteaders had to wait on the border and then "rush" in to grab their land when a gun was shot. Some people cheated and snuck in early. These people were called "sooners" and gave the state its nickname.

Becoming a State

In 1890, Oklahoma was split into the Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory. The leaders of the Indians wanted to make their own state called Sequoyah. They applied for statehood in 1905. However, Congress rejected their application and instead reunited Oklahoma into a single state. Oklahoma became the 46th state on November 6, 1907. The original capital city was Guthrie. The capital was moved to Oklahoma City in 1910.


Oklahoma City today
Oklahoma City by Soonerfever

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Works Cited

History >> US Geography >> US State History





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