Saturday, September 17, 2011


This is Native American territory!  We know because the license plates say so.  Most of them, that is. 
The Muscogee tribe of the Creek nation has unique bright red plates, however.
The Cherokee Nation also has special identifying plates for their vehicles.  Their license plates include some printed words in the Cherokee language.
Indeed, Oklahoma is distinctive among the states in the lasting influence that Native American peoples have had on that state.  There are currently residents of Oklahoma representing 67 native American tribes or nations.  Twenty-five different native languages continue to be taught and used.

Those who inhabited this land centuries before the white man arrived are remembered daily in place names in the state.  The state name itself comes from the Choctaw language, "okla" and "homa," meaning "red people."  Counties bear names such as Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek,. Delaware, Logan, Muskogee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Pottawatomie, Seminole, and Sequoyah.
There are cities and towns called Atoka, Copan, Chikasha, Kiowa, Menco, Nashoba, Okmulgee, Ponca City, Shawnee, Tahlequah, Tulsa, Tecumseh, Quabaw, Wapanuka, Weleetka, and Yanush.

Oklahoma's native American history goes back to 850 A.D. when groups of mound-builders began settling in the area.  In 1541, the Spaniard Francisco de Vasquez de Coronado explored the area and claimed it for Spain.  Two centuries later, the French claimed it for France, and in 1803, it was sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.  These political changes meant little to the Osage and Quapaw peoples who were native to the area.  Their daily life of hunting and gathering continued mostly unchanged.
Then, in the 1830s, Andrew Jackson, in his presidential wisdom, decided to establish a human shield on the extreme western border of the United States.  This, he reasoned, would protect the U.S. from foreign influences to the west and south.  The native peoples of the eastern woodlands would be relocated to the west and become that shield.

With such a sound rationale for maintaining national security, Jackson did not publicize the other reason for relocating the native peoples from the east to the west.  Gold had been discovered on Cherokee tribal lands about 1830 and white people wanted it for themselves.  So the forced relocation of thousands of Native Americans began.

Great Smokey Mountains
The Cherokee were uprooted from the mountains of the Carolinas and marched to Oklahoma.
The Chocktaw, Chippewa, and Creek peoples were forced at gunpoint from their homes in the forests of Alabama and Mississippi to the open plains of Oklahoma. .
The Seminoles were dragged from their tribal lands in the cypress swamps of Florida to Oklahoma's prairies to become part of President Jackson's western defense of the nation.  Besides these "Five Civilized Tribes," as they were called, many other smaller tribes were forced to re-settle on the western prairie frontier
By 1890, thirty tribal groups had been relocated to what was appropriately referred to as
"Indian Territory."

Around the turn of the century, there began to be talk of statehood for the "Indian Territory."  There were many who advocated for the creation of an all Indian state to be named Sequoyah in honor of the great Cherokee statesman and linguist.

Others encouraged the development of a "majority black state" designed to ease the post-slavery tensions in the nation.  Finally, in 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state in the nation.  It was named for its native American heritage but created without racial restrictions.
The descendants of those relocated native American peoples continue to thrive in Oklahoma, Native America.
They are active in the economy of the state and on their own tribal lands.
On tribal lands, they have discovered a rich source of income for the tribe: casinos!
Although gambling is not legal on U.S. land, native peoples are considered "sovereign nations," not subject to
Creek Nation Casino
Bristow, Oklahoma
'The building and operation of large gambling casinos on their tribal lands has become a lucrative business for them.
Chactaw Casino
Hugo, Oklahoma
Perhaps, in this second-handed way, they are finally reclaiming the gold that was stolen from them by the U.S. government in 1830!

Oklahoma's OK!
Unchosen home of red folks and black;
Heart's desire of "sooners"
who tried to stake their claims
before the starting shot;
"Indian Territory"
long after most sister states
had names and places in the Union.
Land of hills and prairies,
native peoples and immigrants,
many ranches and a few cities,
cattle, horses and wildlife.
Rogers and Hammerstein celebrated your statehood
in a musical tale that never mentionbed
the tragedies you've known:
*Trails of Tears from eastern woodlands to your plains
*black African bondage, Jim Crow and the KKK
*despair of 'The Dust Bowl'
*bombing of a Federal building.
But you've survived
-- and thrived -- 
because "Okies" are tough!
Oklahoma's OK!