Oklahoma was inhabited by Native American tribes including the Caddo. The name Oklahoma comes from the language of the Choctaw people, who came in the 1830s. "Okla" roughly means "the people" and "homa" means "red".
In distant times Oklahoma was inhabited by Native American tribes including the Caddo. Descendents of these people still live in Oklahoma.
In the 1500s Spanish explorers somehow managed to stumble through on their way to somewhere important.
In the 1830s Oklahoma served as the "relocation camp" for the policy of Indian Removal started by Andrew Jackson. The end of the trail of tears (Tsa La Gi) was "Indian Territory". There were already many tribes living in the territory, whites, and escaped slaves as well.
The Five civilized tribes were not the only ones forced to Oklahoma. Nations such as the Delaware, from the northeast US, Kiowa, Commanche, and others were forced to move to Oklahoma. Descendents of these people still live in Oklahoma today. Counties with the names of these tribes also exist.
The five civilized tribes set up towns such as Tulsa, Talequah, Muskogee, &c, which often became some of the larger towns in the state. They also brought their African slaves to Oklahoma, which added to African-American population in the state.
During the civil war many tribes were internally split between confederates and yankees. There were several battles fought in Oklahoma. After the war, the federal government severely punished the tribes for joining the confederacy.
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 late 1800s the Federal government took back much of the land it had given to the Indians and opened it up for whites in several Land Runs.
In 1907 statehood was achieved by the mostly white backers of the statehood movement.
Later on, the Indians were pressured to cease the tribal communal ownership of land in favor of "allotments", small acreages owned by individual families. This also opened up land for whites to set up shop.
In the early 1900s the oil business began to get underway. Huge pools of underground oil were discovered in places like "glennpool". 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 decadence of the 1920s can be seen in the surviving architecture from the period, including one which was converted into the "Philbrook Museum".
However all was not well with many of the small farming families who had come in the preceding decades. The new order of agriculture was large corporations doing massive mechanized farming, and banks would not support small families who could not guarantee some kind of profit. This led many to flee the land and work in the booming oil industry, although others were forced, especially with the occurrence of the "Dust Bowl", to flee the state altogether.
The migrants were taken advantage of by opportunistic business men in other states, particularly california and arizona. Some of the greedier businesses saw a surplus of labor as an easy way to break unions, drive down wages, and increase profits, so they advertised in the dustbowl states to 'come to california'. This migration is chronicled in "The Grapes of Wrath", by John Steinbeck, and also in photographs by Dorothea Lange.
The negative, though very accurate, images of the "Okie" as a sort of rootless migrant laborer living in a near-animal state of scrounging for food greatly offended many native Oklahomans. Some politicians of Oklahoma denounced the book (often without reading it, but theres nothing unusual about that) as an attempt to impung the morals and character of the people of Oklahoma. Some people say that Oklahomans suffered some sort of 'self-image' crisis as a result of these books and that the only way they could get it back was via the University of Oklahoma football team.
The early 1900s of Oklahoma were also somewhat turbulent politically. Many different groups had flooded into the state and were trying to figure out how to live. There were so "black towns", in which blacks tried to make a life of their own, separate from whites. The white towns were also segregated. Northern Tulsa was known as Black Wall Street because of the vibrant business, cultural, and religious community that had sprung up there. The Industrial Workers of the World did try to get a little headway, but didn't make it very far. The Klu Klux Klan was also active, denouncing blacks, catholics, and jews. There were several race riots, including the Tulsa Race Riot, just about the worst race riot in American history.
Tensions between whites and Indians seem to have been less violent in the 20th century. The various government sponsored arts, community, and tourism programs emphasize Oklahoma's native american heritage heavily. This is perhaps because of the large amount of intermarriage between Indians, blacks, and whites. Many white oklahomans have Indian blood in their veins. Furthermore the tribes give out cheaper license plates than the state DMV, as long as you can prove you are a member!
In 1995 Oklahoma became the scene of a horriffic bombing by an extremist terrorist, a gulf war veteran named Timothy McVeigh, in the Oklahoma City Bombing, that killed 168 people. The culprit was found, put on trial in another state to avoid bias, and put to death.
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