BY GRANT FOREMAN
The superficial observer is inclined to think that as our state is new our historical resources are limited when compared with other states in the Union. On the contrary Oklahoma is rich in history that is unique in its ramifications, and in its varied and interesting sources it is paralleled by few other states. But as the annals and chronicles that make up the story of our state have not yet been incorporated into a work called a History of Oklahoma, only a small part is available to the student who has not the facilities for making extended research. Our documentary history has been in the process of recording for many years, and most of the source material from which our history in the future will be written, is scattered far and wide over the country.
While our history is not yet easily available to the reader, important contributions have been made by Thoburn, Buchanan, Dale, Gittinger, Wright, and others who have put the student under obligations for their well-known though necessarily condensed studies of Oklahoma history. But most of our published history is to be found as parts of works extending into other field’s written over a period of many years, and scattered throughout an extensive bibliography.
The horizon that bounds our known history is dimly visible in a background of French and Spanish efforts at colonization and trade and the conquest of our Indians. In the early French accounts of this, their Louisiana, we learn what this Southwestern country was like, of the identity, customs and wars of the Indians who claimed dominion over this country. These accounts we find in such works as Histoire de la Louisiane by Le Page du Pratz published in Paris in 1758; Margry, Pierre, Decouvertes et etablissements des Francais dans l’ouest et dans le sud l’Amerique Septentrionale (1614-1754), memoires et documents originaux Pits I-VI. Paris 1875-86; La Harpe, Bernard de. Journal historique de d’establissement des Francais a la Louisiane, Nouvelle Orleans, 1831; Itineraire des Francais dans la Louisiane par Louis Du-
broca, Paris 1802; Travels through that part of North America Formerly called Louisiana by M. Bossu, Captain of the French Marines, Translated from the French by John Reinhold Forster F. A. S. London 1771.
As these French accounts were much concerned with the Osage Indians we find them continued after the United States acquired Louisiana. Among these are Lettres Edifiante including accounts by Jesuit priests among the Osage Indians, published in periodical form at Lyons under the title Annals de l’association de la Propagation de la foi beginning in 1827; Travels to the Prairie Osages, Louisiana and Missouri 1839-40 by Victor Texier, Paris 1844; Journey to the country of the Osages by Louis Richard Cortambert, Paris 1837; Voyage dans les deux Louisianes, chez les nations sauvages du Missouri in 1801-2-3 Perin du Lac, Paris 1405.
One feature of Oklahoma history that makes it unique among the states of the Union is its varied and in a measure, conflicting sovereignty. In common with all of Louisiana, it was first under the French flag; from 1762 to 1800 under Spanish dominion, and for three years again subject to France. From the date of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 until the ratification of the Spanish treaty of 1819 a controversy raged as to whether part of it belonged to Spain or the United States. And after that treaty settled the boundary on Red River, the Republic, and later state of Texas, continued to claim part of southwestern Oklahoma until the controversy was settled by the United States Supreme Court in the celebrated case of United States vs. Texas.1
The Spanish treaty fixed upon Red River as far up as the one hundredth meridian as the boundary line between the United States and Texas. When Captain R. B. Marcy made his exploration of Red River in 1852, he filed with his report a map indicating that there were two principal forks of Red River and that the south one was the main stream and therefore a large tract of land between those forks claimed as part of Texas, really belonged to the United States; but Texas continued to exercise dominion over this region and efforts to adjust the matter were vain. The act of Congress of May 2, 1890, creating the Territory of Oklahoma, authorized the
1.The interesting decision in this case is reported in 162 United States Supreme Court Reports 1; 40 Law Edition, 867.
bringing of a suit in the Supreme Court against Texas to determine the title to this tract of land then called Greer County, Texas, now included in Harmon, Greer, Jackson, and part of Beckham county, Oklahoma.
The trial of this law suit developed more of historical interest touching the State of Oklahoma than any other lawsuit ever tried. Within the printed record of fourteen hundred pages filed in the United States Supreme Court is compressed more historical material concerning Oklahoma otherwise unpublished and unknown than is to be found in any other printed document. This case was tried as an original proceeding in the United States Supreme Court upon depositions taken in various places in Oklahoma. Many witnesses, white and red, were examined who have probably all passed away by now, but fortunately for us this case was the means of preserving historical evidence within the knowledge of scores of pioneers of early Oklahoma. They gave testimony touching the characteristics and habits of Red River and a vast amount of evidence was offered for the purpose of establishing the contention of the parties as to what, the Indians had or had not recognized as Spanish territory; hundreds of pages of testimony were adduced to show the identity, locations, and habits of the Indians, the Indian towns, Indian and Spanish trails, the traders who came among them, the trading posts, military operations, the beginnings of white settlements. This record is a priceless treasure house of Oklahoma history.
For example there is the testimony of Simon N. Cockrell of Archer County, Texas, brother of Senator F. M. Cockrell, of Missouri. This witness, ninety-two years of age, testified in 1894 that he was in the employ of Colville, Coffee and French and that in the spring of 18332 he was one of twenty-five men who accompanied these traders from Fort Smith to upper Red River where they arrived in May. They followed a road that ran from Fort Smith to El Paso and near the point where this road crossed Red River, which was just below the junction of what are now known as Red River and North Fork of Red River, and a short distance above the
2.I am inclined to think he said or meant 1834; for it is that year the Coffee, Colville and French’s party followed the Dragoon Expedition to Upper Red River. Catlin, George, Letters and notes on the manners, customs, and condition of the North American Indian vol. ii, p. 523; Foreman, Pioneer Days in the Early Southeast, 155, 157.
mouth of Pease River they built a fort for a trading post on the north bank of Red River. Before arriving at this crossing their road intersected another Spanish trail running from Natchitoches to Santa Fe; so that their station was near the junction of the two old trails and in the southwest part of what is now Tillman County, Oklahoma.
He testified that only seven of the party remained at the trading post and the remainder returned to Fort Smith with the wagons. Mr. Cockrell was one of those who stayed and he was employed to kill game to provide meat for the men at the post. He remained there until 1836 when he left to join General Houston’s army in Texas. Cockrell stated that at the mouth of a creek two or three miles below the trading post they built boats in which they shipped their furs and skins down the river when there was sufficient water. On their arrival they found the remains of an old stone chimney and other evidence that indicated a log house many years before had stood in the vicinity of their post. They found the Santa Fe trail and the road traveled by them deeply scarred by Mexican cart wheels and in other ways evidencing great antiquity. The Santa Fe road ascended the North Fork of Red River and forty miles up this stream was a settlement of Spaniards who were engaged in mining. Thirty-five miles farther up the Santa Fe Trail in the canon of the river was the village of the Kiowa [Wichita] Indians, who had in cultivation between eighty and one hundred acres of land "which was fenced in with lariats." Asked if there had been any other traders there ahead of them he stated that there was a man named Harris3 who had cached his effects near the Kiowa [Wichita] village. Cockrell and another man were directed to open this cache and when they did so they found the contents, whiskey and beaver traps, in a badly damaged condition, indicating that they had been deposited there for some time.
Cockrell’s account is doubtless that of the beginning of
3.John Harris of Missouri was in charge of a hunting and trapping party of sixty or seventy men joined at Taos by Albert Pike in 1832. From there they traveled southeast to a point south of Red River when on October 12, Pike and four of his companions separated from the party. Pike reached Fort Smith December 19, and Harris arrived at Fort Gibson in January, 1833. Arkansas Historical Association, Publications vol. iv, 94, 137.
Coffee’s trading post on Red River.4 The evidence is convincing that the party who left Fort Smith in the succeeding year located at a point lower down Red River which would indicate that they removed the post from near the forks of Red River or maintained two trading establishments.
When some enterprising student of one of our colleges undertakes to write a paper on the subject of our early trading posts his industry will be rewarded if intelligently applied, for it is a fruitful subject. For another there will be the subject of the history and influence of our salt springs and other salt deposits on the Indian and white settlements in Oklahoma which will develop an interesting field of thought and research. Another subject I suggest is the history and mutations of our boundaries which if fully developed will produce a most interesting paper. On all these fertile and fallow subjects considerable bibliography is available to students who are interested.
One outstanding feature of Oklahoma history which is unique among the states is the fact that the white people who live here cannot claim the sole credit for wresting this beautiful country from a wild state of nature. This achievement belongs to the Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes. They were the pioneers who came here and found this a wild country in which they were obliged to contest with savage Indians for the possession and enjoyment of this country. Theirs was the battle with the elements, disease, epidemics, and hardships that established a state of civilization; that reduced many fertile acres of this country to cultivation and production, that built schools, homes, established stable government for nearly one hundred thousand pioneers—pioneers who by their distinctive character became known as the Five Civilized Tribes.
These Indians were as much pioneers in this country as the whites were in Illinois or Tennessee but they did not come here of their own volition. Crowded out of their homes in the East, forced to abandon their native country which contained all that was dear to them, their removal here was one
4.Col. A. P. Chouteau (Chouteau to Armstrong May 22, 1837, Indian Office, 1837 Western Superintendency A-183) locates Coffee’s trading house on walnut Bayou, which empties into Red River within what is now Love County, Oklahoma. At approximately this location there was subsequently a trading post known as Warren’s.
of the most tragic events in the annals of our country. Oklahoma history therefore is inseparable from the history of these five tribes who came out here before the Civil War and established a state of civilization that made the occupation of this country by the white man an easy undertaking.
The tragedy of Indian removal, an important phase of Oklahoma history, is bedded in the events and intrigue developing in the early part of the nineteenth century in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, and North Carolina. The only adequate account of those events is that written by Doctor Annie Heloise Abel for her doctor’s degree at Yale and published in the American Historical Report for 1906, under the title of "History of Events Resulting in Indian Consolidation West of the Mississippi." The history of Oklahoma is bound up with the lives and tragedies of these Indians, and no one can claim to understand that phase of our history unless familiar with this work of Doctor Abel’s. In it the student will find reference to all the manuscripts and published documents relating to that subject.
Doctor Abel easily ranks with our leading historians by virtue of three other great works concerning our country and Indians. The first, The American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist, was published in 1915; the second, The American Indian as Participant in the Civil War was written by her while she was professor of history at Smith College and published in 1919; the third, The American Indian Under Reconstruction was published in 1925. This work of Doctor Abel’s is monumental; the tremendous amount of research among original sources in the archives of Washington, the infinite pains, intelligent and unbiased marshalling of facts has resulted in a great achievement. Doctor Abel’s books are of unquestioned authority and no student can claim to know Oklahoma history who is not familiar with these exhaustive accounts of Indian Territory during the Civil War. Professor Roy Gittinger included part of this same ground in his excellent Formation of the State of Oklahoma published in 1915, which is invaluable not only for the text but for its exhaustive reference to authorities.
The Spaniards did not write much for publication concerning our Oklahoma country; but the archives and libraries
of Mexico, Spain, Texas, California. and New Mexico contain vast collections of manuscripts that tell us of conditions in this southwestern country both before, during, and after it was Spanish territory. Professor Herbert E. Bolton of the University of California has recently made available to us the interesting documents concerning Athanase de Mezieres who was engaged in seeking to establish Spanish rule in the Red River valley during the period from 1768 to 1780. The letters contained in these absorbing two volumes tell us much of conditions in Oklahoma, and particularly of the domination of the fierce Osage Indians of those days. The correspondence connected with the controversy over the Spanish-American boundary produced many interesting and valuable documents touching our country, a large number of which are referred to in the excellent work of Professor Thomas Maitland Marshall of Washington University, A History of the Western Boundary of the Louisiana Purchase 1819-1841.
Separate phases of the history of early Oklahoma are to be found in publications long since out of print though with the revival of interest in matters historical some have recently been reprinted; notably Thwaite’s Early Western Travels, a set of thirty volumes of reprints of interesting accounts of travels in the West such as Nuttall’s Travels up the Arkansas to the Verdigris, Gregg’s Commerce of the Prairies, Long’s Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, and others. General Thomas James, a trader who spent a good deal of time in Oklahoma in 1821 to 1823 wrote a very interesting account of his experiences here that was recently reprinted by the Missouri Historical Society. George Catlin’s account of his experiences here in 1834 is most instructive and entertaining. The bibliography of such publications is an extensive one and is available to the student or reader.
There is another class of published accounts not so well known except to the historian, that is, the documents published by authority of Congress. In 1834 the Senate adopted a resolution calling on the President to furnish a report of the manner in which Indian removal had been conducted up to that time and in response to this resolution a mass of correspondence was delivered to the Senate and published in five
volumes. This document5 contains about five thousand pages of letters written by the War Department and by the various officers and agents employed in connection with Indian removal covering a period of about three years, and it furnishes more information on the subject than any other document. The Congressional Globe, the predecessor of the Congressional Record, contemporary newspapers and journals furnish a vast amount of information touching the condition of the Indians. There was no subject upon which there was such great public interest and such sharp and acrimonious division of sentiment as that of Indian removal.
After the Indians were removed to Indian Territory another phase of their history began, that of adapting Themselves to their new environment, setting up their schools and their governments, opening up farms; a phase that continued in a series of improvements up to the outbreak of the Civil War when they were overwhelmed by another cataclysm. The history of these Indians during that period which includes accounts of many contemporary events, and is of course part of the history of Oklahoma, is to be found in the debates of Congress, Congressional and Executive documents and other government publications. These documents are now rare and are usually to be found only in the Library of Congress and a few other large libraries. Probably the most valuable of them to the student of Oklahoma history is a series known as the reports of the Commission of Indian Affairs. This office was established in 1832 in the War Department and from that time reports were made to the Commission from the Indian agents over, the country. The agents accompanied their reports by reports from the missionaries and school teachers within their jurisdiction. And the result is that this set of reports contains year by year the most accurate and detailed account of the condition of the Indians and their development to be found anywhere. The Commission of Indian Affairs continued under the War Department until 1849 when the office was removed to the Department of the Interior. These reports continued from that time, however, to the present. There are only a few complete sets of this report in existence, one in the Congressional Library, one in the Indian Office, and one in the Ayer Collection in Chicago. In
connection with this is the series of annual reports of the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes now quite rare and historically valuable to Oklahoma.
The American State Papers which is not so rare as many others is a priceless collection of documents in twenty-one great volumes published by authority of Congress. It contains some of the most important papers from the early history of our government down to 1838. The two volumes relating to Indian Affairs, the seven volumes on Military Affairs, those on Public Land, Claims and Miscellaneous, all have information for the student of Oklahoma history and Indians. The United States Statutes at Large also constitute a fertile source of historical information for the student who has the patience and capacity for research.
There are also scores of executive and congressional documents, reports of committees of Congress, special commissions, army officers, and executive officials giving invaluable information about Indians, trading and military expeditions, and every conceivable subject involved in the early development of this country. These were published by authority of Congress many years ago and usually thrown in waste baskets by people who knew and cared nothing about this country; and now when they occasionally turn up in a rare book shop they are immediately snapped up by collectors at extravagant prices. A few, of course, were preserved and are to be found in the Congressional Library and other great libraries. Publications of the Bureau of American Ethnology, of the Smithsonian Institution also contain material for the student of Oklahoma history.
One of the most fertile sources of information for the student is the contemporary newspaper, and outstanding among these for the Oklahoma student is the Arkansas Gazette, the first issue of which appeared at Arkansas Post November 20, 1819. Other valuable papers for reference were published in Saint Louis, Louisville, and Nashville; Niles Register that first appeared in Baltimore in 1811; Missionary Herald published in Boston from 1821; were contemporary repositories of many of the most important and interesting events in this early country. As many accounts of events here in the early days were carried through military channels the Army and Navy Chronicles that began publication in
Washington in 1835, is of great importance to the historian. These journals and newspapers are to be found in a few of the great libraries of the country. One of the best collections of newspapers is in Worcester, Massachusetts. Publications by the historical societies over the country of rare documents and manuscripts make available much valuable historical material.
No adequate history of Oklahoma will ever be written that does not place in proper proportion and perspective the Christian missionaries whose service among the Indians was one of the outstanding phenomena of their early life in this country. These misisonaries labored valiantly and heroically for the Indians and left us records not only of their lives and their labors but of contemporary conditions and events that are invaluable to the student of history.
The greatest repository of these letters and accounts in the country is the manuscript library in the Congregational House in Boston. Here in heavy canvas covers are bound tens of thousands of letters written by the missionaries to the Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions reporting on every phase of the Indians living about them and of their work among the Indians before, during, and after their removal; telling us of their trials, difficulties, domestic affairs, hostilities furnishing more information about their development and progress in their new home than any other source. Extracts from many of these letters were copied into the Missionary Herald which thus becomes an historical repository of great value and authority. The Kansas Historical Society possesses a very extensive collection of the journals and letters of the Baptist Missionary Reverend Isaac McCoy, a prolific letter writer, who tells much of conditions in this country from 1828 to 1840.
Notwithstanding the great amount of printed material available to the research student, our history is still to a large extent buried in the tens of thousands of manuscripts in the government archives. In that great collection of old papers in the office of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs known there as Retired Classified Files, is material for months of research. In the Adjutant General’s division of the War Department are two great repositories of priceless old documents—one called the Old Files Division and the other the Old Records Division, one in the War Department building
and the other in the Munitions Building. In the Quartermaster General’s division is also a wealth of old documents touching this country.
Oklahoma history is to be found in the libraries scattered over the United States; in Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Boston; in the Newberry Library in Chicago is the wonderful Ayer Collection, the greatest collection in existence of books and manuscripts relating to our Indians. The Heye Foundation in New York City under our greatest Indian authority W. H. Hodge is building up a great library of Americana. Among the more than one hundred libraries in Washington City are many that contain books and manuscripts of historical interest to us; outstanding among which are: the Congressional Library, the War College Library, National Geographic Society Library, Bureau of Railway Economics Library and numerous libraries connected with various executive departments. The libraries and archives of the Missouri Historical Society, the Arkansas Historical Association, the Historical Department of Iowa, the Historical Societies of Tennessee and Texas and Kansas are all rich in history of Oklahoma; and beside all these there are the university libraries and archives of California, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and other states. Even the great libraries of London and Paris have material for the Oklahoma historian. In the British Museum Library I worked six weeks continually finding new things about our country and Indians. Part of my time there I spent profitably with a file of the Cherokee Phoenix beginning with the first number then published in Georgia, which contained many accounts of conditions and events in what is now Oklahoma.
I became acquainted in a number of rare book shops in London that specialize in Americana. It is a privilege and a liberal education to visit with some of the book men and examine their great stocks of books; they amaze the American with their familiarity with our bibliography; one man, the owner of the Museum Book Store has the most profound knowledge of everything printed that might be included under the head of Americana. I doubt that he has many equals in America either in the book trade, the colleges or among our historians. Some of the latter consult him personally and by
letter, seeking his assistance in the pursuit of information about our history.
The Paris library, the Bibliotheque Nationale, the richest and largest in the world, contains a vast amount of information for us in addition to that duplicated in other great libraries. Mrs. Foreman and I devoted most of our time there among files of French newspapers in pursuit of details of an interesting episode of the Osage Indians which I expect to publish when I have an opportunity. Following clues discovered by us, we located in old print shops some excellent pictures made in France of our Osage Indians.
To me there is no avocation, no occupation so interesting and so fascinating, none that offers such rich rewards in proportion to the industry and application devoted, as historical research. To follow a clue to the lair of an elusive historical event; to capture that fact and make it my own brings a glow of satisfaction I would not yield to any big game hunter. Or if the metaphorical hunter may become a gold seeker, whether toilfully digging in low grade pay dirt or in the mother lode of rich old historical records, the treasure I extract there not only dims the glitter of the yellow metal for pure joy of discovery and possession, but it has the greater value of being mine forever to share with others, without fear of theft or loss. There never was a time in this country when there was such general interest in our history as there is now; dealers in rare books on the subject in this country and abroad all testify to that fact; they say it is impossible to supply the demand; many of the books they handle are sold on advance orders before they are received. Collectors, libraries, colleges, students, writers all over the United States demand so many of these books that the dealers are unable to accumulate stocks as they would like. When I asked the proprietor of the Cadmus Book Shop in New York how business is he said sadly, "It is no trouble to sell books, the trouble is to find enough to fill orders." They compile catalogues, but before they reach the public many of the best items have been appropriated by purchasers near at hand. The result has been that the prices of many books in demand have advanced astonishingly.
Examining a huge catalogue of Maggs Brothers in London, I found the French book, Texier’s account of his visit to
the Osage Indians in 1839, which I was very anxious to secure. I hastened to their shop near Bond Street, and asked for the book; I was informed that a few days before they had sold their only two copies to a dealer in New York; the price was five pounds ten shillings each. I went to see the dealer in New York, hoping I might yet get one of the books; this dealer informed me that he had cabled three times for the books to make sure of securing them; one of them went for seven times what he paid for it or nearly two hundred dollars, to a collector on Long Island who had had an order with him for the book for two years. The other went for cost to a collector in another city connected with a great library who was unable to pay the price set by competition of rich collectors.
One of the best known dealers in Americana in Paris is Chadenat who has a shop on the south bank of the Seine; he carries a large stock of books but has the curious reputation in the trade of being unwilling to sell many of his treasures; he made us very welcome in his shop two or three floors up, but when we tried to talk sale of books he assured us he had nothing that would answer our demands, though we saw a good many items on his shelves that I already have; although he is interested in bibliography, he said he was too poor to travel to America preferring apparently to keep his means tied up in expensive books. It required several visits to examine all the stocks of books in that curious out-of-doors collection extending nearly a mile along the south bank of the Seine. There is in Paris a group of French scholars known as the Societe des Americanistes engaged in the promotion of knowledge of America; this society publishes a periodical called Journal de la Societe des Americanistes de Paris to which they contribute the result of research in the archives of Europe that frequently yields interesting and valuable accounts of the western United States.
We have a number of interesting book shops in America that have become institutions; like Goodspeed’s in Boston on four floors of a little old narrow building; we were reminded of it as we climbed up and down steep flights of stairs in a little building in Seville over three hundred years old, where books mainly Spanish, were arranged on each floor and the owner, polite as the Spanish always are, tried to help us find some Oklahoma history. Then there is the reliable Lowder-
milk’s in Washington where one looks for government publications; Foley’s in Philadelphia, one of the oldest in the country now about to move into a new building; Treat of Atlanta, who tore up a volume of McKinney and Hall’s Indian pictures and sold me portraits of a number of our Oklahoma chiefs; Powner’s, Hill’s and Chandler’s of Chicago; Miner’s of Saint Louis; Kansas City, Austin, San Antonio, Denver, Los Angeles all have book shops that deal in Americana. New York of course is the emporium of the rare book business of this country and is populous with fine book shops.
Most of the accounts of the early West were published in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati; but a large number were brought out in England and Scotland. That people across the ocean knew very little about our country but were intensely interested in learning, is shown by the great number of books written and published there; many American writers on that subject went to England for their market. And thus it is that a large number of books about the western United States, which were published in England, are to be found over there in the rare book shops. Stories of Indian captives had a curious fascination for the reading public; the Ayer Collection of the Newberry Library has published a catalogue of books and manuscripts on the subject of captivity among the Indians of North America listing three hundred thirty-nine different items on this subject in this library. The credulity of the public was sometimes imposed upon by the writers of these books and some of them were charged with being pure invention. For a number of years a controversy raged concerning the authenticity of Hunter’s circumstantial account of his life among the Indians from the time of his captivity as a small child. In this very entertaining book he described his life among the Osage Indians and one might assume that he spent considerable time in Oklahoma, but the book is far from convincing.
One marvels at the extent of the bibliography touching our western country. Our two great bibliographers are H. R. Wagner and Thomas W. Fields. Mr. Wagner, who lives in Berkeley, California, a few years ago sold to Yale University his collection of western Americana, one of the finest in the world. Field’s Indian Bibliography published in 1873 is an exhaustive one and invaluable to the research student.
There are living in Oklahoma a few people, whites and Indians who are able to tell something of this country and the people in the days just before and during the Civil War; but they are dying off rapidly; they will all be gone in a little while; their store of Oklahoma history will die with them, and their passing will be an irreparable loss to the present and future student of our history. This ought not be so. Every person who is interested in our history will perform a service of lasting benefit if he will extract from some pioneer part of his lore of Oklahoma, write it out and record it in our archives. The teachers in our schools and colleges could help by encouraging their students of history and composition to concentrate on original papers of this sort to be deposited here, and meritorious contributions to be published in the Chronicles.
In a considerable measure, the history of our neighbor states is also part of our history. Santa Fe and the ancient trails to the West with their early expeditions have much in common with us and the same is true of Texas; Kansas history is in a measure identified with Indian Territory history; but in a greater degree this statement applies to Arkansas as we were for years part of Arkansas Territory; and Oklahoma and Arkansas marched together in early days when each was involved in the history of the other.
I have been going far afield for Oklahoma history, but if there were no other resources available this society possesses a collection of manuscripts, newspapers, periodicals and printed documents and books of which we may well be proud; and the student will find here an abundance of old material beside the results of the labors of others. But there is one, the most extensive of all archives close home, which is entitled to our earnest consideration. In the office of the Superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes at Muskogee, are deposited all the tribal records, acts of their legislative bodies, messages and correspondence of their chiefs, reports of committees on a multitude of routine matters, court dockets and records.
The story of the Five Civilized Tribes is without parallel on this continent. These indigenous people who within one hundred years passed through the stages from savagery to orderly, constitutional government, into the realm of civilized comforts, schools and conventional society, with the promise
at least of representation in our Congress, present a phenomenon rare in history. These people whose travail brought forth this civilized country are being submerged and blotted out of the picture by the whites who have appropriated the fruits of their labors; but much of their history as civilized legislating Indians, the story of their development, valuable ethnologically, economically, and sentimentally to this state, is preserved in hundreds of volumes of records and thousands of pages of manuscripts in the Muskogee office. These are an important part of Oklahoma history and ought to be deposited in our archives properly arranged and indexed for the student to examine. Most of these records have little to do with present administration of Indian Affairs and I believe this society should take steps to secure them at such time as they can be spared from the Indian service, and we have a fire proof building to house them.