Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 1, No. 1
January, 1921

Page 98

Formation of the State of Oklahoma, 1806-1906. By Roy Gittinger, Ph. D., Professor of English History and Dean of Under graduates, University of Oklahoma.
(Berkeley: University of California press, 1917. 256 p. $2.00)

Students of western history will be interested in this painstaking study of the origin and development of the commonwealth of Oklahoma. The author has drawn together, chiefly from government documents, the materials which tell the story of this territory from the time in 1803 when it first became a part of the United States to the day in November, 1907, when its admission to the union was finally proclaimed. The narrative involves much besides merely local history. The whole Indian policy of the government, the various agitations for transcontinental railways, the chronic demand for the west for land and still more land, and its equally chronic disregard of restrictive laws—these, and similar subjects, receive constant consideration.

The “dominant characteristic in the formation of Oklahoma” Mr. Gittinger tells us, “was the removal of the Indians from their lands east of the Mississippi to the country set apart for them on the western border” (p 3). The first two chapters of the book are therefore devoted to a description of the treaties of removal, and of the location of the tribes in their new homes. The “Indian territory” thus created was much larger than the present state of Oklahoma, including the district later organized as the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. “No political communities,” President Jackson told congress in December, 1835, “can be formed in that extensive region,except those which are established by the Indians themselves or by the United States for them with their concurrence.”(p. 21).

The Kansas-Nebraska bill, as the first definite break in this policy, is the subject of the third chapter. Had the author chosen to avoid a discussion of the origin of this national

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squabble he could hardly have merited censure. He is to be congratulated, however, upon the very satisfactory way in which he has fused ogether into one logical account of the various more or less conflicting theories regarding the beginnings of Kansas and Nebraska that have been advanced from time to time. He is generous, and properly so, we think, in his estimate of the motives of Stephen A. Douglas. Probably, as the author insists, Douglas never did believe that his bill would result in the erection of a new slave state. And there is reason also for the contention that he could not have forseen “either the excitement in the North aroused by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise or the sectional hostility engendered by the struggle in Kansas” (pp. 40, 31f. n.).

That what is now Oklahoma was not organized as a territory along with Kansas and Nebraska. Mr. Gittinger attributes in part to the special guarantees against such action previously given to the Five Civilized Tribes, but fundamentally to the relative unimportance of the matter to the states of the south. Moreover, “many people in the far South,” he thinks, “still wished to keep the south-central route to the Pacific blocked so that the southernmost route might command wider support” (p. 46). Even so, a determined effort was made between 1854 and 1860 to open the Indian country, and by the latter date sentiment in the south so strongly favored such a disposition of the matter that organization probably could not have been delayed longer than ten years had not the civil war intervened. (p. 54).

Chapters five and six are devoted to the problems which the civil war and reconstruction period brought to the Indian territory. It is clear from this account that the southern Indians were practically forced to recognize the authority of the confederacy because they were abandoned by the northern government. Nevertheless, the United States, when the war was over, “made this recognition a pretext for disregarding old agreements” (p. 56). The further concentration of the Indian tribes in what is now Oklahoma speedily took place, the policy of handling Indian questions by treaty was definitely

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abandoned, while numerous efforts to organize the Indian country into a territory betrayed the desire to pave the way for white settlement. Following this came the activity of “the boomers,” who eventually by their lawlessness and threats forced the government to purchase from the Indians “their surplus lands,” and to open them for settlement. Chapters ten and eleven deal with the occupation by white settlers of Oklahoma territory and the restricted Indian territory, respectively, and the final chapter reviews the struggle for an ultimate attainment of statehood. Little attention is paid to the constitutional convention and its product inasmuch as the convention records are not yet available.

The book is distinctly a scholarly production. It is elaborately footnoted, contains five excellent maps, nine short appendices, a complete bibliography (which would be better if thearticles mentioned were evaluated), and a lengthy index. Fortunately the author has no difficulty in saying what he means in the fewest possible words: otherwise, the patience of the reader would soon be exhausted in wading through the overwhelming mass of detail which such a work necessarily involves.


Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Pages 233-235.

Three Years Among the Indians and Mexicans, by General Thomas James; edited, with notes and biographical sketches, by Walter B. Douglas. St. Louis, Missouri, Historical Society, p. 316, pl. 13.

Probably no book treating of the Southern Plains, as they were a century ago that has appeared in recent years is more replete with interest to Oklahoma readers than this reprint of a work which was first issued from the press in 1846. Unfortunately, the author’s predilection for making spiteful comments concerning some of the notable people with whom he came into contract approached so nearly to the libelous that his book was suppressed and, presumably, nearly all copies thereof were destroyed. Fortunately, one copy of this work

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came into possession of the Missouri Historical .Society, several years ago, and its text was carefully edited and annotated by the late Judge Douglas.

The author of this volume was a native of Maryland, born in 1782, but the family of his parents were pioneers, migrating successively to Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri, arriving in the last mentioned state in 1807. The book comprises three narratives of as many journeys into the trans-Mississippi wilderness. The first of these has to do with a voyage up the Missouri, in 1809, in company with Pierre Chouteau, Pierre Menard and Manuel Lisa and also with a detachment of troops under the command of Lieutenant Nathaniel Pryor—a voyage concerning which much was recorded by others. The other two journeys were made more than a decade later—in 1821-2 and in 1823—each being in the nature of an overland expedition in the course of which the present state of Oklahoma was traversed from east to west. The first of these was contemporary with that of the Fowler and Glenn expedition and its destination was the Spanish-Mexican settlements on the Rio Grande. The second expedition was for the purpose of trading with the Comanche Indians in the region which is now included in Western Oklahoma. In both of these trading expeditions, the author brought his stock in trade by keel boat, down the Mississippi and up the Arkansas. In the first, he planned to navigate the Arkansas with the same craft to a point within sixty miles of Taos, New Mexico. He actually did succeed in poling and dragging it for a distance of about thirty miles above the mouth of the Cimarron, where he was forced to abandon that means of travel because of low water. He accordingly purchased horses from the Osage Indians and proceeded overland. On his second trip, he ascended the Canadian and North Canadian rivers to a point where, as he stated it, “our progress in the boat was at length stopped entirely by a rapid which we could not ascend.” That this was what has later been known as Keokuk Falls, seems reasonably probable. The keel boat was abandoned and most of the cargo was transferred to hastily constructed

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pirogues (dug-out canoes), the voyage was continued to the Comanche country where a trading post was erected.

Aside from the personal element involved in the strictures passed upon several of his, fellow travelers, the work is a valuable addition to the literature of Oklahoma, the descriptions of the primitive wilderness and the accounts of the aborigines being remarkably clear and, so far as present day readers can judge, fair and truthful throughout. Judge Douglas placed the student of early Oklahoma history under great obligation by reason of his zeal and faithfulness in editing and preparing this unique volume for republication.

J. B. T.

Tales of the Tepee, by Edward Everett Dale, Assistant Professor of History, University of Oklahoma. Boston, D. C. Heath and company, 1920. Pp. v, 118.

Nothing can bring before us more amazingly the similarity of human thought the world over than to find in the unwritten lore of a primitive people the stories which have been familiar to us as creations of another culture in the dawn of civilization. It is interesting, therefore, to discover in a little collection of children’s stories gathered from the story tellers of Indian tribes on Oklahoma plains and hills the myth of Orpheus told again as the legend of “The Man Who Went to Spirit Land.” But here we see also the difference in race. The Greek myth is more subtle and sophisticated. It ends unhappily because of the frailty of human nature. The Indian hero, on the other hand, with characteristic stolidity, disobeys none of the injunctions of the higher powers, and brings his wife triumphantly back to his lodge. There are also in these tales the elements familiar to us in the fairy lore of the Teutonic peoples, the transformations into animals; the magic worked by witches and the wickedness of giants. But the red men’s stories are mostly nature myths, and attempt to account in fanciful, childish way for the origin of things. We learn the story of the sun-maiden and the moon-man, how strawberries and chinaberries came to be, the be-

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ginnings of flint and the buffalos, and where the rabbit got his short tail and cleft lip.

The tales are attractively told for juvenile readers, but at the same time preserve fully the spirit and outline of the stories as the author heard them during his thirty years’ among the Indians, when he “rode with them, hunted with them, visited them in their lodges, and joined with them in their sports and games.” Throughout the little book he has been faithful also to the particulars of life in the tepee and to Indian psychology, so that student of Indian customs and lore will find it as absorbingly interesting as will the children for whom it was written. This may also be said of the illustrations, which consist of reproductions of photographs obtained by the author among the actual scenes of Indian life, the war dance, the tepee, the village, the various types of characters figuring in the stories, as the ancient grandmother or the chief in all his panoply of war. A glossary of Indian names, and terms, with prounuciations, is appended.


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