By Patrick J. Hurley, former Secretary of War.
The State of Oklahoma was admitted to the Union 28 years ago. Spaniards led by Coronado traversed what is now the State of Oklahoma 67 years before the first English settlement in Virginia and 79 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. All of the land now in Oklahoma except a little strip known as the panhandle was acquired by the United States from France in the Louisiana Purchase.
Early in the nineteenth century the United States moved the five civilized tribes, the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles, from southeastern states to lands west of the Mississippi River, the title to which was transferred to the tribes in exchange for part of their lands in the East. The newly acquired land was named Indian Territory.
The circumstances in connection with the transfer of the five tribes constitutes one of the most ruthless incidents in American history. The Cherokees had to fight the Osages, aboriginal Indians of Indian Territory, for the right to occupy the land conveyed to them by the government. There were also civil wars within the tribes. Each of the five civilized tribes established a separate government in Indian Territory, all of which were Republican in form. The chief industry of the civilized Indians was agriculture and stock raising. They established school systems and made fine progress.
Some of the Indians who moved west owned slaves. This gave Indian Territory a decided tendency toward the Confederacy. The five tribes supported the cause of the Confederate States. After the Civil War, and largely as a punitive measure on account of the
attitude of the five tribes toward the United States Government during the war, the tribes were required to cede all of their western outlets back to the United States. Friendly tribes of Indians were settled on parts of the land returned to the government. The land ceded back to the United States by the five civilized tribes became Oklahoma Territory. The five civilized tribes continued to occupy what then remained of Indian Territory. After the Civil War the number of white people residing in Indian Territory continued to increase. These white residents had no tribal rights except when they intermarried with members of the tribes or were adopted. Slaves who were freed in Indian Territory by the Civil War were finally admitted to citizenship in the tribes. Before the United States Court was given jurisdiction over Indian Territory it became the "hide-out" for many outlaws.
One of the most thrilling episodes in southwestern history was the opening of Oklahoma Territory to white settlement. It began in 1889. It was completed in 1906.
From 1898 to 1902 the United States entered into agreements with each of the Indian tribes for the allotment of their tribal lands in severalty. Each Indian was allotted his or her proportionate share of the tribal lands, and the tribal titles and tribal governments were extinguished. In 1907 Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory became the State of Oklahoma.
The desire for land on this last American frontier brought hundreds of thousands of settlers to Oklahoma. The development of the coal, lead, zinc, oil, gas, and agricultural resources brought millions of people to the new state. Railways and highways provide transportation for every section of the state. No state in the Union is provided with more ample educational facilities. All the leading sects of the Christian religion have prospered in Oklahoma. Many churches and religious institutions have been built. Great wealth has come to many through the development of the resources of the state.
The basic element in the citizenship of the state is, of course, Indian and frontier people. The rush to Oklahoma brought the most hardy and aggressive sons and daughters of the pioneers from other states. The newcomers have furnished nearly all of the out-
standing political leadership of the new state. Oklahoma has never had a native born Governor or a United States Senator. At the present time it has only one native born member of Congress. In other lines, however, natives have achieved outstanding preeminence. Among the natives of Indian blood we find the names of Alex Posey and Will Rogers. Troops from the territories participated with distinction in the Spanish-American War and troops from the State of Oklahoma fought on the fields of France in the World War. More than ninety-eight percent of the population of the state is native American. The citizenship of Oklahoma has all of the courage of its pioneer fathers and all of the strength and kindliness of its pioneer mothers.