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INDIAN INTERNATIONAL FAIR

The Indian International Fair resembled contemporary agricultural fairs. Held annually in Muskogee, Indian Territory, in September or October from 1874 to about 1900, the week-long event featured produce and domestic exhibits in a barn-like pavilion. These displays, horse racing on the adjacent track, a merry-go-round, and commercial vendors attracted many Indians and non-Indians from the Indian Territory and neighboring states. Indian policemen tried to suppress horse theft, alcohol consumption, and illicit games of chance. The fair was a much-anticipated occasion for visiting and family reunions.

As an outgrowth of the Okmulgee Constitutional Convention of the early 1870s, the fair served several purposes. Founders of the Indian International Fair Association included Muskogee's white and Indian businessmen, who believed it would boost the town and territory. Federal officials supported it as a means of "civilizing" Indians. They and some members of the Five Civilized Tribes used fair exhibits to impress upon visiting Plains Indians the benefits of and need for adopting the sedentary, agricultural, "progressive" lifestyle demanded by Anglo-Americans. At the 1879 fair Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz stunned his multitribal audience with the first warning that, in spite of their treaties, allotment of their lands and opening the territory for homesteading was inevitable.

SEE ALSO: FAIRS, INDIAN TERRITORY, SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Angie Debo, The Road to Disappearance: A History of the Creek Indians (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1941). Ella Robinson, "Indian International Fair," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 17 (December 1939). Mary Jane Warde, George Washington Grayson and the Creek Nation, 1843-1920 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999).

Mary Jane Warde

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