Since I keep telling everyone I am going to Oklahoma, I thought I would tell you a bit more about Oklahoma besides the rattle snakes and tornadoes. To begin with, Oklahoma is full of cowboys and Indians. Cowboys and Indians are not just some legendary thing of the past. They still exist, and the exist peacefully together. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t exist because all my ancestors for several generations back came from Oklahoma, and when people wonder why I got such dark hair and eyes, but with yellow white skin, I have to say “Cowboys and Indians stopped fighting and got married, and I am the product.” First, Oklahoma was given to the American Indians. Word “Oklahoma” is a Choctaw Indian word meaning “red people.” To call an Indian a red man is not as insulting as people might think because the red man was one of the Indian gods. They all worshiped the Great Spirit that people have equated with God, but some tribes also had other gods. Choctaw was one of the tribes called “the Five Civilized Tribes.”
In the beginning of the United States, the Englishmen on the east coast wanted to know what to do abut all the Indians if they were to settle on the east coat. President Washington, America’s first president, had a plan. He thought the best thing to do was to teach them to speak English, teach them to wear white men’s clothing, send them to white men’s schools, and to teach them about Christianity. The tribes they targeted were Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Creek. The fist of these tribes to embrace the white men’s ways trying to get along were the Cherokees, and then the others followed. George Washington’s plan seemed to be working.
However, it didn’t last because the white men still coveted the land. In the 1830’s, 125, 000 Indians from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida were sent to Indian Territory, Oklahoma. There was gold on the land where the Indians were. There were also wonderful places to put cotton plantations. The American government asked the Five Civilized Tribes to move to a place just north of Texas. Some of them complied, but not all. The Cherokees all signed a petition and sent it to the American government, but it wasn’t recognized at all. The Choctaw, the Seminole, the Chickasaw, and the Creek marched for Oklahoma. Out of the 15,000 Creeks who headed for Oklahoma, 3,500 died along the way of sickness and starvation. The Cherokees didn’t want to go, so they white men began burning their homes or coming into their homes and looting. they forced them at gun point into stockades. Eventually, in 1838, the Cherokees were forced to go on the long march to Oklahoma too. More than 5,000 Cherokees died of whooping cough, typhus, dysentery, cholera and starvation. However, when they got to Oklahoma, the American government promised them it would happen no more and they could have the land in Oklahoma.
In those times, Oklahoma was a very wild place to live. Not only were there Indians there, but that is where all the outlaws went to live also. It was Indian Territory, not a state. The land and the weather was so foreboding that only the toughest could live there. Famous outlaws like Billie the Kid and Belle Star lived there. My great grandfather, Samuel Parks, was the U. S. Marshal for Indians Territory during those times. He reported to the hanging judge over in Arkansas. According to another one of my grandfathers, he was descended from wild Indians and horse thieves. No one really knew where his grandmother came from, and to this day, if you call the archives in Oklahoma, they will tell you that Minnie Parker, his grandmother, is still the most researched name in their data base. She claimed to be related to Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and other famous outlaws.
By 1845, the Five Civilized tribes in Oklahoma were joined by the Quapaw, the Seneca, the Shawneed, the Delaware, and the Kickapoo tribes. These are also all names of places in Oklahoma today. By 1880, The Cado tribe, the Kiowa Tribe, and the Comanche Tribe of Texas had also come into Indian Territory. Again, these are names of places in Oklahoma. After that, Indian Territory also got the Wyanclots, the Cheyenne, the Arapaho, and the Witchita tribes. The American government wasn’t finished. The people of European decent wanted more land, so they took more.
On April 26, 1889 at 12:00 noon, wagons full of people and horses carrying people lined up at the Oklahoma border. Lots of blacks came in with the whites. There were even other Indian tribes represented there. The American government was giving away free land in Indian Territory. They were taking the land back from the Indians. If they came in early, they were known as Sooners, and that is the name of a big ball team in Oklahoma today. In the corner of my grandfather’s living room, there was an old picture. It looked like a man, but it was a woman, another ancestor. She entered Indian Territory in a covered wagon full of kids without a husband and staked herself some land. My grandfather was so proud of her! She looked like a man because she was so tough! They wrote about her in the newspaper because she had done such an amazing thing coming in without a husband, but with a wagon full of kids. So many people came in that around the area where Oklahoma City, the capital of Oklahoma, 10,000 people settled in one day, and a city sprung up literally overnight. 62,000 people came into Indian Territory, Oklahoma, during “the run.”
In 1907, Oklahoma became a state. However, the Cherokee Tribe still holds part of the land. It is considered both Cherokee land and American land. There is a Cherokee chief. The current Cherokee chief is Bill John Baker. The Cherokee capital is in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The tribal supreme court and judicial branch are located at 101 Muskogee Ave. in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. They also give Cherokee language lessons. If you look into Oklahoma, you will find different tribes having settled in different areas of Oklahoma. I graduated from Choctaw high school, a little outside of Oklahoma City, but the Choctaw don’t live there. They live off in another part of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma is still full of cowboys and Indians. I have relatives who have worked as cowboys. I went to high school and the university with cowboys and Indians and went on dates with some of them. In my high school, if they dressed like a cowboy, but weren’t really a cowboy, they called them “goat ropers.” I used to attend the Indian dances every year at the Oklahoma State Fair ground in Oklahoma City. My aunt liked to go to the National Final’s Rodeo that take place at the State Fair Grounds in Oklahoma City. In every little “blink and you’ll miss it” town in Oklahoma, there is a rodeo arena. My brother married a rodeo queen. My cousin used to ride barrels which meant she rode her horse in a figure 8 around big wooden barrels
The current governor of Oklahoma is Governor J. Kevin Stitt, a Republican. Oklahoma has one of the lower crime rates among the states. It is in the heart of the Bible Belt, the part of America that is known for having lots of Christians, and many Indians have embraced Christianity. When I went to a Pow Wow, a big Indian meeting, they began with a prayer. Today, the Indians dress like cowboys except at a Pow Wow. Oklahoma also has a flag. It has an Osage leather shield on it. Osage is one of the Indian tribes. Across the shield, there is a peace pipe, and Indian symbol of peace, and an olive branch, a European symbol of peace. Oklahoma’s state flower is the Indian paint brush, and red flower that grows wild in Oklahoma like the Texas blue bonnets, and they sometimes grow in the same field together. Oklahoma is famous for its red dirt. The dirt has iron in it that makes it red. Some Indian tribes say it symbolizes the blood that was spilled getting the Indians to Oklahoma. If you go to the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, you can see a huge Indian statue called “the End of the Trail” that is really worth seeing. It is so representative of Oklahoma. My grandmother always insisted that my great grandfather’s spurs (Samuel Parks, the one who was U. S. Marshal to Indian Territory) were in the Cowboy Hall of Fame too, but I looked for them when I was there and couldn’t find them. Spurs are metal things cowboys wear on their boots to nudge the horse to go if they need to.
This is where my family is from, and next month, this is where we are going. I will continue my blog once I get there and show you what it is like now.