North Central Oklahoma


In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase added 828,000 square miles to the United States west of the Mississippi River.  Although almost 30 years would pass before the Indian Removal Act, the government began an official policy of relocating native tribes from their homelands to the new territory beyond the great river.

After Louisiana became a state in 1812, the remainder was renamed Missouri Territory.  This was further divided in 1819 to create Arkansas Territory, which included most of present-day Oklahoma.  Missouri became a state in 1821 and so the remainder was named Indian Country.  Then between 1824 and 1828, the western half of Arkansas Territory was detached and added back to Indian Country.  By 1854, the once vast Indian Country had been reduced to just this section, referred to as Indian Territory.

Following the Civil War, US government policy began to shift from Removal to Assimilation.  Since most of the Five Civilized Tribes had sided with the Confederacy, Congress used that as justification for nullifying any previous treaties and renegotiating.  Along with allowing railroads to build in the territory, the most significant change was the distribution of commonly-held tribal lands to individuals.  This along with the Homestead Act of 1862 would eventually open the door for white settlers.

In 1866, Choctaw Principal Chief Allen Wright suggested a new name for Indian Territory, ukla huma, “red people”.

In the midst of all the renegotiated treaties after the Civil War, about 3,000 square miles of unsettled land in the middle of Indian Territory were ceded to the US government by the Creek and Seminole tribes.  In 1879, Elias C. Boudinot began a campaign to open the district to white settlement, dubbing it the Unassigned Lands.  The Kansas City Times coined the name Boomer Movement for those who wanted to settle the Unassigned Lands and other parts of Indian Territory.  Different groups of these “Boomers”, mostly under the leadership of David L. Payne and later William L. Couch, were repeatedly forcibly removed from Indian Territory by the US Army.

Finally the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889 opened the Unassigned Lands as the new Oklahoma Territory.  The first land run began at noon on April 22 of that year, with over 50,000 people lined up at the border.  The “sooner clause” of the act would ostensibly deny claims to anyone who occupied the land prior to the opening time, but litigation between legitimate participants and “Sooners” continued for years.  Even without the Sooners, there were too many hopeful pioneers for the available acreage, and many left without a claim.  Tent cities sprung up overnight: Guthrie, Oklahoma Station, Kingfisher, and Norman.

The Oklahoma Organic Act of 1890 organized the western half of Indian Territory as Oklahoma Territory, adding the panhandle strip known as No Man’s Land.  Additional land runs in 1891, 1892, 1893, and 1895 brought more white settlers to the territory.  In 1905, a convention of tribes proposed creating the state of Sequoyah out of the remaining Indian Territory, but eastern politicians did not want to add two new western states.  In 1907, Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory combined to become the 46th state.