Published on September 9, 2010 by Aquarius
Evidence exists that native peoples traveled through Oklahoma as early as the last ice age, but the state’s first permanent inhabitants settled in communities accentuated with mound-like structures near the Arkansas border between 850 and 1450 AD. Spaniard Francisco VÃ¡squez de Coronado traveled through the state in 1541, but French explorers claimed the area in the 1700s and it remained under French rule until 1803, when all the French territory west of the Mississippi River was purchased by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.
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During the 19th century, thousands of Native Americans were expelled from their ancestral homelands from across North America and transported to the area including and surrounding present-day Oklahoma. The “Five Civilized Tribes” in the South were the most prominent nations displaced by American expulsion policy, an atrocity that came to be known as the Trail of Tears during the Cherokee Nation’s removals starting in 1831. The area, already occupied by Osage and Quapaw tribes, was called for the Cherokee Nation until revised American policy redefined the boundaries to include other Native Americans. By 1890, more than 30 Native American nations and tribes had been concentrated on land within Indian Territory or “Indian Country.” In the period between 1866 and 1899, cattle ranches in Texas strove to meet the demands for food in eastern cities and railroads in Kansas promised to deliver in a timely manner. Cattle trails and cattle ranches developed as cowboys either drove their product north or settled illegally in Indian Territory. In 1881, four of five major cattle trails on the western frontier traveled through Indian Territory. Increased presence of white settlers in Indian Territory prompted the United States Government to establish the Dawes Act in 1887, which divided the lands of individual tribes into allotments for individual families, encouraging farming and private land ownership among native Americans but expropriating land to the federal government. In the process, nearly half of Indian-held land within the territory was taken for outside settlers and for purchase by railroad companies.