Oklahoma Celebrates 115th Year of Statehood

KTUL-Tulsa - November 16, 2022 12:02 pm

A statue of a Native American woman outside the entrance to the Oklahoma State Capitol building in Oklahoma City. (KOKH)

On November 16, 1907, Oklahoma was granted statehood and became the 46th state of the union.

The land that makes up modern-day Oklahoma was added to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

Throughout the 19th century, the U.S. government relocated Native American tribes to the area, mainly during the 1830s and ’40s, in what was known as the “Trail of Tears.”

“The Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole were all marched out of their ancestral lands to Indian Territory, or present Oklahoma. Although the removal of American Indians began long before the nineteenth century, the Trail of Tears is mostly associated with the forced removals that took place after the 1830 Indian Removal Act,” the Oklahoma Historical Society explains on its site.

By 1900, over 30 tribes had moved to what was then called the “Indian Territories.”

“Oklahoma” is a Choctaw word that roughly translates to “red people,” as it is derived from the words for people (okla) and red (humma); however, this translation is disputed. Some say it means “honorable nation,” “honorable people,” or “land of the Red People.”

Choctaw Nation Chief Allen Wright is credited with suggesting the name in 1866 during treaty negotiations with the federal government.

“Oklahoma” later became the official name for the Oklahoma Territory and was approved in 1890.

The greatest impetus for statehood began after the Land Run of 1889.

The Land Run, also known as the “Oklahoma Land Rush,” brought thousands of people from all over the country to claim their land out of the nearly two million acres available in the areas of Canadian, Cleveland, Kingfisher, Logan, Oklahoma, and Payne Counties following the Indian Appropriations Bill and the Homestead Act of 1862.

The bill opened the door to declaring the Oklahoma territories as available for public settlement just after the start of the Civil War.

The ink was hardly dry on President Benjamin Harrison’s March 23, 1889 amendment to the bill before Oklahoma settlement colonies were being formed, says the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The Organic Act of 1890 established a territorial government for Oklahoma Territory and defined the boundaries of Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory comprising present-day Oklahoma.

Following the Land Rush, Guthrie was named capital of the territory, and later, the capital of Oklahoma for about three years until voters chose Oklahoma City instead.

Ultimately, the Land Run is what led to the declaration of Oklahoma as the 46th state in 1907.

Photograph of the crowd at the Carnegie Library in Guthrie for the governor’s inauguration. (Oklahoma Historical Society)

Oklahoma interesting facts:

  • Oklahoma’s first governor was Democrat Charles Haskell
  • George W. Steele of Indiana was Oklahoma Territory’s first governor
  • Henry Bellmon became the first elected Republican governor in 1963
  • Vinita was the first city in Oklahoma to have electricity
  • The University of Oklahoma was founded on Dec. 19, 1890
  • Oklahoma State University was founded on Dec. 25, 1890
  • Oklahoma’s state capitol building is the only capitol with an oil well directly underneath it
  • Thirty-nine American Indian tribes are headquartered in the state of Oklahoma


Information from the Associated Press and the Oklahoma Historical Society was used in this story.



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