This Day In History: Oklahoma Joins The Union (1907)

On this day in history in 1907 the US Congress recognized Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory  as the State of Oklahoma, and it became the 46th state of the Union.

Oklahoma had once been home to an advanced Indian civilization and the first Europeans to visit the area were French and Spanish explorers in the seventeenth century.   The territory had been ostensibly ruled by first the Spanish and then the French. In reality, they had no real presence in the territories; known today as Oklahoma. The United States had acquired modern-day Oklahoma in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

The vast area was designated for the resettlement of Indians after the war of 1812.  At the time it was considered part of the ‘Great American Desert’ and deemed not suitable for settlement. The Federal government decided to use the lands to deal with their Indian ‘problem’. The government and many white settlers wanted the lands of the Indians in the east and they often forcibly removed entire tribes to the present-day area of Oklahoma.  The modern state of Oklahoma, along with Nebraska and Kansas became known as Indian territory. In 1828 Oklahoma became a designated area for the resettlement  of Cherokee Indians. They were forced to march to their new home in the midst of winter and this became known as the ‘Trail of Tears’. The Cherokees and other tribes were settles alongside the Plains Indians and this caused tensions and even conflicts. In Oklahoma the Indians had autonomy and they could run their own affairs. During the American Civil War, many of the tribes in Oklahoma supported the South. After the surrender of the Confederacy, the Union occupied Oklahoma  Territory. Previous to the 1870s few white settlers had wanted to settle in the area but this changed after the railroads were built. Soon illegal white settlements were springing up all over territory that was legally the tribes.  This caused tensions with the local tribes.

In contravention of their previous agreements with the Indians the Federal government allocated two million acres of land in central Oklahoma to settlers from the east.  This was known as the ‘Land Rush’ whereby people raced to stake a claim on the land. The area was formally divided into Oklahoma and Indian territory in 1890. The Indian tribes were increasingly confined into smaller and smaller areas. By this stage they were in no position to resist the white settlers.


Bison in Oklahoma

In 1907 the Senate and the House of Representatives decided to combine the Indian Territory and Oklahoma into a unified state. This happened after the white population of the territory had petitioned to be accepted as part of the Union. The native American tribes although technically citizens had no real say in the process., President Theodore Roosevelt recognized Oklahoma as a state on this date in 1907.  The occasion was marked by wild celebrations in the newly constituted state.