Wee Poems and Flash Fiction
: Oklahoma: Mixed Societies by Shirley McLain
Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry
My parents were both originally from Eastern Oklahoma who moved to California in the mid-forties when my father got out of the Navy. I lived in the Bay area until I was ten years old. We then moved back to eastern Oklahoma. It took many years for me to consider Oklahoma my home. I don't know when it happened but now California is no longer in my heart as my home. It's all Oklahoma.|
Since you now know I am full-fledged Okie I want to share a little about my state and its people. Oklahoma is a special state because it is the home of the Five Civilized Tribes and more. The Civilized Tribes are the Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, Cherokee, and Osage. 16.000 men woman and children were marched across the land and were moved to Oklahoma.
Western Oklahoma is considered flatlands and Eastern Oklahoma (where I live) is called Green Country. Green country is my favorite. Western Oklahoma is considered part of the Great Plains, while eastern Oklahoma is filled with trees, water, hills, mountains, and valleys.
The Indian migration was forced by the government in 1839. Many people lost their lives coming to Oklahoma. The removal of the Indigenous People from the Eastern and Northern states happened over the years. Each tribe has its own name for the forced removal. For most of the Eastern tribes, they called it "The Trail of Tears."
Before the advancement of the white man across their native countries, men of the Osages, Pawnees, Kiowas, Comanches, Cheyenne, and Arapahos migrated into the state to use Oklahoma resources. The Caddo, Osage, and Wichita peoples were the original Indians in the state. Oklahoma had an abundance of beaver, bison, beaver, deer, and bear.
The plains bison roamed the land in abundance but were ordered annihilated to help force the Indians from their land. If there isn't a food source they had to move. Indians interfered with railroad construction, killing workers. And the buffalo, Indians counted on for survival (for beef, robes, tools, etc.) interfered with the iron horse (trains) by grazing on tracks. The government wanted to push Indians to either side of the transcontinental routes, moving them onto reservations. Killing buffalo in droves cleared the tracks and undermined Indian economies. Army soldiers killed buffalo and passenger trains even stopped amidst herds so travelers could pull out their rifles and fire away. When they were done, they moved on, leaving the carcasses behind. So many buffalo died that their rotting flesh could be smelled throughout the region.
The major Indian tribes in Oklahoma have their reservation land, which is well marked even today, but thankfully the whites and the Indians have lived together without demarcation of what belongs to whites and what belongs to Indians. That's not to say there were no problems. On 5/12/1858 the Texas Rangers, militia and allied Tonkawa's attacked the Southern Cheyenne to stop the Indian skirmishes from taking place in Oklahoma and Texas towns. The chief and 100 men, women and children died.
There was another incident called Going Snake Massacre. This wasn't a battle, but men were dead. They were trying an Indian man for the murder of a white man and woman. The courthouse was packed which included Texas Rangers and the family of the accused. Someone in the crowd pulled a gun, shot and killed eight marshals and three Cherokee Citizens.
The acceptance of living together peacefully, I think, is a tribute to both Native American people and the white population. It spoke volumes about how much each side wanted to live in peace.
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