The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Oklahoma is a southwestern state of the United States and its U.S. postal abbreviation is OK; others abbreviate the state's name Okla. As of 2000, the population is 3,450,654.



See also: List of Oklahoma counties, List of Oklahoma townships, Lakes in Oklahoma

Oklahoma is bounded on the north by Kansas, the northwest by Colorado, on the west and south by New Mexico and Texas (with part of the Texas border delineated by the Red River), and on the east by Missouri and Arkansas.

Oklahoma City is the capital and largest city.

Oklahoma's natural terrain is very diverse, ranging from Oak-Hickory mixed forest in the Eastern well-watered part of the state, to the Post Oak/Black Jack Oak savanah territory of the Cross Timbers, to the plains and semi-arid regions of Western Oklahoma and the Oklahoma panhandle.

The state is one of the six states on the Frontier Strip.

Oklahoma Regions

There have been several schemes used to breakdown Oklahoma into regions.

The Oklahoma Tourism Department breaks the state down into six "countries" for tourism promotion purposes: Red Carpet Country (Northwestern Oklahoma and The Panhandle), Great Plains Country (Southwestern Oklahoma), Frontier Country (Central Oklahoma, including the Oklahoma City Metropolitan area), Green Country (Northeastern Oklahoma, including the Tulsa Metropolitan area), Kiamichi Country (Southeastern Oklahoma), and Lake & Trail Country (South Central Oklahoma).

Popular but "unofficial" regional designations include Green Country (most often used to refer to Northeastern Oklahoma but used by some to refer to all of Eastern Oklahoma), Little Dixie (Southeastern Oklahoma), Western Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma Panhandle.

From a bioregional perspective, Oklahoma is recognized by the EPA as having 11 different ecoregions (one of only 4 US states to have more than 10 ecoregions). These ecoregions are: Western high plains, Southwestern Tablelands, Central Great Plains, Tall Grass Praire, Cross Timbers , Caves & Praire, Ozark Highlands, Ozark Forest, Hardwood Forest, Ouachita Mountains, and Cypress Swamps & Forests.

Interstate highways

United States highways

North-south routes East-west routes


Pre-European Indian cultures

Oklahoma was inhabited by Native American tribes including the Kitikiti'sh (Wichita) Quapaw , Caddo and Osage. Descendants of these people still live in the state.

In the 16th century Spanish explorers became the first Europeans to visit the area.

Later on Oklahoma was part of the vast territorial swapping going on between European powers France and Spain.

Five Civilized Tribes

In the 1830s Oklahoma, as the Indian Territory, served as the relocation area for the policy of Indian Removal started by Andrew Jackson.

The end of the Trail of Tears (Tsa La Gi) was "Indian Territory". There were already many tribes living in the territory, whites, and escaped slaves as well.

The "Five Civilized Tribes" were not the only ones forced to Oklahoma. Nations such as the Delaware, from the northeast US, Kiowa, Comanche, and others were forced to move to Oklahoma.

The name Oklahoma comes from the language of the Choctaw people, who came in the 1830s. Okla roughly means "the people" and homa means "red".

The five civilized tribes set up towns such as Tulsa, Tahlequah, and Muskogee, which became some of the larger towns in the state. They also brought their African slaves to Oklahoma, which added to African-American population in the region.

During the American Civil War many tribes were internally split between Confederates and Yankees. However, in 1861 the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Seminoles, Quapaws , Senecas, Caddos, Wichitas, Osage Nation, and Shawnees signed treaties of alliance with the Confederacy. There were several battles fought in Oklahoma.

Cowboys and Indians

After the Civil War, in 1866, the federal government forced the tribes into new treaties. Most of the land in central and western Indian Territory was ceded to the government. Some of the land was given to other tribes, but the central part, the so-called Unassigned Lands, remained with the government. Another concession allowed railroads to cross Indian lands.

Furthermore the practice of slavery was outlawed. Some nations were integrated racially and otherwise with their slaves, but other nations were extremely hostile to the former slaves and wanted them exiled from their territory.

In the 1870s a movement began by people wanting to settle the government lands in the Indian Territory under the Homestead Act of 1862. They referred to the Unassigned Lands as Oklahoma and to themselves as Boomers.

In the 1880s, early settlers of the state's very sparsely populated Panhandle region tried to form the Cimarron Territory, but lost a lawsuit against the federal government, prompting a judge in Paris, Texas, to unintentionally create a moniker for the area. "That is land that can be owned by no man," the judge said, and after that the panhandle was referred to as No Man's Land until statehood arrived decades later.

In 1884, in United States vs. Payne, the United States District Court in Topeka, Kansas, ruled that settling on the lands ceded to the government by the Indians under the 1866 treaties was not a crime. The government at first resisted but the Congress soon enacted laws authorizing settlement.

Congress passed the Dawes Act, or General Allotment Act, in 1887 requiring the government to negotiate agreements with the tribes to divide Indian lands into individual holdings. Under the allotment system, tribal lands left over would be surveyed for settlement by non-Indians. Following settlement, many whites accused Republican officials of giving preferential treatment to ex-slaves in land disputes. The Dawes Act excluded the Five Civilized Tribes.

Land runs

On March 231889, President Benjamin Harrison signed legislation by the U.S. Congress which would open up the Unassigned Lands (some 2 million acres (8,000 kmē), for settlement on April 22nd. It was to be the first of a number of "Land runs" (due to widespread cheating later land openings were conducted by means of a lottery). Some of the settlers were called "Sooners" because they had already staked their land claims before the land was officially opened for settlement.

The Organic Act of 1890 created the Oklahoma Territory out of the Unassigned Lands and No Man's Land.

In 1893 the government purchased the rights to settle the "Cherokee Outlet", or "Cherokee Strip", from the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Outlet was part of the lands ceded to the government in the 1866 treaty but with the Cherokees retaining access. Chicago meat-packing plants had leased it from the Cherokees for huge cattle ranches. The Cherokee Strip was opened to settlement by land run in 1894. Also, in 1893, Congress set up the Dawes Commission to negotiate agreements with each of the Five Civilized Tribes for the allotment of tribal lands to individual Indians. Finally, the 1898 Curtis Act abolished tribal jurisdiction over all of Indian Territory.


On November 161907, Oklahoma Territory combined with Indian Territory to become the 46th U.S. state.

In the early 1900s the oil business began to get underway. Huge pools of underground oil were discovered in places like Glenpool. Many whites flooded into the state to make money. Many of the "old money" elite families of Oklahoma can date their rise to this time. The prosperity of the 1920s can be seen in the surviving architecture from the period, including one which was converted into the Philbrook Museum.

For Oklahoma, the early 1900s were also somewhat turbulent politically. Many different groups had flooded into the state and were trying to figure out how to live. There were also "black towns", in which blacks tried to make a life of their own, separate from whites. The white towns were also segregated. Northern Tulsa was known as Black Wall Street because of the vibrant business, cultural, and religious community that had sprung up there.

The Oklahoma Socialist Party did achieve a fair degree of success in this era (the party had its highest per-capita membership in Oklahoma at this time with 12,000 dues paying members in 1914), including the publication of dozens of party newspapers and the election of several hundred local elected officials. Much of their success came from their willingness to reach out to Black and American Indian voters (they were the only party to continue to resist Jim Crow laws), and their willingness to alter traditional Marxist idealogy when it made sense to do so (the biggest changes were the party's support of widespread small-scale land ownership, and their willingness to use religion positively to preach the "Socialist gospel"). The state party also delivered Presidential candidateEugene Debs some of his highest vote counts in the nation.

The party was later crushed into virtual non-existence during the "white terror" that followed the ultra-reprsessive environment following the Green Corn Rebellion and the World World I era paranoia against anyone who spoke against the war or capitalism.

The Industrial Workers of the World tried to gain headway during this period, but achieved little success. The Ku Klux Klan was also active, denouncing Blacks, Catholics, and Jews. There were several race riots, including the Tulsa Race Riot, one of the worst in American history.

Dust Bowl

During the height of the Great Depression, drought and non-ecologically-friendly agricultural practices led to the Dust Bowl, when large tracts of arable land were blown away in massive dust storms. This forced many small farmers to flee the state altogether.

This migration is chronicled in The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, and also in photographs by Dorothea Lange and in the songs of Woody Guthrie. The negative images of the "Okie" as a sort of rootless migrant laborer living in a near-animal state of scrounging for food greatly offended many Oklahomans. Some politicians of Oklahoma denounced the book (often without reading it) as an attempt to impugn the morals and character of the people of Oklahoma.

The term "Okie" in recent years has taken on a new meaning in the past few decades, with many Oklahomans (both former and present) wearing the label as a badge of honor (as a symbol of the Okie survivor attitude). Others (mostly of those alive during the Dust Bowl) still see the term negatively because they see the "Okie" migrants as being quiters.


Major trends in Oklahoma history after the Depression era included the rise again of tribal sovereignty (including the issuance of tribal automobile licenses plates, and the opening of tribal smoke shops, casinos, grocery stores and other commercial enterprises), the building of Tinker Air Force Base, the rapid growth of suburban Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the drop in population in Western Oklahoma, the oil boom of the 1980's and the oil bust of the 1990's.

Also in this century came the gradual elimination of the prohibition of alcoholic beverages, first through the legalization of beverages containing 3.2% alcohol or less, then through the legalization of stronger alcoholic beverages sold only in bottles, and finally in the legalization of "liquor by the drink" in the 1980's. Currently, Oklahoma's liquor laws are still fairly unusual in that only 3.2 beer can be sold in grocery/convenience stores, while higher-alcohol-content beverages must be sold in liquor stores with limited hours of operations.

In 1995 Oklahoma became the scene of the Oklahoma City bombing, in which a Gulf War veteran named Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people.

Oklahoma City has also been the home of Spiritual Walk for Peace , an ongoing series of peaceful peace demonstrations in downtown Oklahoma City conducted by members of the city's religious/peace communities.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2003, Oklahoma's population was estimated at 3,511,532 people.

The racial makeup of the state is:

The 5 largest ancestry groups in Oklahoma are German (14.5%), American (13.1%), Irish (11.8%), English (9.6%), American Indian (7.9%).

6.8% of Oklahoma's population were reported as under 5, 25.9% under 18, and 13.2% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.9% of the population.

Descendants of these people still live in Oklahoma today. Counties with the names of these tribes also exist. Oklahoma has the second highest number of Native Americans/Amerindians in the country estimated at 395,219 as of 2003. Only California has a higher Amerindian population at 682,720 [1]. Oklahoma also has the second highest concentration of Native Americans/Amerindians in the nation with 11.4% of the state's population, topped only by Alaska at 19% of that state's population. [2].

Rural flight

Oklahoma, in common with five other Mid-West states (Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa), is feeling the brunt of falling populations. 89% of the total number of cities in those states have fewer than 3000 people; hundreds have fewer than than 1000. Between 1996 and 2004 almost half a million people, nearly half with college degrees, left the six states. "Rural flight" has led to offers of free land and tax breaks as enticements to newcomers in some of these states.

The effects of rural flight in Oklahoma have mostly been felt in Western Oklahoma (those areas west of I-35).


The religious affiliations of the citizens of Oklahoma are:


Oklahoma is a major fuel and food-producing state. Thousands of oil and natural gas wells dot the Oklahoma landscape. Millions of white-faced beef cattle graze on Oklahoma's flat plain and low hills. Fertile fields produce vast crops of wheat. Its 1999 total gross state product was $86 billion, placing it 29th in the nation. Its 2000 Per Capita Personal Income was $23,517, 43rd in the nation. Its agricultural outputs are cattle, wheat, milk, poultry, and cotton. Its industrial outputs are transportation equipment, machinery, electric products, rubber and plastic products, and food processing.

Oklahoma City is the principal economic engine of the state, centered on the Finance, Retail, Governance, Entertainment, and Tourism sectors. The city has numerous manufacturing and processing plants as well as a growing Biotech center and a large Aviation market.

Oklahoma City is home to many corporate and regional headquarters including international giants Devon Energy, Kerr McGee, OGE Energy, Chesapeake Energy, Six Flags, Sonic, Local Financial, and Dobson Communications. The Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area is a growing Hi-Tech region and a major Distribution and Shipping point.

Tulsa is an Energy and Trade center and is a major Aerospace and Telecommunications market. The city is has the nation's most inland waterport. Major Companies based in Tulsa include Williams, Oneok, Wiltel, Quik-Trip, Mazzio's, Dollar=Thrifty, and Vanguard. Other major employers include MCI, TV Guide, SBC, DISH, DirecTV, USCellular, Cingular, Decision1, and Boeing. Tulsa is home to American Airlines maintenence center, the largest aircraft maintenance base in the world.

Law and government

State government

The capital of the state is Oklahoma City and its governor is Brad Henry (Democrat). Oklahoma's state legislature consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The Senate has 48 members serving four-year terms, while the House has 101 members with two year terms. The state has term limits for their legislature that restrict any one person to a total of twelve years service in both the house and senate.

In the 2005 – 2006 state legislature, control is split between the major parties, the Democrats control the Senate (26 to 22) while the Republicans control the House (57 to 44). This changes the government's make-up since before the 2004 election the Democrats controlled both chambers.

Due to Oklahoma's restrictive ballot access laws (deemed by many to be the most restrictive in the nation), no third parties have access to the primary ballots, however the state does have the following active third parties: Oklahoma Libertarian Party, Green Party of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Constitution Party. There are also organizers from the Communist Party USA working in the state.

See also: List of Oklahoma Governors

Local governance

The state is divided into 77 counties which deliver local government. Each is governed by a three member commission. Other county elected officials are the tax assessor, clerk, court clerk, treasurer, and sheriff.

Cities and towns are established under the rights granted in the Oklahoma statutes (in comparison, Oklahoma gives municipal governments a great deal of latitude in chartering new governments). Towns are municipalities of under 1000 residents, while cities have more than 1000 residents. Major cities are also allowed to form "charter governments," in which the voters choose the form of government they want to use in place of the statutory forms.

Other municipal governments in Oklahoma included indendent and dependent school districts, Vo-tech center districts, community college districts, rural fire departments, rural water districts, and special use districts.

National politics

After the 2000 census the Oklahoma delegation to the U.S. House was reduced from six to five representives. For the 109th Congress (2005 – 2006) there are no changes in party strength, and the delegation has four Republicans and one Democrat. Oklahoma's two U.S. senators are James M. Inhofe (Republican) and Tom Coburn (Republican). The U.S. Representatives are John Sullivan (Republican) of District 1, Dan Boren (Democrat) of District 2, Frank D. Lucas (Republican) of District 3, Tom Cole (Republican) of District 4, and Ernest Istook (Republican) of District 5.


The various government sponsored arts, community, and tourism programs emphasize Oklahoma's Native American heritage heavily.

Other ethnic celebrations include those of Yukon & Prague (celebrating the Czech heritage of some early immigrants), the Mennonite Relief Sale (in Enid, OK), and the Juneteenth Celebrations found all across the state.


See also: List of Oklahoma school districts by county

Colleges and universities

Important cities and towns

See also: List of cities in Oklahoma

Oklahoma state symbols

floral emblem Mistletoe Phoradendron serotinum 1893
wild flower Indian Blanket Gaillardia pulchella 1910
tree Redbud Cercis canadensis 1971
grass Indian Grass Sorghastrum nutans 1972
flower Oklahoma Rose 2004
bird Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Muscivora forficata 1951
reptile Collared Lizard (Mountain Boomer) Crotaphytus collaris) 1969
animal Bison Bison bison 1972
fish White bass (Sand bass) Morone chrysops 1974
furbearer animal Raccoon Procyon lotor 1989
insect Honeybee Apis millifera 1992
game animal White-tail deer Odocoileus virginians 1990
game bird Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo 1990
butterfly Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes 1996
amphibian Bullfrog Rana catesbeiana 1997
fossil Saurophaganax maximus 2000
waltz "Oklahoma Wind "
anthem "Oklahoma!"
lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II
music: Richard Rogers
song "Oklahoma!"
lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II
music: Richard Rogers
musical instrument Fiddle 1984
country and western song "Faded Love "
by John Willis
and Bob Wills
folk dance Square Dance 1988
percussive musical instrument Drum 1993
children's song "Oklahoma, My Native Land "
by Martha Kemm Barrett
Western band The Sounds of the Southwest 1997
folk song "Oklahoma Hills "
by Woody Guthrie
and Jack Guthrie
colors Green and White 1915
rock Rose Rock (Barite rose) 1968
theatre Lynn Riggs Players of Oklahoma, Inc. 1971
poem "Howdy Folks " by David Randolph Milsten 1973
pin "OK" pin 1982
beverage Milk 1985
soil Port Silt Loam Cumulic haplustolls 1987
meal Fried okra ,
barbecue pork ,
sausage and gravy ,
chicken fried steak,
pecan pie,
and black-eyed peas.
poet laureate biennial gubernatorial appointment 1994
tartan Oklahoma Tartan 1999

Professional sports teams

The minor league baseball teams are:

Other Oklahoma City teams include

Other Tulsa teams include

See also

External links

State political parties

Political parties in Oklahoma (and their websites) are:

The contents of this article are licensed from under the GNU Free Documentation License. How to see transparent copy