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Indian Territory Takes Shape, Again

May 26, 2004

Almanac Transcript

Indian territory takes shape, again this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

Most of us, I think, are able to recognize the outline of the state of Oklahoma. It's easy, however, to sometimes overlook how that shape came into being. In 1830 when the US government declared that all Native American nations east of the Mississippi River must be relocated to Indian Territory, the Indian Territory they spoke of was vastly different than we think of today; it included all of what is now Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Once this area was so designated, the "powers that be" actually did a fairly good job in keeping white settlement out of Indian Territory. What began to cause problems, however, was that as settlers moved west they were forced to detour around this large area of Indian Territory. The more settled that the west became, the more insistent the demands to provide for a better central route through the country. This was the late 1840s and early 1850s, and also entangling matters at this time was the fight over slavery.

As if dealing with the Native nations honestly and respectfully wasn't hard enough for the government, now various factions were bringing into the mix the question of whether these lands should be free or slave. The country was clamoring for a better route from east to west, and despite the arguments over free or slave states, something needed to be done quickly. It was in this week of 1854 that a bill passed through all of the governmental hoops and hurdles creating the territories of Nebraska and Kansas, now leaving only Oklahoma as Indian Territory. This event in 1854 had a great impact upon the slavery question, but to deal with that here we would need three hours, not three minutes.

For Oklahoma, or more correctly Indian Territory, the Kansas Nebraska bill affixed permanently the 37th parallel as the northern border, the same border that it holds today.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of Oklahoma's Public Radio and the Oklahoma State University Library.

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