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Treaties and Gender Reassignment

December 27, 2000

Historian's Notes

To many residents of Oklahoma, the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of New Echota is a sad day. It marks the date that the Cherokee -- whether legally or not -- agreed to give up their homeland of thousands of years and move to what is now Oklahoma. This story is really too tangled to tell in a minute and a half... I think that I'll give it the time it deserves next December.

The Billie Tipton story is so outrageous, if I had not spent so much time researching it I wouldn't have believed it myself. What a life!! What a story!! What an Almanac!!

Resources for "Treaties":

This material came from several of the standard Oklahoma history text books.

Resources for "Gender Reassignment":

Middlebrook, D. W. (1998). Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Additional information came from a number of Internet web sites.

Almanac Transcript

Hello, I'm Steven Kite welcoming you to the Oklahoma Audio Almanac where we turn the pages of history to bring you the stories from our state's past.

This week treaties and gender reassignment make the news.

The state of Georgia basically formed around the Cherokee Nation. By the 1820s the discovery of gold in Georgia, and the ever increasing white population of the state, led politicians both state and national to pressure the Cherokees into signing a removal treaty. At the Council of New Echota held this week in 1835, four unauthorized Cherokee agents acting against the will of over 16,000 Cherokee citizens, signed the Treaty of New Echota obliging the Cherokee nation as a whole to relocate to Indian Territory. The four men who signed the document had, whether for the sake of financial gain or otherwise, doomed their people to "The Trail of Tears" and decades of hardship and struggle in their new land.

Approximately one fourth of the Cherokee population died on their march to their new lands and more perished once there. The four Cherokee agents responsible for the removal, and subsequent tragedies, had little time to enjoy their accomplishments. Shortly after their arrival in Indian Territory the signers of the Treaty of New Echota, lured to an ambush, were murdered by unknown assailants.

Also on the almanac this week we say, "Happy Birthday to Billy Tipton," a very interesting person. Dorothy Lucille Tipton was born in Oklahoma City December 29, 1914. At an early age, Dorothy expressed both an interest in and an aptitude for music. Refused night club jobs because she was a woman, Dorothy found that by dressing and acting as a man many job opportunities previously closed would now be open for her. The ruse worked and Dorothy Tipton, now Billy Tipton's, career flourished. After a long life on the road, Tipton settled in Seattle, Washington. Throughout his/her seventy-five year life, more than fifty of which was lived as a man, Billy lived a fairly normal life. As a musician, Billy lead jazz trios, recorded albums and toured with various groups and big bands. As a family man, Billy Tipton married several times, and raised numerous children, all adopted. It wasn't until her death in 1989 that, much to the shock of wives, children, family and friends, the secret life of Billy Tipton was discovered. Billy/Dorothy Tipton born in Oklahoma City this week in 1914.

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