American Indians

For Native peoples, the early decades of the nineteenth century became the period of "Indian Removal." Over a period of years in the 1830s the U.S. government removed eastern Indian tribes to Indian Territory. These people included the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw. Later, around the time of the Civil War and afterward, removed tribes from the Northeast would join them. The Indian Wars of the 1870s produced "reservations" in the Oklahoma region for Plains tribes. Western tribes were represented as well. In the end, the U.S. government removed a total of sixty-seven different tribes. All of these peoples and their communities developed cultures whose traditions have survived today in spite of several setbacks due to contact with non-Indians.

After Indian Removal and reservation making brought them here, these Native peoples adapted to the environmental conditions and climate. Daily rituals of life and many traditional ceremonies continued to be practiced on a regular basis and continued to evolve as the indigenous cultures reemerged and readapted to new conditions. The oral tradition of storytelling preserved legends about important leaders and events.

During the 1840s and 1850s missionaries worked among the tribes to help the people, and they converted many Indians to Christianity. Thereafter, many Indians practiced both Christianity and traditional beliefs and continued to do so even into the twenty-first century.

In the 1860s the United States and also the territories became embroiled in the struggle between North and South. Forced to fight for the Confederacy, the tribes of Indian Territory suffered much devastation and death in their homeland, and their lives were uprooted again. Despite these hardships, the tribes rebuilt their lives and rekindled community fires again during the era that mainstream historians call Reconstruction.

Source: American Indians
© Copyright Oklahoma Historical Society 2009.

Back to top