Tag Archives: Oklahoma

The Impact of Oil

Court Street in Atoka, Oklahoma while it was still Indian Territory

Native Americans were almost continually exploited by the white settlers who relentlessly encroached upon their land. Oil had been discovered in Oklahoma before the turn of the twentieth century, but when deep drilling replaced shallow drilling, oil exploration stepped up in intensity. One result for Indians was a turnover of land ownership that left many of them tenant farmers.

Whites had already gone around protective laws to settle in Indian Territory well before the end of the nineteenth century. By that time, more non-native peoples lived in Indian Territory than Native Americans. Oil made Indian land even more desirable, and several laws were introduced that made it easier for whites to take over desirable real estate. The allotment process, which gave Indians a specified amount of land per head of household, was a first step toward depriving Indians of their property. After allotments were made, any unassigned land (which had previously been part of common tribal holdings) became available for sale to whites. Then, a series of competency laws made it easy for white-dominated courts to determine that certain Indians were not competent to handle their own affairs. Courts often assigned “guardians” to manage Indian land on behalf of their wards. As a result, a huge transfer of wealth took place.

My next post will discuss someĀ  guardians’ behavior.

Odd Fellows Home, Grand Lodge of Oklahoma Territory

Oklahoma Town circa 1900, courtesy Oklahoma State Digital Library

______________________________________________________________________________________

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedintumblr

Alice Mary Robertson

Alice Mary Robertson, courtesy Library of Congress

Alice Mary Robertson was born on January 2, 1854, in the Tullahassee Mission in the Creek Nation Indian Territory, now in Oklahoma. Her parents were missionary school teachers committed to assisting displaced Cherokee. Robertson attended college (1873-1874) and became the first female clerk within the Indian Office at the Department of the Interior. She worked briefly at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, but later returned to Indian Territory and established Nuyaka Mission. Though she considered herself a friend of Indians and was concerned about their welfare, she took a traditional route toward helping them. She was instrumental in the success of the Minerva Home in 1885; it was a boarding school to train Native American girls in domestic skills. The school later developed into Henry Kendall College and is now the University of Tulsa. In 1900 Robertson became the government supervisor of Creek Indian schools.

Robertson eventually owned and operated a dairy farm, and ran for Congress in 1920 on the premise that “there are already more lawyers and bankers in Congress than are needed . . . The farmers need a farmer, I am a farmer.” She defeated three-term incumbent William Wirt Hastings. After her election she announced that she would concentrate on bettering the lives of Indians, women, farmers, soldiers, and working people. Robertson was the second woman to serve in Congress, though the only one in office at the time of her service. Congress recognized her interest and work on behalf of Indians by giving her a seat on the Committee on Indian Affairs. She was continually frustrated, though, and could push little of value through the committee.

Alice Robertson (lower step) at U.S. Capitol With Two Women Elected to the Next Session of Congress

Jeannette Rankin, First Woman Elected to Congress

______________________________________________________________________________________

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedintumblr

The Insane Cherokee

Map of Cherokee Nation, circa 1903

Map of Cherokee Nation, circa 1903

The Cherokee Nation actually established an asylum for insane Indians before the U.S. government did. The Cherokee National Council selected a site for the CherokeeĀ  Home for the Insane, Deaf, Dumb, and Blind six miles south of Tahlequah in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1873. The asylum was governed by a board of trustees composed of the principal chief, assistant principal chief, the national treasurer, and three trustees appointed by the principal chief, with the consent of the Cherokee Senate.

Construction began in 1874 and on December 5, 1876, John A. Foreman was elected steward of the asylum at a salary of $400/year. The asylum opened March 1, 1877, and by October had accepted 14 males and 8 females. Foreman made a telling request in his first report: “I would hereby have to suggest that a change be made in the manner of receiving inmates into the asylum, and that such lines be drawn, as will prevent the Asylum from being made into a hospital.”

The Canton Asylum for Insane Indians never drew such a line, and quickly became a dumping ground for many inconvenient Indians who were not necessarily insane.

Cherokee National Female Seminary (1851-1887) Tahlequah

Cherokee National Female Seminary (1851-1887) Tahlequah

________________________________________________________

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedintumblr