In October, while driving Route 66, I came across this marker/monument in Oklahoma. It denotes the eastern boundary of the Oklahoma Land run of 1889. For those who are unfamiliar with this event, it is yet another one of the many moments in American history where white men feel proud of themselves (there’s a HUGE monument to the event in downtown Oklahoma City), for essentially screwing over the indigenous red man who was there first (please note there is NO reference to them on this monument). HOWEVER, it also has something to do with the Case of Carpenter v. Murphy which is currently before the Supreme Court of the United States!
In fact the Run of ’89 was the first of a series of land rushes organized by the Federal Government. These were “organized (HAH!)” events where vast numbers of WHITE settlers, 50,000 of them in this case… lined up with a flags in their hands, and at the sound of a gun were supposed to surge across the UNASSIGNED countryside on horseback or in wagons, racing to outpace the other contestants, find a nice piece of desirable FREE land, drive their flags into said piece and thereby “stake their claim to it.” In reality, the gullible honest people did that… often to find cheaters (usually rich people who had illegally surveyed the land ahead of time) already there (along with all their employees) trying to make it look like they’d actually done the run along with the others… when they had not… and had somehow managed to grab all the best bits of land first. So this was not only White people screwing over Red people, it was also rich white dishonest people screwing honest hardworking poor white people.
Of course, all of this screwing was only possible after the government had “legally” screwed the folks who were already there…. the Native Americans…. Initially this was done via the Indian [land] Appropriation Acts where the government gave itself the right to yet again round up the local Native American population, this time to force them into reservations. When I say yet again, you need to keep in mind that the State name, Oklahoma, is derived from what it had been called at that time… i.e., the Oklahoma territory… and that the word Oklahoma is actually a composite of the Choctaw words “okla” and “humma,” which translates quite literally to “red people” … i.e., Red man’s territory.
This was an area that had at first been occupied by the Choctaw Nation (a multi-tribal people that spread from Oklahoma to Florida, and were united by a single language, Choctaw), who were then joined by the Cherokee… who were only there because they had already been moved once. Some came begrudgingly, as a result treaties they had signed, such as that of New Echota — the one made with the leaders of the former capitol of the Cherokee people( which I had visited twice, located about 1.5 hours from my friend home in Dalton, Georgia) with the Federal government; and if individual Cherokee refused to go by choice, they were FORCED to do so, on what later became known as The Trail of Tears. Ultimately, all of the Native Americans living within “Indian Territory” had been members of what the American colonists had referred to as the “Five Civilized Tribes“….Native Americans groups from along the southeast sections of America who had tried to get along with the invaders by going along; groups who had converted to Christianity, adopted centralized forms of government (see my posts about New Echota), were literate (see my post about Sequoyah), participated not just in trade but in the market economies of their areas, AND, to top it all off… OWNED SLAVES (see my post about Chief Vann, who maintained a plantation just north of Echota). All of these tactics of compromise ultimate failed, and now… having already been relocated to Indian Territory — which was supposed to be JUST for them… they were removed yet again, forced into reservations, and what had been their land, was now deemed “unassigned,” was given away to white people… who grabbed it in the mad rush described above.
And the bleeding of the tribal lands in Oklahoma has in fact continued to this day so that only 2% of what had been Cherokee Nation land is still under their own control. Now here’s the good news… AFTER I had already driven past this area, on November 27, 2018 the Supreme court heard a case called Carpenter v. Murphy that calls into question whether the tribes of the Five Civilized Nations STILL have sovereignty over its own people on lands that had sort of bled out of their control within the Indian Territory lands in last 100 years.
Washington Post: Half the land in Oklahoma could be returned to Native Americans. It should be.
New York Times: Is Half of Oklahoma an Indian Reservation? The Supreme Court Sifts the Merits
The Atlantic: Who Owns Oklahoma? The Supreme Court must decide the fate of a murderer—and whether roughly half of Oklahoma is rightfully reservation land.