The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889
Back in the day on April 22nd, 1889, the so-called Oklahoma Land Rush began. Exactly one-hundred and twenty years ago, an estimated 50,000 white would-be settlers made a mad dash at high noon to stake their claim to the newly available two million acres of so-called unassigned lands. A majority of what is today the state of Oklahoma had been previously designated as “Indian Territory,” where Native American tribes, including those forcibly relocated by the Trail of Tears, were made to live. Originally thought of as unsuitable for white colonization, the lands of Indian Territory were reconsidered starting with an amendment to the Indian Appropriations Bill of 1889 that opened the lands “unassigned” to any Native American tribes. After the Oklahoma Land Rush, assigned lands were encroached upon by the manipulations of the Dawes Act and as a result, two years before Oklahoma became a part of the Union as a state in 1907, whites had come to claim a majority of what was once Indian Territory.
Unfortunately, the true history of the Oklahoma land grab is not taught in the state’s schools. Instead, there are annual “historical reenactments” that the Society to Preserve Indigenous Rights and Indigenous Traditions – or S.P.I.R.I.T. – cite as “demeaning” and “humiliating” in their current petition to stop them.