Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Oklahoma - The Indian State?

For the letter 'O' I've chosen Oklahoma. This might seem a little bit controversial, as Oklahoma is not a country, but I made a decision early on with Learning about the World that I would include regions, states and territories in some cases.

The reason for this is that countries like the United States, China, India etc. are so big, it would be difficult to squeeze everything in to a month of blogging.

The second reason is that I already know so much about countries like the United States, France and Germany, that it's good to focus on one part of the country and learn new things in this way.

I haven't yet been to the States, but we get so much American culture through our TV screens and movies that a lot of American places, traditions etc. are kind of familiar to me. Oklahoma, on the other hand, is a place that I (and perhaps even some Americans) know very little about.

I also chose Oklahoma because of its history. Being one of the last states to join the Union (it was the 46th state, joining in 1907), Oklahoma was made up of two former territories, the Oklahoma territory and the Indian territory. The Indian territory had wanted to join as a separate state, known as the Sequoyah state (named after the man who created the Cherokee alphabet), but this was rejected by Washington as detrimental to the balance of power between the eastern and western states (and I'm sure there was a good deal of racism thrown in to boot).

Oklahoma still has a relatively large Native American population and, as the last refuge for an independent Native American nation, I thought it would be an apt starting point for my learning journey about the United States.

The more I read about the destruction of Native American civilisation, the more I realise that Oklahoma is actually more like a finishing point for Native American culture.  It was the place that the US government hoped the entire Native American race would eventually be settled.

Of course, there is a much bigger picture than just Oklahoma, which is the Great Plains of North America, including states like Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas. I'm imagining wide, open landscapes and lots of cornfields, the true heart of the American Bible belt. 

It's a part of the United States that most people know little about and only ever pass through or fly over on their journeys between the East and West. I'm in the process of reading Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown which covers all of the 'Wild West' including Oklahoma and is giving me an important context for the late 19th century westward expansion and its impact on Native American culture.  More about this later.

Image credits

The images of the flag of Oklahoma and of Sequoyah, are from Wikimedia Commons and are copyright free.

The amazing image of the Oklahoma Farm with that beautiful sky in the background is taken from flickr user OakleyOriginals - to see more amazing images of Oklahoma, check out OakleyOriginals photostream at
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