Land formerly Designated Indian Territory

 

That body of land formerly designated Indian Territory is located but a few miles south of the geographical center of the United States. It was a part of the Louisiana purchase by which the United States in 1804 acquired from France about nine hundred thousand square miles of land adjoining the Mississippi River on the west, for the sum of $15,000,000, or slightly more than two and one-half cents per acre.

     This region was practically unknown at that time to the people of the United States and many New England citizens regarded it as a doubtful bargain. The Mississippi River was then regarded as the western boundary of civilization, and beyond the settlements at St. Louis and New Orleans, the whole region was thought to be but a barren waste, fit only for hunting grounds for the wandering bands of blood-thirsty Indians.

     Andrew Jackson thought he was driving a good bargain for his friends in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee when in 1834 he compelled the Five Tribes to surrender their possessions in those states in exchange for the unknown region afterwards called Indian Territory. If the leaders of the Indian tribes had possessed the same shrewdness in trading that has characterized their white brother, they might have secured the whole of the Louisiana Purchase, which included practically all of the territory between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, lying north of Texas. In speaking of this exchange of land, a local Indian recently remarked that : "When the white man compelled our people to give up their eastern homes for this wild-west country, he thought he was handing us `a pig in a poke, but now that he sees we have a country rich in agriculture and minerals, he wants it back."

     As late as 1894, members of Congress, while considering an appropriation to pay the expenses of surveying the lands of the Five Tribes, seemed to regard Indian Territory as a vast plain, apparently not knowing that nearly one-third of its surface is hilly and mountainous and more than one-half of it was covered with timber.

     Prior to statehood in 1906, Indian Territory had no general government. Each of the five civilized tribes owned a part of the land, and each tribe had its own constitution, code of laws and corps of legislative, judicial and executive officials. For many years our school geographies named Tahlequah as the capital of the territory, but it has never been other than the capital of the Cherokee Nation. Each of the other tribes had its own capital.

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