Oklahoma Emigration and Immigration
The Caddo, Pawnee, and Wichita tribes were living in the area of Oklahoma in the 1700s. About the time the United States acquired the area through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, other tribes such as the Quapaw, Oto, and Osage migrated to eastern Oklahoma. By 1837, the Civilized Tribes (see the “Native Races” section of this outline) had settled most of their members in Oklahoma.
After the Civil War, many other tribes from throughout the United States were forcefully or by treaty moved off their lands and settled in Oklahoma.
There were about 80,000 Indians in Oklahoma in 1860, when the entire area was known as the Indian Territory. In 1924 all Indians in the Indian Territory were declared citizens of the United States. Most Indians now live in the eastern part of the state, and make up four percent of the total population.
For information about the records of American Indians in Oklahoma, see the “Native Races” section of this outline.
Only a few thousand non-Indians lived in the Territory before 1889. After the Civil War, a few people from the South moved into the Indian Territory. Anyone wishing to live in this area needed permission from the Indians, but some white settlers tried to move into the Territory without permission.
A mining boom in the 1870s brought Europeans into the Choctaw Nation (present-day southeastern Oklahoma). Descendants of Italian, Slavic, Greek, Welsh, Polish, and Russian miners still live in that area. Between 1878 and 1885, “Boomers” (other white settlers) tried unsuccessfully to take over Indian lands.
In 1889 the “Unassigned Lands” (land not assigned to Indian tribes) in central Indian Territory were opened for settlement by non-Indians. This created the first of the famous Oklahoma land runs (see the “Land and Property” section of this outline). Approximately 50,000 settlers came the first year. Another run in 1893 brought 100,000 settlers, mostly to the “Cherokee Outlet” (northwestern Oklahoma).
The land runs brought homesteaders from China, Japan, Mexico, England, France, and Canada, as well as from nearly every state. People from the southern states settled mostly in eastern and southern counties, while people from northern states favored the northern and western sections. Wheat farming attracted German Mennonites and Czechs to the northwestern counties.
When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, there were 1,400,000 residents.
Between 1907 and 1920, the discovery of oil brought many people from other oil-producing areas and from the Midwest. The population of the state reached about 2,400,000 by 1930. The drought and the Great Depression of the 1930s caused thousands of farmers to move to urban areas or migrate west to California.