Losing Ground

In Oklahoma, beginning in 1541, both the Spanish and French encountered the Caddos, Plains Apaches, Osages, Quapaws and Wichitas.


Most of the 39 tribes in Oklahoma today were forced to migrate to what would later be Oklahoma from their ancestral homelands.


In 1778, recognizing that Indians could swing the balance of power in the American Revolution, George Washington authorized the first U.S.—Indian treaty with the Delaware tribe. Hundreds of treaties followed the first, but settlers continued to move onto Indian lands.


In 1824, the U.S. government established Oklahoma’s oldest frontier fort, Fort Gibson, signaling change was on the way.




The U.S. government forced eastern tribes to move west, resulting in the removal of tens of thousands from their homelands onto reservations and many tragic conflicts of the western frontier. Sixty-seven tribes ended up in Indian Territory, which later became Oklahoma.
Indian removal from the eastern United States began in earnest in
the 1830’s and continued until the 1870’s. In the 1830’s the Federal
Government began moving the Indians, including the Five Civilized
Tribes, to Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. In 1854, many
of these Indians were moved onto the plains of Oklahoma which were
ideal for roaming buffalo herds. The Indians hunted the buffalo for
food, clothing, shelter and fuel. With the introduction of white settlement
into Indian Territory, the buffalo supply quickly became depleted.




The General Allotment Act of 1887, a.k.a. the Dawes Act, seized more than 90 million acres (nearly two-thirds of reservation lands) from Indian nations and gave it to white settlers as “surplus,” most often without compensation to the tribes. In Oklahoma, a series of Land Runs were set up to give the so-called “surplus” Indian lands to settlers.



Indian Nations in the United States, National Congress of American Indian, Oklahoma History Center Research Division