The origin of the name "Oklahoma" can be traced to a specific time, event, and person. Following the War Between the States, as part of its punishment of the "Five Civilized Tribes'" majority support of the Confederacy, the U.S. government initiated a decades-long strategy to force their lands—heretofore self-governed in accord with the federals' Trails of Tears promises—into a new American territory.
This process began in the government’s post-war councils with the five tribes at Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1865 and Washington, D.C. in 1866. As the Choctaws and Chickasaws crafted a new agreement with the government during the latter meeting, the federals mentioned the prospect of a unified Indian territory that would dispense with the individual sovereignty and communal landholdings of the five tribes.
Reverend Allen Wright—a Choctaw chief, Confederate veteran, and Presbyterian minister classically educated and fluent in English, Choctaw, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew—did not necessarily support the concept of such a territory. But he suggested the name “Oklahoma” should it occur. Oklahoma means “Red People” (literally, “People Red”) in the Choctaw language.
The distinctive name gradually took hold. The support of influential Cherokee Elias C. Boudinot—nephew of famed Cherokee and Confederate General Stand Watie—helped convince the U.S. Congress at the dawn of the 1870s to approve the name for the new territory that comprised most of the western portion of original Indian Territory. The name carried over nearly 40 years later when Oklahoma became an American state in 1907.
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Oklahomans Vol 2 :
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