Saturday, April 12, 2008

Land Rushes

During the Civil War some members of the Creek and Seminole tribes supported the Confederate States of America. As a result the entire Creek and Seminole tribes had their land in “Indian Territory” [Oklahoma] reduced by the United States Government. This area eventually became known as the “unassigned lands” [look for the “unassigned lands” in the middle of the map].

Some Cherokee also supported the Confederate States of America and as a result the Cherokee Tribe lost control of the Cherokee Outlet [which is often mistakenly called the Cherokee Strip]. The Cherokee Outlet had been established by Congress in about 1832 as a “hunting reserve” for the Cherokee next to the lands is eastern Oklahoma that they were moved to from Georgia and North Carolina. After the Cherokee lost control of the Cherokee Outlet some of it was assigned to the Osage, Kaw, Tonkawa, Ponca, Ponca, Pawnee, and Otoe-Missouri who were removed from Kansas, Texas, and Nebraska. The rest was leased to cattlemen [see the top of the map].

“Boomers” in Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas advocated that the “unassigned lands” and the remainder of the Cherokee Outlet be opened up to homesteaders. They were able to convince Congress to pass an amendment with the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889 which provided for the opening of homesteading settlements in the “unassigned lands.” President Benjamin Harrison announced that the “unassigned lands” would be opened on April 22 via a land rush. The land rush was to be held at noon and was open to all people who were at least 21 years of age.

The largest land rush in Oklahoma was for the Cherokee Outlet which occurred on September 17, 1893. There were at least five other land rushes in Oklahoma. Most of these occurred after various Native Tribes were assigned individual allotments under the Dawes Act and the “surplus” land was opened to homesteaders through a “land rush.”

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