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Anna Mae James, age 14, of Glendale, Ariz., for her question:

WHERE WAS THE `INDIAN TERRITORY'?

A region west of Arkansas that the government set aside for the residence of Indians from 1830 until 1906 was called Indian Territory. Indians moved to this area as part of a policy to move all Indians from East of the Mississippi River to new settlements on the Great Plains, west of the 95th degree of longitude.

The Indians' relocation was carried out because of pressure of white settlers who wanted to take over the lands on which the Indians had lived.

The name "Indian Territory" was sometimes applied loosely to the whole area on the Great Plains to which the various Indian tribes moved. But it was used more correctly for an area with almost identical borders as the state of Oklahoma.

It was to this Indian Territory from southeastern states that the government moved the "Five Civilized Tribes": Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole.

The Indian Territory had no unified political organization. The Indians were permitted to govern themselves as long as they kept the peace.

In 1866, the tribes were required to give up the western part of their territory to the United States for the use of other Indians. This was partly to punish them for helping the South during the Civil War. Reservations in this region were set aside at various times for the Osage, the Arapaho, the Cheyenne, the Wichita, the Kiowa and the Comanche.

Some of the lands in this region were opened up to white settlement in 1889. So many whites settled that the Territory of Oklahoma, the western part of the present state of Oklahoma, was organized during the following year.

The Dawes Act of 1887 broke up tribal land holdings. In 1893, Congress created the Dawes Commission to help settle problems with the "Five Civilized Tribes." Under the Curtis Act, Congress did away with the tribal laws and courts in 1898, and brought the Indians under U.S. laws.

An act in 1901 made all the Indians of the territory U.S. citizens.

In 1901, the population of the Indian Territory had grown to about 400,000, with six times as many whites as Indians. The demand for state government was strong. A constitution for the proposed state of Sequoyah was approved by the voters in 1905. But Congress had other plans.

In 1906, Congress passed an enabling act by which Oklahoma and Indian Territory could become a single state. Under the terms of this act, the state of Oklahoma was admitted to the Union on Nov. 16, 1907.  The Indian Territory ceased to exist.

 

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