If you have ancestors from Indian Territory or Oklahoma or are interested in Oklahoma history, you are in for a treat. We’ve partnered with the Oklahoma Historical to digitize nearly 15 million new pages of Indian Territory and Oklahoma newspapers, bringing in more than 20 million pages! These papers date back to 1844 when Oklahoma was still Indian Territory.
In 1828, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which forcibly relocated thousands of Native Americans to reservation lands in Indian Territory (which later became Oklahoma). By 1880, more than 60 Tribal Nations inhabited the area. Some early papers include content published in English and tribal languages like Choctaw and Cherokee.
In the 1870s and 1880s, Americans pressured the government to open Native American lands for white settlement. Some tried to move in, despite a federal law that prevented it. They became known as “Boomers” and were sometimes removed by U.S. soldiers stationed near frontier settlements. Congress eventually succumbed to the pressure and opened so-called “Unassigned Lands” to white settlement. These lands were treaty territories of the Seminole and Muscogee Nations and the Wichita, Comanche, Kiowa, and Osage homelands.
On April 22, 1889, a bugle sounded at noon, signaling the opening of Native American lands to what was called the Oklahoma Land Rush. Settlers poured into Indian Territory, attempting to stake whatever claims possible. Many settlers discovered lands had already been claimed by “Sooners,” who snuck in before the land rush officially began to claim the best lands. Through the Dawes Act of 1887, collectively owned Tribal lands were split into individual land parcels. The remaining lands were opened to white settlers, including additional Land Rushes. Through allotment, Tribal Nations lost nearly two-thirds (90 million acres) of the remaining lands.
After the Land Rushes, the population of white settlers in Indian Territory skyrocketed, as did the number of newspapers published in the territory. The oil boom that started in 1901 brought additional people and wealth to Indian Territory, and settlers began a new quest to steal oil-rich lands that belonged to Tribal Nations. You can search more than 200 papers from that era. By the time Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma in 1907, the number of papers available in this archive had ballooned to 562!
Newspapers chronicled the history of Oklahoma, its people, and the stories that shaped this state’s history. You can read accounts of the Osage Murders from 1919-1930, the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921, and the Dust Bowl storms in the 1930s.
If you have ancestors from Indian Territory or Oklahoma, we have over 2,800 newspapers that may contain your family’s story. Was your grandmother’s famous Tamale Pie recipe published in the paper? Was your auntie known for her intricate beadwork? Did your ancestors survive the 1947 tornado that decimated Woodward? You might also find family obituaries, wedding announcements, and birth announcements.