Earliest - Present
Earliest Period - 1830
The tribes usually described as indigenous to Oklahoma at the time of European contact include the Wichitas, Caddos, Plains Apaches* (currently the Apache Tribe), and the Quapaws. Following European arrival in America and consequent cultural changes, Osages, Pawnees, Kiowas and Comanches migrated into Oklahoma, displacing most of the earlier peoples. Anglo-American pressures in the Trans Apalachian West forced native peoples across the Mississippi River; many including Delawares, Shawnees and Kickapoos-found refuge or economic opportunities in present Oklahoma before 1830 However, some of those tribes split in the process. *Naisha-traditional reference to the Plains Apache
1830 - 1862
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 culminated federal policy aimed at forcing all Eastern Indians west of the Mississippi River. The Choctaws, Cherokees, Creeks, Chickasaws and Seminoles--the "Five Civilized Tribes"-- purchased present Oklahoma in fee simple from the federal government, while other immigrant tribes were resettled on reservations in the unorganized territories of Kansas and Nebraska. Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 precipitated further Anglo-American settlement of these territories, setting off a second wave of removals into present Oklahoma, which became known as "Indian Territory." In 1859, with the state of Texas threatening genocide toward Indians, several tribes found refuge in the Leased District in western Indian Territory.
1865 - 1892
The Civil War ( 1861-1865) temporarily curtailed frontier settlement and removals, but postwar railroad building across the Great Plains renewed Anglo-American homesteading of Kansas and Nebraska. To protect the newcomers and provide safe passage to the developing West, the federal government in 1867 once again removed the Eastern immigrant Indians form Kansas and Nebraska reservations and relocated them on Indian Territory lands recently ceded by the Five Civilized Tribes. The same year, the Medicine Lodge Council attempted to gather the Plains tribes onto western Indian Territory reservations. Resistance among some resulted in periodic warfare until 1874. Meanwhile, the last of the Kansas and Nebraska tribes were resettled peacefully in present Oklahoma. Geronimo's Apache followers, the last to be defeated, were established near Ft. Sill as prisoners of war.
Since the decline of the early 1900's, many of Oklahoma's Indian peoples have taken advantage of changing federal policy to assert their sovereignty and assume responsibility for their own welfare. Constitutions have been written and tribal governments established to provide social services for the people including health, housing and jobs. Culture and language preservation continue to be a priority amongst the nations.
Many of these endeavors are funded through tribal enterprises. Currently, there are thirty-nine tribal governments of which thirty-eight are federally recognized tribes and tribal towns in Oklahoma. According to an analysis by the Steven C. Agee Economic Research & Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University. Oklahoma's 38 federally recognized Indian tribes produce an estimated $10.8 billion impact on Oklahoma's economic output.
Amongst the distinct tribes there are twelve linguistic families. American's Indians contribute to the diverse cultural fabric in Oklahoma today in significant ways. In fact, there are more languages spoken in the State of Oklahoma, than in all of Europe.
Twelve Linguistic Families
Algonquian, Athabaskan, Caddoan, Iroquoian, Kiowa-Tanoan, Muskogean, Shoshonean, Siouan,Tonkawan, Uchean