Some of my classmates were Native American and I loved that. I had come from apartheid South Africa where we were strictly segregated and I loved meeting and learning from other people. Melvin Mithlo filled me in and pumped me for what I knew about the Zulu people back home. He even learned a few Zulu words.
He was chairman of the school’s American Indian society and invited me to a Pow Wow one night. Here’s a teepee in the Apache showgrounds.
At school the American Indian society presented me with beautiful gifts. Debbie Pahdapony Grey does the honours:
Oklahoma was Indian Territory before we whites went back on our word and stole it from them. There’s a lot of sad Indian history about. Read something about it here.
For more, read Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn, who has revealed the very ugly, savage treatment of the indigenous Americans in his book The Barbarous Years. We settlers were certainly not honourable, wherever we went. We lied and cheated more as a rule than an exception.
European settler colonial projects unleashed massively destructive forces on Native peoples and communities all around the world. These include violence resulting directly from settler expansion, inter-tribal violence was frequently aggravated by colonial intrusions, enslavement, trickery, lying, disease, alcohol, loss of land and resources, forced removals, and assaults on tribal religion, culture, and language. More here.
Here Melvin Mithlo readies Joe Pedrano for an event. That’s Joe in the top pic with his head gear on.
There’s a museum at Fort Sill north of Lawton, not far south of Apache. Famous Apache chief Geronimo died here, 23 years after being taken captive. His Apaches were about the last of the indigenous tribes to be defeated, in 1886.
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 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 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 in present Oklahoma. Geronimo’s Apache followers, the last to be defeated, in 1886, were established near Fort Sill as prisoners of war.