Boarding School and Land Allotment Eras 1879-1933

1889

First Oklahoma Land Rush

The Oklahoma Land Rush. Image: John Steuart Curry; Image: National Archives and Records Administration
The Oklahoma Land Rush. Image: John Steuart Curry; Image: National Archives and Records Administration

The Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) had been set aside in the Indian Removal Act of 1830 as lands of the Five “Civilized” Tribes (Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole) for “as long as the grass grows and the water runs.” Per the Dawes Act, however, after reservations are divided into allotments, any remaining land is declared surplus and opened up for White settlers. On April 22, 1889, a cannon booms at noon, signaling a frantic land rush into these newly opened Indian lands. An estimated 50,000 White settlers claim 2 million acres of land and more squat illegally (called Sooners). Under the Homestead Act of 1862, settlers who stay on their claims for five years can own the land outright. (Nies, 1996 & Landry, 2017)

Traumatic Event