The name Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw phrase okla humma, literally meaning red people.
Choctaw Chief Allen Wright suggested the name in 1866 during treaty negotiations with the federal government regarding the use of Indian Territory, in which he envisioned an all-Indian state controlled by the United States Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
“Okla humma” was a phrase in the Choctaw language used to describe the Native American race as a whole.
Oklahoma later became the de facto name for Oklahoma Territory, and it was officially approved in 1890, two years after the area was opened to white settlers.
Then on November 16, 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state to enter the union. Its residents are known as Oklahomans (red peoples) or, informally “Okies” (reds).
Oklahoma is also known informally by the nickname, Sooner State, honoring the European settlers, and the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889 which opened the door for white settlement in America’s Indian Territory.
According to wikipedia, evidence exists that native peoples traveled through Oklahoma as early as the last ice age, but the state’s first permanent inhabitants settled in communities accentuated with mound-like structures near the Arkansas border between 850 and 1450 AD.
Spaniard Francisco Vásquez de Coronado then traveled through the area in 1541, but French explorers claimed the area from the 1700’s through 1803, when all the French territory west of the Mississippi River was purchased by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Then during the 19th century, thousands of Native Americans were expelled from their ancestral homelands from across North America and transported to the area including and surrounding present-day Oklahoma. The Choctaw was the first of the Five Civilized Tribes to be removed from the southeastern United States. The phrase “Trail of Tears” originated from a description of the removal of the Choctaw Nation in 1831, although the term is usually used for the Cherokee removal.
By 1890, more than 30 Native American nations and tribes had been concentrated on land within Indian Territory or “Indian Country.”
Increased presence of white settlers in Indian Territory prompted the United States Government to establish the Dawes Act in 1887, which divided the lands of individual tribes into allotments for individual families, encouraging farming and private land ownership among Native Americans but expropriating land to the federal government. In the process, railroad companies took nearly half of Indian-held land within the territory for outside settlers and for purchase.
Major land runs, including the Land Run of 1889, were held for settlers where certain territories were opened to settlement starting at a precise time. Usually land was open to settlers on a first come first served basis.
Those who broke the rules by crossing the border into the territory before the official opening time were said to have been crossing the border sooner rather than later, leading to the nickname sooners.
Now WE know em