W. David Baird and the late Danney Goble, authors of popular high school textbooks on Oklahoma history, have written a new narrative history of the 46th state for general readers. The authors do not go into minute detail - like who the governors of Oklahoma Territory or of the state were – but in some instances they do go into greater detail, if the stories of particular events are especially interesting or important.
Baird and Goble’s history of Oklahoma encompasses a span from pre-historic times up until 2006. Perhaps it was hoped to get this book out in time for the state centennial in 2007; if so, something must have happened to delay its publication until 2008. It is nonetheless a wonderful telling of Oklahoma’s unique history.
Baird and Goble cover the period of the original Indian tribes in Oklahoma before the removal of the Five Civilized Tribes. The Wichita, Caddo, Comanche, Osage and others hunted and roamed across broad swaths of land which went beyond the present-day boundaries of Oklahoma. The Spanish and the French tried to win these tribes over, to make them their allies and trading partners. Ultimately, the Five Civilized Tribes were removed to the then-known Indian Territory. Many suffered and died on their various Trails of Tears. As the Five Tribes were able to get their lives back into order, they recreated their governments and culture.
After the Civil War, many other tribes were also removed to the western part of Indian Territory, cheated out of their lands and tribal governments. In-fighting and corruption within the tribes also contributed to making this a dark time for American Indians.
Oklahoma Territory was created from lands taken from the Indians and opened to white and black settlers in land rushes. Those who cheated, entering the area of lands before the permitted time and claiming land illegally, were called “Boomers” and “Sooners” - disparaging nicknames for cheaters. The terms by now are part of Oklahoma folklore and state team mascots (similar to Kansas’ “Jayhawks”, which is synonymous with bushwackers).
In 1907, Indian and Oklahoma Territories were combined to create the 46th state: Oklahoma. The early days of Oklahoma history which were not always glorious: the 1921 race riot in Tulsa, the Dust Bowl days of the Great Depression, and the impeachment of some Oklahoma’s early governors. A measure of greatness did come to some in Oklahoma, with the discovery of oil and the creation of major oil companies.
Baird and Goble’s moving epilogue reveals how far Oklahoma has come since the days when neighbor abused neighbor to gain land or money. Oklahomans proved their nature as down-to-earth people in their reaction to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Oklahomans wanted justice, but they also helped their neighbors who were hurt or in need.
Several black-and-white photos and maps enrich the text, and a bibliography and index are included. This book is highly recommended to those interested in Oklahoma history.