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[**Note: Cultural information may vary from clan
to clan, location to location, family to family,
and from differing opinions and experiences.
Information provided is not 'etched in stone'.]
The U.S. government attempted to abolish the governments of the Five Civilized Tribes effective March 4, 1906. This was through the Curtis Act. Most of the members of the United States Congress were in favor of Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory combining into one state. Most of the Native Americans, and some whites who legally resided in Indian Territory, were adamantly against united with Oklahoma Territory.
In April, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt promoted single statehood at each stop of his railroad campaign throughout Indian Territory. A separate state, however, consisting of the Five Civilized Tribes located in Indian Territory, was proposed. The name of that state would be "Sequoyah."
J.A. Norman wrote, "Oklahoma has already thrown down the gauntlet of statehood by holding this summer a convention to form a constitution for Oklahoma and Indian Territories as one state. We, as Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Osage Indians, together with the whites and blacks in our midst, have the same right to call a constitutional convention, to adopt a constitution for the Indian Territory's new state, called "Sequoyah," and submit it to the next congress to ratify as it is already duly bound to do so by sacred and solemn treaties. American citizens, the loyal patriotic matter is now us to you."
It was said that Norman's letter "Lighted a match and set the prairies on fire." Norman later joined with Cherokee Chief Rogers, and Choctaw Chief McCurtain, and called for a constitutional convention. They were soon joined by Muscogee (Creek) Chief Porter and Seminole Chief Brown. However, Chickasaw Chief Johnston was in favor of joint statehood with Oklahoma and refused to participate. However, he later sent William Murray who was his private secretary.
The convention convened on August 22, 1905 and was held at the Hinton Theater in downtown Muskogee, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Indian Territory. The hall was decorated with pictures of the Cherokee inventor Sequoyah, pictures of the Five Civilized Tribes' Chiefs, as well as American flags and a picture of Theodore Roosevelt. The festivities were embelished by the Muskogee Merchant's Band. The Muskogee Phoenix reported that ". . . hardshelled single staters figuratively wept bitter tears."
The elected Chairman of the Constitution Committee was W.W. Hastings (Cherokee) of Tahlequah. Some of the hottest debates were the boundaries of the proposed 48 counties, but suffrage for women was also a topic of much discussion. Due to the matrilineal structure of the Cherokee society, the Cherokee representatives fought earnestly for the right to vote being given to both sexes.
The Principal Chiefs stated on October 1, "Indian Territory has reached to period of transition from tribal government to that of statehood. The policy of the United States expressed in treaties and upheld by the United States government has always consistently maintained the position that out of the country owned and occupied by the nations of the Indian Territory at the right time a state or states should be formed by its people. This time was fixed by the agreements closing the tribal governments March 4, 1906. Through this transition our present government shall not be annihilated but transformed into material for a nobly builded state. This shall we have life, not death." It was signed, "the Principal Chiefs of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole and Creek Nations.
The Sequoyah Constitution was published on October 14, 1905 with an election on November 7. 65,352 votes were cast, and 56,279 were for the ratification of the constitution. Only 9,073 were against.
A copy of the constitution, along with the results of the votes, were sent to U.S. Congress. However, Congress would not even consider it. The St. Louis Republic editorialized, "the Indians are powerless to enforce the bargains which Congress made with them, and organized government is absolutely necessary to the whites who have gone, and are still going fast, into the Territory."
A handbill promoting the State of Sequoyah stated, "These treaties so far as they apply to the lands owned by the Five Civilized Tribes, and to those lands alone, have never been repealed, but expressly ratified in later treaties. . . . If these promises are not binding upon the United States, then our government and people can be bound by no treaty. If we do not scrupulously respect the rights flowing from these treaties no one can reasonably place confidence in our national honor.
In 1907, Indian and Oklahoma territores were merged into one state whose name is a Choctaw word for 'home of the red man,' - Oklahoma.
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For more information contact the source:
Official Site of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma