As Oklahoma celebrate its 106th birthday, residents keep their heads up

Oklahoma became America’s 46th State on Nov. 16, 1907.

Teddy Roosevelt welcomed the Boomers and even the Sooners into the union 104 years after the land was acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and 73 years after it became Indian Territory – where entire tribes were relocated after supporting the South in the Civil War.

Tribes from the settled states were relocated to Oklahoma’s plains where they joined other Native Americans who already enjoyed the good hunting and grazing lands the area offered.

Of course, when Americans noticed the area would be a good place to raise cattle, many “Boomers” illegally planted themselves in the territory. Soon, the idea to open about two million acres to white settlement was approved and a Land Run was planned. But, like the Boomers, some “Sooners” claimed their spots before the starter’s gun started the legal occupation.

Before long, Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory existed side by side. In 1907, both came into the union as one state using the Choctaw tribal language derived name that means Red People.

More than 10 percent of the state’s residents are still Native American. The state’s relationship with Native Americans is still a little shaky to this day. The tribes still enjoy some autonomy in localized areas and the explosion of Casinos on Native American controlled land has filled tribal coffers. Agreements with the state government insure that some of that money also helps fund state projects.

The 106-year history of the state has been anything but uneventful. The state’s excellent agriculture and ranching areas suffered during the drought of the 1930’s when the state became part of the Dust Bowl – a difficult era popularized by John Steinibeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

But just when things seemed most bleak, the oil industry gave the state a second boom that was followed by a second bust during the early 1980s.

As the oil industry has rebounded, the state’s economy has followed.

Everyone knows that Oklahoma is in the middle of Tornado Alley. One of the local jokes was always that they may have tornadoes, but at least there weren’t any earthquakes.

Now theories abound that the Sooner State may be stabilizing the economy while destabilizing the ground.

Many blame the process of wastewater disposal from fracking (or hydraulic fracturing) for the recent swarm of earthquakes – more than 90 in a month – in the state. Fracking involves injecting fluid into the ground to make it possible to retrieve natural gas reserves that were unreachable before new fractures were created in the rock below ground.

Some believe these new cracks are doing more than making natural gas available.

The atypical earthquake activity began near Oklahoma City about five years ago. While the Oklahoma City area quakes continue, the activity has radiated away to other areas of the state.

So as the Okies celebrate their 106th birthday, residents keep their heads up.

You never know if the next big story from Oklahoma will be a tornado sweeping across the sky or a quake shaking the ground, but if you are near one of the hundreds of the casinos in the state, you can bet that the next 106 years won’t be any less interesting.

Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: