ONLY OKLAHOMA: What is the Land Run?

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KFOR’s new series answering questions about out great state

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There is so much to know about our great state. Whether it be Oklahoma’s history, landmarks or moments in pop culture, there is always something to learn.

News 4’s new series, Only Oklahoma, is here to help you out- answering questions you may have, whether you are new here or a lifelong resident.

Our first story, fittingly, is about the beginning of Oklahoma’s history, or rather, before it entered statehood. We are talking about the Land Run. So, what is it?

It was the 1800s. Native Americans were being relocated, some to portions of what would eventually become Oklahoma. But right in the middle of the land was a large section that remained open for others, and the government was determined to fill it.

“The federal government, through the Homestead Act, appeased this movement and did the Land Run in 1889 for the unassigned lands in central Oklahoma, which is where Oklahoma City, Edmond, Guthrie and some of our bigger cities are located,” said Larry O’Dell, Director of Special Projects and Development at the Oklahoma Historical Society

On April 22, 1889 the cannons went off and the race to stake your claim of land had begun.

“Of course, there were Sooners that snuck in beforehand and claimed land prior to the law saying they could,” said O’Dell.

Sooners, as in sooner than anyone else to settle on the land. The cheaters were caught, though.

Those who participated legally had to be American citizens. People came from near and far for a shot at a new life.

“You know, frankly, the idea of potentially having 160 acres with which to make your living was a significant thing,” said Jeff Briley, deputy director of the Oklahoma History Center.

Oklahoma’s terrain is more than just farmland. Some people knew what to expect, some did not.

“Some people who were doing the Land Run had no idea what they were getting themselves into, and some people knew precisely what they wanted and had a really good idea of precisely where they were going to travel to set their claim,” said Briley.

One hundred sixty acres, all for free. Not a bad deal.

Some stayed and made their homestead, others went home, discovering this life was not for them.

But the Land Run did help form Oklahoma into what it is today.

“It’s an interesting mixture of folks that settled here,” said O’Dell. “So we have deep south ties. We have midwestern ties. We have an interesting culture here in Oklahoma, I think, and it’s because of the settlement patterns.”

For many years, the Land Run was reenacted in Oklahoma schools, but were seen as insensitive to some Native Americans.  A Land Run monument was even removed from one Oklahoma college campus. While a major part of the state’s history, it comes with controversy. Many saw it as another land grab from Native Americans who were forced to be relocated.

Do you have a question about Oklahoma you’d like KFOR to answer? Let us know in the form below!

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